Saturday, January 17, 2009

On the Way Home

Sorry that I haven't posted since leaving Phi Phi. I was unable to upload any photos in Bangkok. Nonetheless, we are on the way home now, and in the airport in Tokyo during a 3 hr layover. Another 11 hour flight to Chicago and we should be in St Louis (or wherever the student's destination is) at 6:18 Sunday evening on United flight 8007. We're not happy about leaving mid-80 degree weather for the midwestern U.S., but classes start soon and we'll have warm memories.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Underwater Class Photo

This photo is 4 days old, but I thought everyone would like to see it now that it's available

Elephant Trek

The long promised elephant rides have finally happened. We enjoyed a 45 minute trek through the jungle on the hillside overlooking Chalong Bay on Phuket Island. I can safely report that all students were very very very satisfied.  In this photo are Katie, Meridith, Ashley, and Emily.

Sea Turtles

Today, we left Phi Phi on the 9:00 a.m. ferry to Phuket. Our first stop was the Phuket Marine Biological Center where we toured their exhibits and the sea turtle hatchery.

Farewell Party on Phi Phi

On Tuesday, we spent the day on somewhat choppy water, with jellyfish limitations and poor visibility again.  Nonetheless, we prepared more corals for the nursery and had two dives.  In the evening, Andrew's Adventure Club hosted a very enjoyable farewell dinner party for us, during which he showed his still photos and the underwater video shot by Mina (between Kim and Andrea in the photo).  Also, it was good to have Lauren back from her ear infection.  

Monday, January 12, 2009

Preparing Corals for the Nursery

Everything seemed to work against us today. Our goal was to return to the dead reef to plant more corals, but the water surface was covered with jellyfish, so obviously we couldn’t dive there. Also creating difficulty was that it was quite windy, thus the surface was very choppy, so we abandoned the attempt to plant corals. Instead, the marine biologists from the Phuket Marine Biological Center, who joined us for the day, Andrew and two divemasters went in the water to cut fragments of corals from donor colonies to stock the underwater nursery. The class spent a couple hours in the morning putting these 300 coral fragments into plastic tubes, and then inserted the tubes into a mesh screen to be placed in the nursery. Next year’s class will plant these fragments into a dead reef. Above, you see photos from the class working on the boat with the coral fragments. All students are in the photos except for Lauren, who has an ear infection and could not join us on the boat. Andrew’s small zodiac boat had engine problems, so after we had lunch on the boat at Maya Bay (where the movie “The Beach” was filmed), we had a couple hours to kill, so we swam to a nearby smaller beach near where our boat was moored. After we recovered the missing zodiac, we dove in that same spot by the beach and shot our underwater class photo. I hope to get that posted sometime soon, but it’s not on my camera. Visibilty is quite poor, however, because we have a full moon, thus high current levels, and the high winds create choppy seas. These factors combine to churn up the ocean, thereby reducing visibility. Still, following the class photo, this was a interesting dive with fun swim-throughs.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Free Day

Today was a free day with nothing scheduled. So, the students mostly hung out by the pool or the beach, so there's really not much new to tell you about. The last of the shark watch groups went out this morning. Each of the students has already done this, except for a few who went out with Ajarn Roy and me at 6:15 a.m. Snorkeling with black-tip reef sharks sounds scary, but it really isn't at all. These sharks are very timid and it's difficult to find and see them, although everyone did see some. We took a long-tailed boat out to a point of the island and snorkeled in 4-6 ft deep water. A couple photos of our group on the way out to see the sharks (1) L-R, me, Craig, Ryan; (2) Megan, Meridith, Kasey, and Ajarn Roy getting in his wet suit. (3) one of the favorite delicacies is a sweet crepe-like desert called roti. In the third photo, I found Emily, Meredith, Kim, and Andrea each ordering a roti. Look at the anticipation on their faces. Every year, this turns out to be a quest... to find roti wherever they go.

Tomorrow morning we start at 7:15 for two days of restoring a coral reef.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Blog watchers

I see that Craig's mom is one of the blog watchers... can't figure out who the others are by their blog identities.  So, here's a picture of Craig today for his mom.

Coral Transplantation

Today was the first of our 3 days in which we work on coral reef restoration. Our first dive today was to examine the coral nursery, an artificial reef, and transplantings from previous years. The extent of regrowth was really quite amazing. The first photo is of some coral fragments that were transplanted into a dead reef by last year’s class. What was planted at that time is equivalent to just one of the individual branches of the growing coral colony. The stick adjacent to the transplant is used as a shim to keep the base of the coral tight in the hole until it encrusts over the rock base; (2) Katie swimming toward the dead reef, (3) Planting coral fragments are Grant, Katie, Ryan (swimming in with the tool basket), and Richard (divemaster); (4) Grant drilling a hole for the coral fragment, and (5) Richard showing Ryan the effect of coral bleaching after the dive.

Another day on the Water

Andrew delivering a lecture on the boat about coral conservation and biology as we get underway early in the morning.  (2) We are a member of Green Fins, an initiative of the United Nations Environment Program.  (3) Melissa, Meridith, Megan, and Kasey eager to jump in, and (4) Ashley and Emily also ready to go.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Underwater Tsunami Memorial

The first photo is of an underwater memorial to the approximately 800 victims on Phi Phi Island from the December 2004 tsunami.  The memorial is in the style of a gazebo, or sala in Thai, and rests at 60 feet depth at the side of the main boat channel to the island.  Thus, visibility is always poor here.  (2) fish like to hang out inside the memorial for protection.  (3) Emily and (4) Cara are swimming through the memorial.  Either Cara is particularly impressed, or she wants to surface.

Out on the water

(1) Here is part of our class heading out from Phi Phi to conduct a comparison of reefs that are in good condition with those that have been damaged by human mismanagment. Left to right are: Ryan, Craig, Kim, Katie, Meridith, Kasey, Megan, Emily, Ashley, and Andrea. The others will join us shortly as they return from their sunrise snorkel with black-tip reef sharks. (2) Lindsey, Josh, and Cara showing missing digits after the shark snorkel. Grant was more careful. (3) Preparing to get wet are Josh, Lindsey, and Grant. (4) Sea kayaking through channels to the mangroves where the students saw and learned about mangroves and their conservation first-hand.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Underwater Scenes

These are just a few photos showing the spectacular underwater scenery in the Andaman Sea during our dives.

In the Water

The Reef Ranger, our dive boat of the Adventure Club on Phi Phi; Ryan and Grant at the surface following a great dive at Ko Ha; and me in my classroom in the field.

Phi Phi Don (above) is the inhabited Phi Phi island.  Phi Phi Ley (lower) has sheer rock cliffs, except for a protected bay (Maya Bay), which is where the movie "The Beach" was filmed.  We are staying on Phi Phi Don island and conducting our coral reef rehabilitation studies on Phi Phi Ley.  And the students are getting credit for this!?  What a glorious place!

More snakes

Here are Andrea and Kim holding a reticulated python.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Yet more photos

Here are Lindsey, Josh, and Melissa snoozing in the van as we make the most of every minute. They can catch up on sleep when we return to the U.S. Part of our group in the dive boat on the way to our first of two great dives yesterday. Cara and Ashley are holding their new friend, a reticulated python. Katie, Lindsey, Kasey, Ronald, and Emily giving a wai, the traditional Thai greeting.

More photos from Thailand

These photos (not in order) are from the Grand Palace (group photo and Grant and Craig posing with the Palace guards; another group photo atop one of the ancient ruins at Ayutthaya; the group at a medium-sized dipterocarp tree in Khao Yai National Park; and Lindsey and Lauren holding 57 day old clouded leopard cubs.