Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Day in the Fish Life

Many apologies for the long absence (again).

Truth is life has been remarkably full and wonderful. Most times when I fail to write anything in this blog it is because there is nothing to report but the dismal, and as I see this blog as entertainment for the readers I would rather reserve any pathetic moaning about life being awful boohoo to a private diary or conversation. I think failing to write has also been because life here on Lizard, while rather stunningly wonderful, is really fairly routine and difficult to spin pithy blog entries out of. But I'll give it a go.

Most days here are pretty similar, so here is today's, rather in the spirit of that day in the life thing done in the UK a while ago where everybody was encouraged to write in a detailed description of the mundanities of their lives that day so as to capture a snapshot view of how people lived circa 2007.

- Got up late, about 8:30. Such a pleasure to sleep in as not diving till later than usual today. Finally got out of bed as it started to really properly tip it down, monsoon style, and sleeping further not really an option. Sleep-ins pretty difficult anyway on the island as when not raining it is too hot and you get sweated out of bed at about 9am. Breakfast of raisin toast, which I think is quite an Aussie thing and which we've all grown to crave, with, um, refried beans (had an open can left over from taco night!).

- Cleaned the house a little, sorting out our mountains of food as we are moving house in a couple of days to another one of the visitor houses (there are four). We seem to have enough food to feed an entire African village for about 3 months. It is difficult to really get it right when you only get food every 2 weeks and must place your order over a week in advance of it arriving. Some things still pretty mysterious though, e.g. how on earth we acquired six (SIX) separate opened jars of Vegemite (Aussie Marmite but really not the same). Being kicked out by a large group of 15 year old boys who will I imagine somewhat noisily invade our research station for 6 days next week -- now that the Aussie summer is over the mix of people at the station is shifting from bona fide researchers to various schoool/uni groups out here on excursions.

- Fed the fish which I'm keeping in the flow-through seawater aquaria. After over 800 15 minute focal watches and 300 dives they are still cute. Amazing.

- Late morning, went on a focal dive. Bit of a miserable weather day, still very grey and also fairly windy. Rather English really. Makes a huge difference to one's spirits -- when it is baking hot and sunny and calm life is so much easier! But didn't make much of a difference underwater, well at the second study site that we tried anyway (there was strong current at the first site but flexibility is one's best friend in the field), where it was really actually lovely and clear and calm and gorgeous. Watched some fish and did the usual data collection, chiefly counting foraging bites. I count everything slightly compulsively now: foraging bites, footsteps, mosquito bites (no not really -- too many to count).

- Back to the station for an hour where we had leftovers for lunch and I collapsed onto my bed for 10 minutes, waking up every 2 minutes with a start thinking I was late.

- Another dive laying out transects and videoing along them in order to get a measure of habitat quality. Exhausting stuff, these video dives, as we end up swimming each 30 m transect at least 4 times (laying it, videoing it, etc.). Large-ish white tip reef shark animal life highlight of the dive.

- Back to the station again for another hour. Caffeinated ourselves in order to be able to keep going for the last dive of the day, ate some more raisin toast (seem to have been nibbling on things all day and still hungry!), then headed out again. Our dusk dives are pretty uneventful but I don't mind them much; it's rather peaceful hanging about waiting for the fish to get it on, I practice hovering midwater and do somersaults whilst waiting. Tonight's was slightly more exciting than usual however as halfway through the dive it suddenly went very very dark underwater. I popped my head up as we were only about 2-3 m deep anyway to see a big black cloud in the sky; asked my assistant who was being boat person to let us know if it started to get worse and headed back down only to not be able to find my fish anymore. Three minutes later it was even darker and raining and the boat seemed to have very suddenly swung out of sight, after which it was a bit of a race to get back on the boat and try and get home in some whipping wind and really rather painful rain that had come up faster than I've ever seen a storm hit before. Driving very bumpily back I wondered about our almost empty fuel tank and what really would happen if we hit the reef and made a hole and the boat sank and which bits of kit I would grab first (I decided on the boat's safety box with radio and big orange V-sheet and flares and also fins and mask) and whether we'd be able to swim for it and how horrible it would be to swim without a snorkel... These dismal thoughts sustained me till we got back to the station. Still alive, huzzah!

- Rather less dramatically we made two pies for dinner, yum. Quite exciting really as never actually made a pie before.

Very sleepy now. Probably meant to write more in this blog about my Christmas hols, but think I'm going to have to leave it. Hope you are all having a lovely civilised time in all your cities going to restaurants and the theatre. Despite how I seem to have made life here sound pretty awful, I love it and really don't miss restaurants or the theatre very much at all; I'd much rather be watching fish and driving a small aluminium dinghy through tropical rainstorms!