Day 1 – January 24th
Greetings from the Bahamas!
The internet has just been restored. Apparently, a barge dragged its anchor through the Bimini Channel yesterday and took the water, phone, and internet lines with it. Oops. Well, thanks to the hard work of several people, including Brown and Krista (see below), all is back to normal…for now.
I can’t believe it has been fifteen years since I last stepped foot on South Bimini – man how time flies! After graduating from college in the summer of 1998, I moved here for six months to volunteer at the Bimini Biological Field Station (aka ‘the Shark Lab’) and help with a study on the social behavior of spotted eagle rays (Aedobatus narinari). Well, the memories of this wonderful place have been pouring in since the moment I first caught a view of the Bimini Islands during my plane’s descent onto the runway. During the cab ride from the airport, we passed by all the same sites I remember from years past, and of course, when we ended up at the guest house where I am staying, it is literally next door to the Shark Lab! It is great to be back.
I am incredibly excited to get going on our search for the famous Nassau grouper spawning site first described by C Lavett Smith in 1972. I spent all afternoon charging video camera batteries, loading gps points on my hand held gps, and rigging up all the dive gear. Krista and Brown, the owners of Bimini Hidden Treasures and who are our guides and partners on this trip, came over this evening to get things prepared for our first day of diving tomorrow. The plan is fairly simple. We will head south out of Bimini towards Cat Caye and then move offshore to find the shelf edge – where the shallow reef quickly drops off to several hundred meters in depth. That is the type of habitat that Nassau Groupers like to spawn. Once we find the shelf edge with the boat’s echosounder, we’ll gear up, drop down on the reef and drift north along the shelf edge with the Gulf stream current.
The main problem we have is that we don’t know exactly where the aggregation site is located. Oddly enough, they didn’t make handheld GPS units in the 70’s when Smith was doing his research. So, we may have to do a bit of searching. Fortunately, Krista and Brown have been diving and fishing these waters for more than 30 years, which should greatly increase our chances of finding the site. We think the spawning aggregation of Nassau Grouper is forming somewhere in the area known as Tuna Alley, so that is where we will begin our search tomorrow.
Wish us luck!
(Pic 1) View from my airplane window as we descend into Bimini. In the upper left, you can see the main channel that separates North and South Bimini. Just below that is the Bimini Sands Resort
(Pic 2) Bimini International Airport.