Day 6 7/8/14
Last night was the windiest night so far. I’ve been complaining about it every night so far, but last night was the worst. I had to sleep with a pillow over my head, but every time I moved the pillow fell off and the wind would wake me up again. Nevertheless, we arose early, ready and rearing to go (it took me a couple of coffees to get to that stage).
We decided to head back to Ghost beach today, but to a different part of the reef so that Grant could practice his fish and coral ID. By the second dive he was confident enough to go it alone and I’m proud to say, smashed it (smashed the task, not the coral. ‘Smashing it’ is a good thing in Australian speak!) and he didn’t break any dive gear!
We caught a good variety of species including another lovely little G. okinawae and one that looks like a G. unicolor but has an orange margin around the eyes and two short blue eye bars. I’m calling it G. bilineatus for now, but this may not be correct. I don’t think that it’s G. oculolineatus because the colouring doesn’t seem right. I tried to take photos of it, but none of them turned out. They’re reasonably common here, so I’ll have to try for a better pic next time.
We got news in the afternoon that the barge was going to be delayed by a week. The Barge brings over all of our food and research equipment that won’t fit on the plane. Thankfully we’re not waiting on any equipment, but some of the other researchers in our house were waiting on liquid nitrogen to freeze their samples. A plane is going to fly a small amount of food out to the station next week. Grant and I think we can go the distance on our food, with a little help from the free food stockpile and some small items which we’ll piggyback onto Wren and Gabby’s order. Thanks guys! It does mean that I’ll be without booze for 3 weeks though as my booze order didn’t turn up on the last shipment.
Day 7 8/8/14
Grant joined a group climbing up Cook’s Look this morning, so I had a dry morning. I took the opportunity to do some tidying of the house and our lab space and repaired some of our equipment.
Lyle and Anne (the station directors) very kindly offered to give me their spare case of beer, which I accepted. I’m not a big drinker and probably would have been fine without it (in fact I’m sure it would have been good for me) but Lizard Island is a very social place. It’s tradition to head down to the beach each afternoon for a sunset drink. Then there are the various birthdays and pot-luck dinners. So the beer will be very much appreciated.
When Grant got back from his walk we geared up and took to the water. The wind was still blowing hard, but the tide was so low that the reefs were blocking the majority of the swell. Over the next few days we are building up to a king tide. Many of the reefs are already exposed at dead low tide. Nevertheless, Grant and I found a hole to dive in which contained a few gobies. The exciting find of the day for me was what I think is a true G. bilineatus. It was a reddish brown with the two blue eye bars. The other ones that I think were G. bilineatus are more grey. I think that if there are the true G. bilineatus around, that they might be hybridising with G. unicolor. We also found a nice big A. millepora colony housing a G. quinquestrigatus co-inhabiting with four G. okinawaes.
We also had zero mortalities today so that was a nice win!
Day 8 9/8/14
Today was a shocker. We went back to Ghost Beach as it was just about the only place that was calm enough to dive. The wind was really strong. Again. Grant only had half a tank of air. I lost the clip off my GoPro, my knife (which I thankfully found again) and the pencil off my slate. Then I copped some clove oil to the eye. But we got through it.
On the second dive, the tide was so low that I spent most of the time with my head out of the water and I thought I’d killed all of our gobies. I was so upset. I could see that a few of their gills were moving, but they weren’t waking up. We spent over an hour on the boat waiting for them to wake up. Finally, we decided to fill a new tub of water and put them into it. 10 minutes later they were awake and swimming around. We must have gotten a tiny bit of clove oil into the original recovery bucket. Just enough to keep them asleep. I was very relieved to see them swimming around again. So, once again, zero mortalities. Win!
Had a really nice evening tonight. It was BBQ night so everyone was together for dinner. There were also a couple of birthdays so there was cake! Everyone was in really high spirits tonight so it was nice to feed off that atmosphere after a hard day out in the field.
Day 9 10/8/14
Grant and I decided to move onto the habitat saturation surveys today. I’ve all but given up trying to find my originally tagged fish. We’ve only seen a handful of them in the last 8 days. The other factor that I want to measure this trip is habitat saturation, which is essentially the amount of vacant habitat available. The idea is that if there is very little habitat available it could force some species into sociality. What we have been seeing and what we started to quantify today, though, was that there is lots of vacant habitat. Anecdotally, it is very different to when we were here in February, when there was very few vacant corals. I think that the cyclone has killed off a lot of gobies and they haven’t recolonised yet. This is problematic for me as the data that we get from our habitat saturation surveys will not be a good representation of the normal environment.
We had king tides here today so in the afternoon a group of the researchers here walked across to Palfrey Island and climbed to its highest peak. The walk across was really interesting. I found a heap of Acroporid coral colonies which were high and dry and I found gobies in a few of them! As I’ve previously mentioned, they can survive out of water for long periods of time. This ability means that they don’t need to leave their corals to seek deeper shelter, and risk predation, on these occasions when the tides recede below the reef. I’ve never seen it before and I managed to snap a really bad photograph.
The view of the reefs and Lizard Island itself was quite spectacular from the top. It was worth wading through the chest high grass and climbing up the rocky slopes on my wet, stinky dive booties. A tip for anyone who visits Lizard and is contemplating climbing Palfrey; don’t climb the light house side. The side with the beach facing the research station is much less overgrown.