Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Observations of "the Niño": will it be another 82/83 sized event here in the Galapagos??

We are back in Puerto Ayora after an exceptionally difficult but successful trip to Genovesa and Bainbridge (more on that soon).  And now the fun paperwork Olympics has resumed, in which we run around between the Charles Darwin Research Station, town, and the Galapagos National Park offices over and over to get all of the important papers approved.  And stamped of course (they love their stamps!).

Our sample export perrmit, signed and stamped by the Galapagos National Park

Our samples, taped shut by the park and ready for export

But this trip it's a little different.  Usually the walk  is sweltering hot under powerful sun and high humidity.  This time, though, we are thankful for the higher cloud cover, and occasional light rains to keep it a *bit* cooler.  Much appreciated, though brief, relief from the heat.

And each time the dark clouds roll in, we point and joke, "THE NIÑO is comming!"  After the great Chris Farley skit, of course.

Jokes aside, we have found ourselves constantly observing slight differences in the way things are this year, and it's impossible not to wonder whether they are early signs of the El Niño.  

And we are not the only ones.  All around town, we hear chatter about the El Niño, and locals ask us what we think might happen this year on the islands.

So what have we observed?

The Bainbridge Flamingo population is down from January.  And there are grasshoppers everywhere (I just got attacked in the face by one!).

But most notably, ocean tempearture and pH have risen considerably. Both signs that the upwelling of cold, nutrient rich, low pH waters from below has been tempered by the El Niño.

And these warm waters have fueled storms, which soaked us at Genovesa, and made the sail between islands "exciting" to say the least.  Poor Frazer might not ever set foot on a sailboat again.  He was a bit green the entire trip....


Clouds building over Genovesa Crater Lake.  11-26-2015



But how does this event stack up to the other greats?  

We are fortunate to have one of the best sources of the local history at our fingertips: the captain of the Pirata, Lenin Cruz.  Lenin grew up in Floreana, and has lived in the Galapagos all of his life.  At 65 years old, he still sails scientists all around the archipelago on the Pirata.  He is quite a local legend.

The Pirata Photo by Stephan Hlohowskyj



While sailing to Bainbridge, Lenin told us how in 1982/83, he could see lightning hitting the islands on the horizon as he sailed.  He recalls that by mid-late December, it was raining hard all throughout the Galapagos. 

Waterfalls had formed over cliffs of dry, barren lava rock.  Lenin's front and back yards had become lakes. And the road between Baltra and Puerto Ayora had washed out in multiple places.  

To get around these obstacles, incoming tourists and locals were transported a few at a time in a construction loader!!  Transporting bus loads of people a few at a time, obviously took a lot of time. So local parties would go well into the night as they waited for all of their guests to arrive!  And I bet this was not exactly what the tourists thought they had signed up for....


When we returned, Lenin dug up an old letter from his mother in Floreana, dated December 12, 1982

Floreana, a 12 de Diciembre de 1982
Sr. Lenin E. Cruz 03
Puerto Ayora 
Mi hijito querido


In the letter, she describes the strong rains that they had been having, noting that the rains had come earlier than normal (although the wet season starts in December, most of the rain typically falls later in the season).  Prior to all of this rain, her well was very low from a long drought, so she also commented on this fragility.  Roughly translated, she said:  
"The rains are strong. I heard on the radio that they are strong on the other islands and all over the world.  The rains are ahead of schedule.  The rains are unpredictable, some years it rains, others nothing."

 So are these rains we've been having a sign of what is to come?   Only time will tell...


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number (NSF AGS-1561121). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sampling the 2015/2016 El Niño event

Tonight, we boarded the Pirata and sailed to Isla Genovesa, where we will begin our sampling expedition to capture the 2015/2016 El Niño event.  Hopefully, if you're reading this tomorrow morning, we are packing up our gear and beginning the arduous hike up to the island's crater and down its walls to Genovesa crater lake.

Team Niño on the Pirata: Lenin  (el marinero), Stephan Hlohowskyj, Dr. Frazer Matthews-Bird, Dr. Diane Thompson (el hefe), Lenin (el capitan).  Not pictured: my many other great collaborators on this project-- Dr. Jessica Conroy,  Dr. Jonathan Overpeck, Dr. Julia Cole, Dr. Mark Bush, Dr. Melanie Riedinger-Whitmore, Dr. Miriam Kannan, Dr. Aaron Collins

My colleagues and I have been monitoring the local climate and lake conditions of both Genovesa and Bainbridge crater lakes for the past 6 years.  These lakes are unique among the Galapagos islands, as connections to the sea have maintained vibrant lake ecosystems among a very hostile and dry volcanic landscape.  These lakes cook under the hot tropical sun and low rainfall, concentrating the lake to about 5 times that of the local seawater and creating a warm, very productive ecosystem. These local oases support a vibrant population of marine birds, including boobies, frigates and flamingos.
Great Frigate bird male at Genovesa crater lake.  Photo credit: Stephan Hlohowskyj


Red Footed Booby, Genovesa crater lake. Photo credit: Stephan Hlohowskyj
Great frigate male displays his stuff at Genovesa. Photo credit: Diane Thompson

Flamingoes at Bainbridge crater lake. Photo credit: Stephan Hlohowsky

But we are more interested in what lies beneath the surface: the sediments accumulating at the bottom of these lakes.  As the local climate changes, now and in the past, so does the type of sediments accumulating on the lake bottom.  Cores of sediment have been collected from these lakes, and these cores show a rich history of climate changes that have been captured in their layers. 

Jessica Conroy samples a sediment core in October 2012. Photo credit: Diane Thompson

Close up of a sediment core from Genovesa crater lake, showing the distinct layers of sediment.  Photo credit: Diane Thompson
But what do these layers tell us?  Because these very saline lakes are very sensitive to changes in rainfall, they have captured past El Niño events (and their dry, cold water counterparts La Niñas). 

For example, the sediment record from Bainbridge has been used to study the frequency of El Niño events over the past 6000 years.  The sediments accumulating at the bottom of this lake may therefore be key to understanding how the frequency of El Niño events has changed in the past and what may have driven these changes in El Niño frequency.  In turn, this will improve our understanding of how the frequency of these events may change in the future as our global climate continues to warm.

Despite the importance of these Galapagos lake sediment archives to our understanding of El Niño variability, there is a lot we still have to learn about these lakes to properly interpret the story told within their layers.  

To improve our ability to interpret climate story from these lakes, we have been monitoring the local climate and lake conditions while simultaneously collecting all of the sediments falling in the lake in simple sediment traps.  This allows us to better understand how changes in climate affect the physical and chemical characteristics of the lake, and how that in turn changes the type of sediments falling to the lake bottom.

Collecting the Bainbridge sediment trap samples in 2012. Productive lake.  mmmm productive!  Photo credit: Diane Thompson
We have been monitoring these lakes since December of 2009, a period that covers more than 5 full seasonal cycles and includes a weak El Niño, a moderate El Niño and sustained La Niña conditions.  However, we have yet to capture the effect of a strong El Niño on these lakes, which is key to studying El Niño events in the past.

Over the next 4 days, we will collect and redeploy our instruments at these two lakes so that we can measure the fingerprint of the 2015/2016 El Niño in Genovesa and Bainbridge crater lakes.


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number (NSF AGS-1561121). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Monday, November 23, 2015

First Glimpse of the 2015 El Niño from in the trenches



If anyone asked me prior to this trip what I expected to find in the Galapagos during this strong El Niño event-- an event that may be on par with the strongest events in the historical record (in 1982-83 and 1997-98)-- I likely would have given a textbook answer of what happens in the Galapagos during a “classic” strong El Niño event.  It would have sounded a bit like this: rain, lots of rain; warn waters; dead sea life; dry, barren landscapes transformed to lush green wonderlands full of fat, happy finches.
Photo by Stephan Hlohowskyj
This picture I had painted in my head came not just from research on El Niño, but also from personal accounts of colleagues who were in the Galapagos during the huge 1982-83 El Niño, which hit the Galapagos very hard.  I heard stories of sea lions dying on the beaches while land birds thrived off of the unusually lush landscape.   Local divers and reef experts also paint a stark picture of the coral reefs, which succumbed to coral bleaching and death as a result of the high ocean temperatures.  Even 30 years after this event, its devastating impact was impossible to ignore while collecting coral samples on our last 2 expeditions.  We were hard pressed to find any large coral heads that survived that event, and all of the corals we sampled had a distinct death band in 82/83.

During these large, classic El Niño events, marine ecosystems crash around the Galapagos and throughout the eastern Pacific Ocean as a result of above average temperatures and a reduced influx of key nutrients from deeper waters.  At the same time, terrestrial ecosystems thrive under above normal rainfall.
The day before we departed for our trip, the Ecuadorian Government declared a “state of emergency due to the phenomenon of El Niño.”  The announcement said that the Ecuadorian Government was forecasting a stronger than normal event with unusually high volume of rainfall, and encouraged residents and visitors to visit their new website to learn about El Niño and its effects on Ecuador.
As an early career scientist who has focused her research largely on the phenomenon of El Niño—aiming to improve our understanding of how the strength and frequency of these events has changed in the past and may change in the future—I was extremely excited to get on the ground to see and measure these impacts in real time. 
So you can imagine my disappointment when I got here to find that the El Niño picture I had painted in my mind was, well only a fairy tale?!  Well, no, but where was all of the rain??
The clouds had definitely rolled in, with ominous clouds above us as we quickly devoured the coveted “encocado de pescado” at Williams, our favorite restaurant on the island.



And the view out of the back porch of our dorms at the Charles Darwin Research Station is no doubt more cloudy every day 



than it was during our last trip in January of 2015 (around the peak of last year’s warm/wet season)






But despite the ominous clouds, it has not rained.  Our boat captain Lenin tells us it rained a few days ago, but made a point of saying that he is skeptical of this El Niño.  He doesn’t believe the hype, and thinks the government’s state of emergency is just a control tactic. 
BUT, on the other hand he notes that the guides have told him that Darwin and Wolf (the most northern Galapagos Islands) are very lush and have been receiving a lot of rain.  So are the northern islands being impacted more by this event so far, despite warm ocean temperatures throughout the islands? This surprising observation has my head reeling through open questions and implications. 

How patchy are the El Niño rains among the islands?   And as a result of this patchiness, could such a large event be missed if only sampled from one island?  What are the implications of this for the interpretation of the frequency of El Niño events in the past from natural archives of past climate (e.g. sediments accumulating at the bottom of Galapagos lakes)? 
I anxiously await our field expedition to Genovesa and Bainbridge crater lakes to try to address these open questions.  We have been monitoring the local climate and lake conditions at these sites to determine how such El Niño events are recorded in these lakes; for example, how much rain falls during El Niño events, and how does this change the conditions of the lake and the sediments deposited on the lake bottom? 

Based on the occurrence of these signature El Niño layers in sediment cores extracted from these lakes, we can then produce improved records of the frequency of El Niño events over the past 6,000+ years.
And now as I finish writing this, it just started raining!!! Stay tuned…to be continued…


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number (NSF AGS-1561121). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Galapagos shark video!


It's going to take me a lonnnng time to process all of the footage I captured on our trip.  In the mean time, here's a little tease.

video



Coral drilling video!

Once we got started drilling, we were all business and my camera got left behind.  But I was able to get one short video of Julie drilling "Rosie" the Rosetta coral.  The drill was seizing up at this point, so progress was slow and frustrating, but you get the idea.  When I took over drilling after this video, a new drill was sent from above for me to save the day!

video


Saturday, January 31, 2015

Genovesa and Bainbridge Crater Lakes: a data logger's death sentence

After a quick 24 hour turn around, Stephan and I headed back out to sea, traveling to Genovesa and Bainbridge crater lakes on my absolutely favorite ship.  The Pirata.  

 Photo by Stephan Hlohowskyj
Piggy backing off the coral trip, we only had 3 days to get a lot done.  At each site, we set out to obtain data from the data loggers we had deployed at each lake that have been measuring local climate (temp, wind, rain, sunlight) and lake conditions (temp, salinity, lake level, etc) since 2009.  We also needed to collect sediment and water samples from throughout the water column of each lake. 

And of those 3 days, over 30 hours would be spent at sea.  

Good luck wasn't in our fortune, and we fought a current the whole way to Genovesa and lost our early morning jump on the day.  The hike to Genovesa was always brutal, long and hard and we'd need a full 12 hour day.

The "path" (very loosely speaking) is marked by rocks stuck up in Bursera trees.  With heavy, cumbersome packs, moving is slow.  Stephan used the machete to clear a path large enough for his tall pack frame piled with gear.  

Carlos makes his way through the Bursera. Photo by StephHlohowskyj 

Red footed boobies and chicks squawk at us as we awkwardly bushwack past.

Photo by Stephan Hlohowskyj

Fortunately, I couldn't have asked for a better team to help me, and  we arrived in record time to the weather station at the crater rim.

Photo by Stephan Hlohowskyj

We dropped some of the tools for the station, and then real fun began: climbing down the couple hundred foot cliff to the lake.  A cliff made of unstable scree and boulders, my favorite kind. 

Photo by Stephan Hlohowskyj

Moving is slow and calculated.  The true masochist in me enjoys it *a little* ;)
Photo by Stephan Hlohowskyj

And face to face interactions with Magnificent and Great Frigates and Boobies nesting provide much needed photo op rests.
Photo by Stephan Hlohowskyj

Photo by Stephan Hlohowskyj

Photo by Stephan Hlohowskyj

But admittedly, arriving at the lake always brings relief and puts the upcoming ascent in a daunting perspective!

Photo by Stephan Hlohowskyj

Despite our poor coordination with the rowing (with an added 360 turn for every few meters rowed), we successfully gathered the samples!

Photo by Stephan Hlohowskyj

That was however, where our good fortune ended.  We could not read out data from any of the loggers.  None. Nunca.  SIGH.  

Photo by Stephan Hlohowskyj

Exhausted, overheated, and running out of water and time, this pretty much sums up how we felt:
Photo by Stephan Hlohowskyj

So somewhat defeated, we had to resort to bringing them all back to the states in hopes that the company can extract the data for us.

We sailed to Bainbridge in hopes of better fortune.


Photo by Stephan Hlohowskyj

Now I might be biased (because this is my main study site), but Bainbridge is always a site for sore eyes after Genovesa.  The "hike" if you can even call it that involves an (admittedly) awkward boat landing, but then you walk 50 feet to this view:

Photo by Stephan Hlohowskyj

And did I say flamingoes?! THERE ARE FLAMINGOES :)  And this time they were courting.  Absolutely hilarious to watch them prance back and forth (GoPro video to follow).

Photo by Stephan Hlohowskyj

But why Flamingoes??  Well because this lake is SALTY.  And I mean salty!  Over 3 times that of seawater.  Combine that with the fact that it's shallow and mixed and you get one productive lake!!!  Mmmmmmmm....

Photo by Stephan Hlohowskyj

When do I get to be aired on "Dirty Jobs"?

Photo by Stephan Hlohowskyj

And where there is salt, there is rust!  So much rust that our weather station snapped in half:

Photo by Stephan Hlohowskyj


Photo by Stephan Hlohowskyj

Photo by Stephan Hlohowskyj

Thankfully, I was expecting this given its condition on our last trip, and brought all new parts for the station!  But we had to chisel the instruments off the old one....so lets just say it took a while and not everything is working as well as it should.  But it's a beaute!

Photo by Stephan Hlohowskyj

So what I've learned is like most vehicles, loggers have very specific lifetimes after which time, everything simultaneously breaks.  Oh and hypersaline lakes make a particularly good instrument graveyard. 

In search of the Rosetta Coral

We set out for Darwin and Wolf with a goal of collecting 15 coral samples.  Long samples. Because in our field, size does matter.  The larger the coral, the longer the core, and the longer the climate history.  To capture the past couple hundred years, we were searching for a coral that could give us a 2 meter long sample.  The Rosetta Coral.

Fortunately, our lab’s mascot “Coral” traveled all the way from Tucson to cheer us on.

Photo by Gloria Jimenez

We cruised to Wolf first to get our feet wet where the conditions are typically more calm and better for diving.   We returned to the reef where we took samples back in 2010, and broke out Julie’s brand new pneumatic drill system to give it a good ole test drive and make sure everything was working properly and  efficiently.

Because if we were going to reach our goal with 5 days of diving, efficiency would be key.

Photo by Stephan Hlohowskyj

The drill runs off of compressed air, which can be a major logistical challenge with the strong currents and deep reefs at Darwin and Wolf.  To power this type of drill, there are only two options: power it from scuba tanks or an air compressor from the surface, or bring extra scuba tanks down to the bottom to power it.

With many tanks of air needed to take a 1-2 meter coral sample, bringing tanks down isn’t ideal, especially when they begin to float away as you use the air in them!  But the other option, though seemingly ideal, requires the boat, or a zodiac or panga, to be anchored right above you, with enough compressor hose to make it down to the depth of the coral without tension.  And if there is current or swell, that possibility goes right out the window…as the hose and boat gets tossed and yanked around like a rag doll.

And rough conditions is something these islands do well.  When we arrived, the Queen Mabel tried to anchor at the site, and before the anchor could even be set, the boat heaved and the huge steel anchor chain snapped in 2.  And the anchor was lost. The first casualty of the trip….

On top of the rough conditions, the large corals at these islands that we want to sample are unfortunately also deep.  Typically corals that we sample are in shallow water, but here the big ones are found around 50 feet.  This not only means lots of compression hosing, but it also means that lots of nitrogen buildup in our bodies.  With 3 to 4 hour long dives per day (dawn pre-breakfast dive, after breakfast dive, and 1-2 afternoon dives), we’re all pushing our decompression limits every day.

The drill. Photo by Julia Cole

So we brought a tank of air down with us on the dive to test the drill, hopeful that the drill would be strong and efficient.  We were all a bit relieved when we found that with this tank the drill cut through….a few inches of volcanic rock!   The rock is much denser and tougher to drill than corals, so we ended the dive hopeful that we’d be able to collect samples without needing too many tanks of air.  Fingers crossed…

Drilling some rock like it ain't no thing. Photo by Jennifer Suarez

Photo by Jennifer Suarez

For the remainder of the day, while the captain and crew searched for the lost anchor, we went on a search of our own to find the corals we drilled in 2010.  We wanted to photograph the health of these corals to show their recovery following the drilling.  As a marine ecologist turned paleoclimatologist who went from monitoring health of reefs to poking holes in them to study climate, I was particularly keen on seeing their recovery.

After coring, we fill the holes we create with cement plugs that prevent other organisms from coming in and killing the corals from the inside.  These plugs also provide a surface for the coral to re-grow, and many have documented the recovery of corals cored in this way.  But I was excited to see this for myself.  You know, to sleep at night…

An example of a plugged sample from this trip.  Photo by Julia Cole

But we looked and looked and looked all around the GPS coordinates of the corals sites, and could not find them.  Knowing that we that we likely swam by the corals a few times and couldn’t find any evidence of drilling, I’m happy to know that the corals must have recovered and grown over the holes.

-------------------------

In the wee hours of the morning we cruised the remaining 4 hours to Darwin.  I watched the sunrise as we became closer and closer to the picturesque arch off the southeast side of the island.

We cruised around the island to start in the somewhat calmer Arrecife Escondito ("Hidden Reef") to start to search for large corals to sample.

Prepping for the dive. Photo by Julia Cole

On our first pre-breakfast dawn dive we found a coral that was around 2 meters tall and started drilling.  We were off to a great start, but would soon come across a number of hurdles with the drill, slowing the coring process.  Although a frustratingly slow progress, we continued moving forward (rule number 3!!), and 5 dives and far too many tanks in, we finally got 2 cores out of this coral.  Sadly, a big part of our slow progress from this coral is that it turns out it was only an ~half meter coral head growing on top of a large rock. :(

We named this coral "heart of stone" and continued on in search of the Rosetta Coral.

"Heart of Stone" coral with the 2 coral samples plugged. Photo by Gloria Jimenez

We got one more half meter core from another core at this site, but unfortunately this core was riddled with boring clam holes.  So we aptly named this sample the $50k pencil holder.

While Julie and I did one last sweep of the reef in search of large colonies, we ended up in a scene straight from Blue Planet (or Finding Nemo!).  Suddenly, the ocean went nearly black as we were surrounded by a school of thousands of fish.  As they'd move back and forth, the sides of their bodies would temporarily glisten in the sunlight, making shapes in front of us.  No directions to the Sydney Opera house, but they were clearly being chased by something.  Something big.  My excitement quickly faded as I waited for whatever it was chasing them to come out of the darkness.  Fortunately, what appeared were HUGE mackerel.  It was feeding time!  An incredible experience!!!

Meanwhile Stephan and Gloria went to set a temperature logger by the first coral, and in doing so, Gloria got bit by an angry eel :(   Fortunately, she didn't lose her thumb and it didn't hit a major artery, but she is left with a bad wound and will likely need surgery to fix a tendon.  But let me tell you, she is one tough chick!!

----------------------------

After a satellite phone call to the islands for advice on Gloria's thumb, we decided to move on to try to find the rosetta coral on the other side of the island at Arrecife Antigua ("Ancient Reef").  On our first dive, I found two nice, large corals...the second was easily 2 meters or more.  I was so excited when I found it that chasing Julie down to show her against the current suddenly didn't feel so hard (thank, you adrenaline!).  I felt a little little like a little kid at Christmas! "Mommy, mommy, look what I got"!!! jaja :)

We marked the corals with diving safety sausages so we could return and start drilling them after breakfast.

Tagging the first drilling target at Aricife Antigua: a ~1.5 meter, but solid head
After breakfast we set out to anchor the panga and start drilling the largest coral.  But our excitement quickly turned to doubt as it became unclear whether we'd even be able to drill.  The current had picked up dramatically, and conditions were now dangerous and bordering on impossible with all of the drilling equipment.  

Once the panga was anchored, Julie and Stephan rolled out of the zodiac upcurrent of the anchored panga, and were quickly swept down current to the panga.  Grabbing on, the idea was that Roby would pass them the drilling gear and they would safely descend down the anchor line to the coral.  But with the drilling tools, which easily weigh around 50 lbs, they could not even fight the current to the anchor line.  Stephan was being dangerously pulled in two directions, tools in one hand and anchor line in the other.  Impossible. 

Admitting that he's never felt so close to drowning, we clearly had to rethink the logistics for this site and decide whether we would even be able to drill.  The next dive, we decided to forget the tools for now, and just go to the bottom with the drill and one tank to see if it would even be possible to drill.  

We went up-current of the coral and tried again.  This time with Stephan hugging the tank and regulator for the drill and Julie holding the drill and tubing.  Rolling off, they tried to swim straight to the bottom and to the coral to avoid getting swept away to sea by the strong surface current. Fortunately, they made it, and found relatively calm conditions (comparatively) at the bottom and were able to start drilling.

But unable to get the tools down safely by the dive team, we had to drop them from the surface, guiding them as much as possible by rope.  Talk about unideal conditions, but it worked!

So from here we started a new rotating drilling team.  Each new person in the water would craddle a scuba tank, roll in, and plummet to the bottom as quickly as they could, replenishing the air for drill and relieving the drill team (who were also running out of air).  

And we'd bring the empty tanks with us up as we surfaced. Well, that is until one dive when I went to change the regulator to a new tank, and the empty tank slipped out from the reef and floated to the surface.  Fortunately, the zodiac saw it and grabbed it.  It worked so well in fact, that we started doing that for the other tanks.  Well, that is, until one went missing... :/

Loading the scuba tanks for our dawn dive.  Photo by Gloria Jimenez

Stephan and Roby break a piece of sample out of the coral head. Photo by Julia Cole

-----------------------
This system worked very well and we fell into a groove, repeating this strategy dive after dive for the next 2.5 days.  We fought an endless battle with the drills seizing (despite our endless efforts to oil them after every dive).  Seawater and drills don't play well together.  Fortunately, we had an extra drill and at one point while I was fighting the drill, a new, powerful drill was quite literally sent to me from above.  A gift from...well the drilling gods I suppose.

On the last dive, Jennifer and I wrapped up the drilling and packed up the gear.  We had decided as a group on the surface that it would be best just to fill the haul bag with air and let it ascend to the surface.  After 20 minutes, they'd be on the lookout for it at the surface. 

But getting the tools together took the last remaining energy we had, and by the time they were finally ready to go, I was running out of air.  I headed to the surface with the last tank in my hand and watched as the haul bag, carrying all of the tools, plummeted to the surface, breached, leaked, and came plummeting back down. I had to dodge the 50+ lb bag from my safety stop.  Take 2.  This time the zodiac was on it.  As soon as the yellow bag hit the surface, I hear the zodiac speed above me and see a hand reach down and grab it.  Phew. 

It was absolutely exhausting, but we got 3 cores out of this head...one of which was 2.5 meters long!!  We did it!!!  

2 meters here we come!  Photo by: Gloria Jimenez

And we named this coral "Rosie", short for Rosetta of course.

"Rosie" Photo by Gloria Jimenez

We did two last dives to look for more potential corals (for future trips).  On the last dive, we headed to "deep" water to collect a sample of the cold water coming up from the deep around this site.  And at only 80 feet, for the second time in my life I felt nitrogen narcosis.  Suddenly the world started moving a bit slower and I felt drunk. I immediately looked at Stephan and signaled that I was going to move shallower. The repeated dives had finally caught up with my body and I was DUN.   Until next time, Darwin!