With a couple of weeks to go until our Musandam expedition, I thought I would introduce myself and make you familiar with some changes (remember nothing is as constant as the change of plan on expedition ;).
My name is Matthias and I am the founder & executive director of Biosphere Expeditions and also your expedition leader. There’s a short video of me and why I am your leader (and not Rossella Meloni as per the dossier) below.
Change 1: I am your expedition leader.
Change 2: I will be on UAE mobile number xxx and not the expedition leader mobile advertised in the dossier. Since we have a good crew and have done this expedition for several years now, I will only arrive in Dubai 30 hours before we meet at the Holiday Inn Express Jumeirah. If you are late for assembly or if there is any other urgent matter, please ring me on this phone. Once we get to Oman and onto our liveaboard, I will switch to Oman mobile number xxx for the rest of the expedition.
No change: to the assembly point or time or to the fact that you are joining a research expedition, not a cushy dive holiday 😉 I hope you have all done your swatting up on Reef Check and are ready to help us with our reef research. Here’s an old 2011 survey itinerary. As you can see it’s early mornings and mostly survey dives, but we usually get in a few “lazy dives”, i.e. dives when you don’t have to fill in any datasheets. So please come rested and with your heads clear for all the Reef Check information we’re going to hit you with (and test you on) before you are allowed to collect data.
But enough of the scaremongering! I hope your preparations and packing is taking shape. Remember there is NO dive hire gear in Musandam, so please bring all your own stuff or arrange hire gear in Dubai in advance (see page 19 of your dossier).
I may write once more from Dubai before we all meet at 09:00 at the Holiday Inn Express Jumeirah on 7 October. Safe travels and I look forward to meeting you soon.
Dr. Matthias Hammer
The third and final slot of the Biosphere Expeditions Malaysian Reef Check expedition has drawn to an exciting close this morning. We were anchored at Nipah, on the southern end of Tioman. This is the place referred to in a previous entry as the site of the amazing nocturnal racing worms. We pulled in at Nipah to discover the sandy sea floor peppered with large urchins, which each had a population of small black fish living between its spines. The really remarkable thing though, was the speed with which the urchins were chasing each other around. They were in twos and threes and moving at an unbelievable pace with one of the racers emitting a cloud of what I assume to be sperm. Incredible sight! What’s with Nipah and high speed invertebrates?
At around 03:00 in the night, a powerful squall woke us and intensified until Hylton, the skipper decided that the best course of action was to lift the anchor and head back to Tekek, rather than be slapped around at anchor for the rest of the night. What ensued was an exciting night run to Tekek and a very welcome calm in the duck pond at the marina. A very exciting end to a very interesting expedition!
Thanks to all the team members who made this research possible by donating their time, energy and money to this very worthy alternative to sitting on a beach with a book for their holiday. Thanks as well to Katie Yewdall the scientist whose project we helped to crew and Hylton Hines the skipper of the Araliya.
The team from slot three of the Tioman Island Reef Check expedition have, despite some nervous apprehension, passed their full set of identification examinations with flying colours and are now ready to hit the high seas and begin surveys. We board the Araliya tomorrow for the final leg of this, the inaugural Malaysian expedition. The data these teams have gathered, will join a growing body of such data that the Reef Check organisation collects from coral reef locations around the world. The hard work of the team members from this and similar expeditions will be used by scientists, conservation organisations and policy makers to plot their course into the future as they develop their approaches to the management of these precious but poorly understood ecosystems. The people on this expedition could have had an easy holiday under an umbrella with a good book, but they have instead dedicated their time off work to a cause, which desperately needs their boots on the ground (or in this case fins). My hat off to all of you.
The first full day of Reef Check training for slot three of the Tioman Island expedition is going well. The difference between snappers and bream is not causing serious conniptions. The subject of “deep reefs” came up so I sent a quick email to Tom Bridge of James Cook University, an authority on the matter. Before the end of the classroom session, Tom had sent an elaborate and awesomely interesting reply on the nature and role of these off limit ecosystems. The reading of his email at the end of the class provided a brilliant opportunity to get input from a leader in an unusual field of reef research. It also showed how valuable are scientists who care enough to make such an effort to educate the public. Cheers Dr Bridge!
P.S. A video blog of slot 1 is now also available (see below).
Today marks the last day of the second slot of the Biosphere Expeditions / Reef Check project to Tioman Island in Malaysia. Despite various challenges, including the temporary loss of a team member due to an ear infection and the loss of the compressor for half the slot, we did not miss a single research dive and even got in a couple of leisure dives. The team worked overtime to surmount the difficulties and Ed, with his bad ear, took on the deck divemastering duties and data processing like a pro. Full kudos to this group of excellent expeditioners and thank you for all your help!
The first real day of ocean based Reef Check with the second team begins with a glassed out sea and 20+ meters of visibility. We are heading to Chebe to survey some reef that as yet has escaped the attention of the Reef Check process. The “fish team” timing on the transect is very good which keeps the rest of the procedure in check, making Katie a happy scientist.
Finally, after a day of challenging currents bravely fought, reef valiantly surveyed and seas almost too big for the RIB, we are under full sail with Maarten at the helm (see picture below). We’re heading to a remote island west of Tioman to survey sites that our expedition scientist Katie herself has not dived. We’ll attempt a night dive here, the first of the expedition thus far. Although the wind has been either nonexistent or too erratic to be of use, it’s been smooth sailing so far.
Today we surveyed the reef around a spectacular forested rock a few kilometers out to sea off Tioman Island. From there we our yacht Araliya down the wild and convoluted eastern coast of Tioman to the settlement of Juara, the only inhabited point on this coast. The sea turtle project at the far end of Juara beach is a real outpost of conservation run by a team of passionate volunteers. We went on a turtle survey tonight after dinner and learned some sobering statistics in the process.
The team has now completed their three days of Reef Check training and are ready to begin their surveys. The first one is today and tomorrow we board the yacht “Araliya” to begin the real work. The diving skills in the team are all quite good. The identification skills have developed nicely and although there are distinct preferences within the team for the various ID tasks we’ll be set, some are “fish people” while others have their strength in invertebrates or substrate ID, between us we are in good shape to Check this Reef (and the beach – see below 😉
Team 1 has spent the morning in briefings and doing the paperwork that precedes the meat and potatoes of the expedition. They have just geared up and trotted (well, humped their gear at least) down the beach for their first training dive with Katie, who will assess and develop the all-important buoyancy skills, which will play a vital role in their effectiveness as research divers. Frank, who hasn’t dived in some time, did a refresher with one of the instructors yesterday, whom I overheard talking to his colleagues in very positive terms about Frank’s competence as a diver. If that’s the tone of our team, then we’re in good shape for the real work.