We scoped out a reef called Crazy Corals this morning. It was low tide when we left the station, so we had to dodge corals as we traversed the reef terrace to access the site. One person stood at the bow and pointed out a safe path through the corals with their arm, while the driver cautiously followed with the engine one click up. As the tide dropped further, the gap between the top of the corals and the bottom of our boat narrowed. Then, we spotted the buoy on the horizon and quickly navigated to the site. We arrived safely and relayed our position back to the station through a radio call. “Palmyra Station, Palmyra Station. This is Lagoon Boat Two. Three POB [persons on board] have arrived at Crazy Corals and two divers and one snorkeler are getting in the water.”
I slid into the crystal clear water and was taken aback by the raw beauty of the reef. Indeed, it was an aptly named site. The corals were absolutely breathtaking! Massive, brightly colored coral bommies towered over our heads, nearly reaching the water’s surface. Massive schools of convict tang swirled around us while nibbling on bits of algae, and the occasional snapper lurked behind us with its sinister, toothy grin. Large blue-green steephead parrotfish noisily chomped down on the corals, ingesting mouthfuls of calcium carbonate and algae. In the distance, a large green turtle cruised by and fled the scene quickly upon acknowledging our presence. The reef was bustling with life!
Dana and I swam in a wide circle around the boat, searching for any available substrate to sample. The bottom was literally 100% coral. We kept our eyes peeled for sediment, but there was none to be found. Just corals growing atop other corals in a dance for space and survival. It was incredible. Large branching Acroporid corals, which are critically endangered in the Caribbean, abounded. No surface lay untouched.
After a 40 minute jaunt around the reef without seeing of a single open patch of sand, we returned to the boat with our empty sampling bags. This reef was so healthy and brimming with corals that it had thwarted us in our sampling efforts. While awe-inspiring to say the least (this reef in particular first sparked my interest in coral reef ecology five years ago), it was time to move on to another site to continuing the sampling.