The screech of plane wheels, a jolt as the plane touches down, a muggy wait in line through Customs, a taxi ride to the cruise ship pier and a first glimpse of the Golden Shadow at the dock; in a nutshell this was the experience of most of the coral reef research team as they arrived in Nassau, Bahamas today. The third leg of the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation’s Global Reef Expedition begins with the research team adjusting to life on the ship and stowing their gear, supplies, and equipment in anticipation of an early morning departure.
In addition to expedition preparations, several reporters from local media outlets came aboard the Golden Shadow to meet with Philip Renaud, the Executive Director of the Living Oceans Foundation. Phil detailed the expedition’s goals and objectives to the reporters and answered their questions about how and where our coral reef research will be done. Connecting with Bahamian news outlets is an important way for the Foundation to reach out to local people and share its updates, discoveries and accomplishments. Several local press personnel will be participating in portions of the Inaguas Expedition.
As the reporters came and went, a moment’s reflection confirmed the saying, “There’s something for everyone.” This certainly applied on-board today with the expedition’s research team sharing a wealth of backgrounds and expertise in fields as diverse as veterinarian pathology (the study of diseases in animals and in our case coral diseases), underwater videography, and reef fish feeding behaviors.
The common denominator throughout the ship, however, is anticipation for exploration of the remote Inagua Islands and Hogsty Reef. Great Inagua and Little Inagua together cover 645 square miles and are located less than 60 miles from the coasts of Cuba and Haiti in the far southeastern Bahamas.
About 1,000 people live in Inagua, most in the capital, Matthew Town. Many of the island’s residents work at the Morton’s Salt factory near town. The Inagua National Park on Great Inagua covers about half of the island and supports tens of thousands of West Indian Flamingos and several other endemic, rare and endangered species of wildlife. Great Inagua is not the only island with spectacular wildlife. Sea turtles frequently nest on Little Inagua. These slow-moving marine reptiles depend on seagrasses and healthy coral reefs for their survival.
The team aboard the Golden Shadow hopes that by diving, mapping and studying the reefs around the Inaguas they will be able to broaden scientific understanding of these underwater habitats that will in turn support reef conservation and ensure that people and wildlife can thrive in the Inaguas for years to come.
Written by Kit van Wagner
(Photo/Images by: 1-2 Kit van Wagner; 3 Amanda Williams)
To follow along and see more photos, please visit us on Facebook! You can also follow the expedition on our Global Reef Expedition page, where there is more information about our research and our team members.