July 7, 2019 – Church Bay, Somerset, Spanish Point

Beautiful morning at Church Bay but southernly wind reduced fish sightings and made swimming and approaching boilers (slightly submerged reef bowls with waves washing in and out of them) challenging. Many of the common fish were present; stoplight parrotfish, blueheads, Bermuda chub, French grunts, blue striped grunts, and sergeant majors. Alex spotted a large black grouper that upon being noticed headed out to sea. Brian found a spotted eagle ray that he followed into two separate boilers before it turned towards the open seas. The increased chop mixed with being the final day contributed to a tiring morning snorkel for all.

Leaving Church Bay we stopped at Gibbs Hill Lighthouse for a beautiful view of the island. From the base of the lighthouse we could view multiple snorkel locations we previously visited. We learned that this lighthouse is incredibly unique due to being one of the first lighthouses in the world to be constructed out of cast-iron. It is also the largest lighthouse on the island.

On our drive to Somerset we passed St. Anne’s church which is the church that Church bay was named for. Arriving at Somerset the bay was very calm and we anticipated turtles. Most of the class had a chance to swim with turtles and even touch the shells of the friendly green sea turtles. This stop was a quick but successful last minute addition to the trip.

We returned to Spanish point for our last dive. Our previous snorkel here was calm, clear, and truly demonstrated Bermuda’s biodiversity. This visit consisted of rougher conditions resulting in a reduction of visibility. There weren’t many fish around the reefs of Spanish Bay but a few blueheads, sergeant majors, squid, and four-eyed butterflyfish. Carol and a few students however came across a green sea turtle, two barracudas, and two smooth trunkfish. The difference in fish sightings between our two trips to Spanish Point demonstrated how even at one location the conditions and biodiversity can change in a short period of time.

Tired from a successful trip, everyone settled into BIOS for a calm night perfect for catching up on work and taking in the fresh Bermuda night sky one last time.

Alex White, Carol Vassar, Brian Slopey

Caribbean Reef Squid
ale queen parrotfish
Willa at Church Bay
Gearing up at Church Bay
Green Sea Turtle

July 6th Snorkel in Tobacco Bay and Cooper’s Island

This is a picture of the group getting ready for the first snorkel of the day at Tobacco Bay

First we boarded the bus at 8:30 to go to Tobacco Bay. During our time there we snorkeled through the rocks and found so many incredible fish and other marine creatures. One of my favorite things we saw were the squids swimming in small groups drifting in waves through the open water. We also saw so many other astonishing creatures, which are not part of the fish family, like a giant lobster under a rock we had to dive down to find. Another creature we found was a jellyfish unthankfully due to Sasha’s expense of being stung by it. I also very much enjoyed following the many fish we saw weaving in and out of the rocks. Some examples of fish we saw were barracudas, rainbow parrot fish, and sergeant majors. At the end of our first journey of the day at Tobacco Bay we were welcome back by some crabs, Catherine found on a bench submerged in water. Thankfully no crabs were eaten by Jet. Though there was a crab injured and saved both by Tim.

This is a Peacock Flounder found near Fort Saint Catherine

This afternoon after leaving Tobacco Bay we took a bus to Cooper’s Island. Once there our task was to identify, take notes, and draw pictures of 15 of the costal plants that were surrounding the area. We had around 5 hours that we were there. In this time we could choose in which order we wanted to do things. As long as we had all 15 costal plants identified and we completed approximately an hour long snorkel and took data on that we could choose what we wanted to do with the rest of the time. This site was extremely beautiful with a lot of costal plants to choose from. While identifying these plants could be hard at times, we had access to a book which listed off all of the plants in that area with pictures that could help us identify them. This book also contained facts about each one of the plants which help us complete the research portion.

This is a picture of Sea Grapes, one of the many plants that we identified today

After the coastal walk, people had time to do the next snorkel at Coopers island, lay on the beach, write in their journals, or walk to the lookout tower. The beach had light sand with crystal clear, light blue water. For the snorkel you could swim around the two rock formations located further out in the water. The rock formations had little inlets in them, also with some small caves. Although the current in the inlets was pretty strong and could pull you against the rocks. During the snorkel many people saw lots of parrotfish, in particular the blue parrotfish and butterflyfish. Another type of fish we saw was lots of trumpetfish. Lots of different types of coral was also seen, specifically the brain Coral which ranged in all sizes. If groups wanted they could go to a smaller beach across the path, which was less crowded and and had rocks surrounding the outskirts, best for hidden fish. Some people once finished with collecting data from snorkeling, walked a short distance up the hill to the tower. The tower had an amazing 360 view at the top of the ocean and surrounding town.

This is a picture of Emily working on identifying the coastal plants
This was taken from the top of Cooper’s Islands tower

July 5, 2019 – Spelunking and St. George

This morning we went on a hike into the woods to take a look at some cool caves in Bermuda. We first stopped to look at some mangroves which are integral to Bermuda’s shores. We then examined a cave entrance, followed by some cliff jumping into a collapsed cave that was flooded. Next, we went swimming in a flooded cave that was covered in stalactites and was 40 feet deep. We went and walked through another cave that was very hard to get through as pillars of limestone surrounded us and it made for a tight fit. Lastly, we snorkeled in a little pool that fed to the ocean but was lined with mangroves. The floor was full of upside down jellyfish (no one got stung!) and some people saw a very large barracuda as well.

In the early afternoon we then took a bus ride up to Fort St. Catherine which is where the settlers of Bermuda fought off Spanish invaders and made the country their own. It was a very cool historical site that was full of old memorabilia from when the Fort was active. There were old cannons, old anti-aircraft guns, armor replicas, as well as replica crowns and scepters.

After we left the Fort, we walked down to St. George and shopped around as well as explored the historical town which was founded in 1612. We walked around town for a little while, enjoying the scenery and learning more about the history of the town.

During our night snorkel we saw numerous types of fish including, porcupine fish, doctorfish, French grunt, Hogfish, Octopus, Bermuda Bream, and Foureye Butterflyfish. Many types of coral were seen as well, such as Brain coral, Sea fans, and other soft and hard corals. The biggest find of the night was the Green Moray Eel that we all saw in a small crevice on the edge of the bay. All in all the night was a huge success, from seeing a wanted species to finding tiny crabs.

Jett Arp & Tim Kittler

Group photo in dry cave
Red Mangrove on beach
Fort St. Catherine
Unfinished Church
Up close picture of pufferfish
Whalebone Bay at dusk

July 4th a Day on the Boat and Night Snorkel

We started off our day with a little surprise. When everyone first woke up, there was no running water. This startled many people but the issue was soon resolved. After eating breakfast here at BIOS and packing up all our dive/ snorkel equipment, we headed down to the dock to prepare for our day on the boat. The divers had to put their kits together prior to boarding the boat. Around 9am we set out for Blue Hole.

After a 45 minute gorgeous boat ride, we arrived at Blue Hole. The divers and snorkelers were getting ready simultaneously. The divers entered the water first and began their descent to the bottom. While the snorkelers waited and jumped in soon after. Blue Hole was an amazing spot because it was a large circle that was enclosed by 35 foot tall coral walls. This was also the first dive that the divers were required to be taking data. At our deepest point we were down 39 feet. This was the deepest some of our divers had ever been which was rather exciting. We saw fish such as Rainbow Parrotfish, Reef Butterflyfish, Bermuda Chub and tons more. Our dive leader even brought us through some small caves, and that was exciting. After spending 40 minutes exploring coral, fish, and much more, we began our ascent back to the surface. One at a time we re-boarded the boat and took off our gear. Us divers were quite cold from being in the deep water. 

Everyone re-grouped on the boat, and we set out for a short ride to a new place for lunch and free time. Everyone had packed bag lunches earlier that day during breakfast. We had the option of either going on a snorkel for fun without having to take data, hang out on the boat, or just swim around for fun. It was a gorgeous day which made this time even better. As divers, we had to take this time in order to allow the nitrogen to exit our bloodstream from our previous dive. I personally enjoyed just hanging out on the boat.

After, we began our second dive. We swam out a little ways and descended to around 20 feet deep. During this dive we stayed between 15 and 25 feet deep, as we swam up and over walls of beautiful colored corals. Some of the fish we saw on this dive included large blue tang, four eyed butterfly fish, sergeant major, and lots of some larger predatory fish. This showed us how diverse the food chain is in this ecosystem, as we saw fish smaller than a finger such as the slippery dick, up to fish possibly three feet long such as the large parrotfish, black grouper, and the margate. My favorite part about this dive was looking up and seeing the many Bermuda chubs swimming around wildly above our heads. During this dive we also saw a sea urchin the size of my head! We swam in and around small tunnels and miniature caves, as well, which are filled with different kinds of fish and creatures. We then began our ascent back up to the boat.

After our 45 minute dive, we got back onto the boat and started to pack up most of our gear. Some of us kept our dive skins on for sun protection, others lathered on the sunscreen, and some laid out on the bow to get a nice tan (or burn). We then embarked on our thirty five minute boat ride back to BIOS. This boat ride was relaxing and a good rest time after our two dives, snorkels, and swims. Some of us even fell asleep!

Once back at BIOS, we disassembled our dive kits and unloaded the boat. We had some down time before dinner, where we wrote in our journals about our previous dives. We then headed to our dinner, before coming back to our rooms to prepare for our night snorkel.

The night snorkel began at 7:00, and ended around 9:00. We saw tons of amazing fish that we haven’t seen, or haven’t seen as much of! We saw many more squirrelfish, two balloon fish, squid, giant snails, jellyfish, lobsters, crabs, and more! We also were just in time to see the fabulous sunset that reflected beautifully off the water. We used our dive lights once it got dark, and we searched small crevices and holes for creatures. Once we got cold, we got out and began our walk back to BIOS. Overall, it was an amazing day.

By Grace Murphy & Lizzy Wilson

Hanging out on the BIOS dive boat
Diving in Blue Hole
Spiny lobster in Blue Hole
Divers getting ready to dive
Balloon fish at Whalebone Bay at night
Sunset at Whalebone Bay
Getting ready to snorkel at Whalebone Bay

July 3, 2019 – BUEI, SPANISH POINT, AND WARWICK BAY

We started our day off with entering the BIOS bus at 8:30am and heading to the Spanish Point where we explored the reefs. Our first sighting was a sea turtle followed by a small barracuda which were both amazing sightings. We stayed out in the water for about an hour where we then headed to the BUEI Museum.

At the museum we toured different exhibits about the oceans ecosystem and history of Bermuda. Our favorite aspect in the museum was the Bermuda Triangle ride where we learned more about the history of the triangle. We visited a few exhibits, one being the coral tracking and different locations around Bermuda. It was incredibly interesting to examine the unique types of coral in different locations around the Island. We then travelled towards the shell exhibit and saw numerous different types of shells and how they were created. Our goal was to visit three exhibits, write and draw pictures of what we saw.

Next, we drove to West end of Warwick Long Bay and spent around two hours snorkeling and exploring the reefs and fish. We saw a huge black grouper swimming along a rocky island which was quite startling but at the same time amazing. The swells were incredibly strong today, but we still managed to have a wonderful time.

After Warwick Long Bay, our group started walking through a sandy trail with different types of trees hanging over us. We arrived at Chaplin Bay where we were able to free swim or snorkel throughout the reefs. We decided to swim along the soft sand and created a fun dance in the water. The views along the walk were amazing and we took a quick photoshoot off the cliff. Overall, great swimming spot and soft beaches.

We met the bus at Horseshoe Bay and started our journey back to BIOS. Once we arrived at BIOS, we quickly headed to our dorms and washed the sand off our bodies. At 5:45, we all rushed down to dinner and grabbed large portions because we were extremely hungry from our long, tiring but fun day.

At 7:00 we walked down to the Hanson Hall where we listened to a lecture from Kaitlin about the history of Bermuda Oceanic Island. It was very interesting to learn more about the discovery of Bermuda and how it was created. We found it mind-blowing how volcanic eruptions create the Earth and lands we live on.

Overall, spectacular day on the island of Bermuda and excited for more to come!

Sasha and Amelia.

Amelia preforming a reef survey
Excited to start snorkeling at Warwick Long Bay
Pictures of Blue Tang and Spanish Hogfish
Amazing sighting of Barracuda
Group photo on the cliffs overlooking the ocean

JULY 2, 2019 AQUARIUM, REEF, AND PLANKTON TOW

Today we started off our day bright and early with a trip to the Bermuda Aquarium. Along with being an aquarium it is also a zoo so not only did we get to see and identify many species of fish, we also got to observe many animals like flamingos, tortoises, crocodiles, and seals. I found this experience fascinating because we saw many fish that we may not get to see during our snorkels. The most memorable things for a few of us were the moray eel, the great barracuda, and the nurse shark. These were all equally incredible because they make many people nervous and it might be difficult to see them so up close even if we did wind up running into them during our snorkel, because, for one, some often shy away from divers, and also some people may be too afraid to actually get up close and even be able to see their incredible features. Seeing them very close through a glass tank made this equally safe and a beautiful experience.

After the aquarium we came back to BIOS and had a tasty lunch before getting on our first boat ride and traveling for a bit to get to our research destination. The boat ride was incredible and a great way to see many beaches that we might not get to see during our time here. I also found the coloring of all the houses here very amazing, the pastel is a very nice contrast with the light blue of the ocean.

Once we got to our destination the snorkelers took off while the divers got their gear on. We might not have gotten to go down extremely far but the coral reefs we swam through were breathtaking. I saw so many species that I never expected to see in person, including a trumpetfish, a long spined sea urchin, and a few rainbow parrotfish. After snorkeling for a while we went back to the boat and waited for the divers. When they got back they told us all about what they saw in the deeper waters and we exchanged species names. A few of us jumped off the boat and felt the warm water while waiting for everyone to get back.

Once everyone was back we traveled back to BIOS, admiring the scenery once again, and worked on journals before we had a bit of rest time and then dinner.

After we all finished eating we came back to the lecture hall and listened to a presentation on plankton. We took notes and I personally learned a lot of new and interesting things I never knew before. After the presentation we headed back to the boat. On the boat we talked a little more about plankton before putting a net into the water and capturing about tens of thousands of these little creatures. We then went to the lab and each got a small disc full of water with a large amount of different species in it and we got to examine them through a microscope. When we found a species we were sure of, we identified it, drew it, and wrote the behaviors we noticed in our journals. In our samples were some planktons that live their whole lives as planktons, and some are larvae that are not plankton in their grown up life. A few of these are crabs, lobsters, and urchins.

Zoe Barbero Menzel

Mock survey at Bermuda Aquarium
Jet loves the aquarium
Invasive lionfish
Male bluehead wrasse surrounded by females
Lizzy and Amelia
Analyzing plankton samples
Plankton sample through microscope

BERMUDA DAY 1: JULY 1

We arrived in Lebanon to take the Dartmouth Coach to Logan Airport at around 3:30 am (super early for most of us!). The ride to Massachusetts was quiet and everybody who wanted to was able to get some sleep.

At Logan airport, we went through TSA and bag checks without too much hassle, and had some time to wander around and grab food if we wanted it. We departed at around 10:45am, and arrived in Bermuda at 1:45. However, Bermuda is an hour ahead — in reality, we only spent two hours on the plane.

Our first stop was the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS), where we’ll be staying for the duration of the trip. Instead of unpacking right away, though, we grabbed our snorkel gear and set out for a walk along the Bermuda Railway Trail to Whalebone Bay.

While we were in the water, we saw many incredible fish species. There was also an abundance of other underwater life, including corals, sea plants, and even some sea cucumbers. Did you know that sea cucumbers are actually more closely related to sea stars than to sea slugs? That’s because sea cucumbers are technically echinoderms, while sea slugs are mollusks.

After we finished up snorkeling and collecting data on the species and number of fish we saw, we walked back to BIOS for dinner. We were just in time; a storm was brewing on the horizon and broke while we were eating. Then came time for reviewing what fish we saw as a class, and discussing the identity of a “mystery fish” that nobody had been able to ID while we were in the water. We got some pictures, though, so we were able to work backwords and compare it to photographs in our textbooks to discover that it was a type of damselfish called a beaugregory.

Other particularly abundant species we saw during our snorkel included french grunt and a fish endemic to Bermuda called the Bermuda bream. We also saw lots of brain coral and many sea fans.