January 2015

As usual, we went to Barbados in January. I got a GoPro camera for Christmas so we took lots of underwater photos and quite a few fish-lens selfies.

The view from the beach:


We stayed in lower Seaborne for the first few days and moved up top for the last couple. We often watched a movie at night. My favourite was “The Count of Monte Cristo”. It is my new favourite movie. Here is Dmitriy fiddling around with the GoPro.


There was an outbreak of Chikungunya in Barbados, which is spread by mosquitos and is a very unpleasant sickness. We were always very careful to close the bedroom doors, and my Dad was fanatical about using insecticides and making sure the doors were shut.

We went for a few snorkels (we being Dad, Dmitriy, and I).




We were trying to scope out a good place to have the robot do surveys of the coral over time, meaning that they would take the robot every couple years to the same place and have it make a map of the reef / a part of the reef. We swam out to Heron Bay reef to check it out.

I like the little fish in the next photo:


More nice fish. The one on the right is a blue-headed wrasse.


Here are some of the types of coral and interesting marine life we saw:

Finger coral and fire coral.


Pufferfish! This was one of the coolest things we saw (for me).


I noticed a ton of bearded fireworms close to shore. In the Mediterranean they have been shown to be vectors for the coral disease Vibrio shiloi, which causes coral bleaching. V. shiloi cannot survive on corals in temperatures below 20 degrees C, which are typical of winter, but it can survive inside the fireworm. The fireworms acts as a winter reservoir and reinfect the corals when the warmer summer temperatures come. It is a really interesting story and you can read about it in Sussman et al. (2003). Fireworms also damage the corals by eating the coral tissue.


Massive starlet coral covered in fish bites (white splotches). Fish will often try to eat the algal symbionts associated with the coral and in doing so damage the coral.


Sea pearls, also known as “Sailor’s eyeball”. These are a kind of algae and are also one of the largest unicellular lifeforms on Earth.


Coral disease! I think it is dark spot disease. I feel bad about how exciting and cool I think this is.


Boulder star colony.


Great star colony.


I don’t know who took this photo (wasn’t me) but I super love it!


One notable addition to the Bellairs campus was the onion dryer installation in the middle of the lawn. It was a student project for one of the McGill field courses held at Bellairs. I think the solar panels (the ramp on the other side of the ex-fridge) collect energy / get hot and transport that heat into the ex-fridge, where one places the onion.


One night we saw a boat pull up to the reef right on the edge of the Marine Protected Area (MPA). Two guys got up and jumped in, and one of them very clearly was carrying a spear gun. They had underwater flashlights and we could see them swimming around the reef. My Dad called the coast guard and they actually came! They got there right after the guys had gotten back into their boat, so it didn’t seem like they could do anything. It was cool how stealthy the coast guard boat was. Below is the spearfishing boat with the glow of a flashlight in the ocean over the MPA.


The next day my Dad was speaking with one of the guys who does bottom-glass boat tours, and he said some tourist had been wandering around trying to hire a boat to take him out fishing (at the MPA? Something shady).

We spent one day on the East side of the Island.


We had lunch at Cutters, which is a very popular sandwich place.


Then we went to Crane Beach. The waves were so big that it was a little scary!

Here is Nica catching a few waves:




Dmitriy catching a wave. Intense face!


My Dad taking advantage of the rapid-photo action mode on the GoPro:




He survived!


My floating head:


Tired but happy at the end of the day:




Missing Mom, who did not come to Barbados with us this year :(


We often went next door to the Coral Reef Club after dinner for drinks and pringles and sometimes ice cream. They have a fire breather and limbo dancers no Thursdays.


At the end of our trip, Dad and I went diving. It was the last day I could dive before flying since when you dive you accumulate nitrogen in your blood, and if you fly to soon afterwards it can force it out very quickly and you will get the bends. We went to Dottins reef and had a max depth of about 55ft. The current was very strong so we just got swept along the bottom without kicking.

Here is my Dad getting ready to jump into the water off the boat.


Down on the bottom:




I like looking into the big sponges because often there are animals living in them, like big shrimp.



This is a cool sponge. It has these tiny yellow circles all over it. You might have to click on the image for a bigger version to really see them well.



These are nice underwater dive photos, but the GoPro is never going down to 60ft again. It sprung a small leak, and the dive leader (Sim) told us that he sees the GoPros leak and break all the time. Sim was very into photography when we were there this year. Previously he had been into killing lion fish (invasive species) but he says he has essentially given up because there are just too many of them now.



We saw some lion fish near the end of our dive. They are extremely aggressive invasive species are are causing massive declines in reef biodiversity. Not only do they eat local species to local extinction (such as the sea horse) but they also outcompete other local predators for food, and then they also go locally extinct.


Near the end of the stay the head of Bellairs threw a fundraising party on the front lawn of Bellairs. The party was held in the compound (where all the rooms are) and the lighting was very fancy.


Dmitriy and I each gave a talk at the workshop. He spoke about cube sats and I spoke about basic marine biology and how to identify local flora and fauna.


My Dad had been preparing a video for his ICRA bid and needed a nice photo. We went around taking a bunch, and this is my favourite.


Here is Dmitriy and Nick on their last morning in Barbados (I had left at something like 5:30am).


Some other memorable moments from the trip:

- We had a very fancy breakfast buffet at the Coral Reef Club on our last morning and it was great.

- We thought there was a wild iguana climbing on a tree on the beach. We could see it from Seabourne. We ran outside to take photos and it turned out it was a guy’s pet that he was letting climb on a tree.