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April 18, 2005

Maribel’s Journal — Flora, Fauna, Overboard Motors

BY: maribel

[editor’s note, by sandy]: This entry was written on March 29. It has been translated from the Spanish.

Tortillas de patatas

Tortillas de patatas.

Still we cannot leave Isla Mujeres. We use the time to buy groceries and prepare tortillas de patatas (potato quiche). During the meal we laugh, remembering a few choice moments of the days past at Cayos Cochinos. For example, when we had completed the study of salinity, etc., and were returning to the base, all of a sudden David looked back and saw that, while our dingy was happily secured to the Ranger’s stern, surprise! – the dingy’s motor had decided to do its own dive and was completely submerged, fastened to the boat only by the security cord…. The alarm was given; the captain stopped the motors. We launched Operation-Rescue-Overboard-Motor, this motor having a particular determination to see the bottom of the ocean, for something similar had happened in Panama. Finally, we managed between us to get our little motor floating again: Houssine (our photographer on board) dove in to coax it firmly back to the surface. Over our  fright and happy – since the motor, once cleaned with fresh water, had started working again – we caught our breath and continued on our way.

Now that we have time to look back on our expedition we realize how fortunate we are to be part of this extraordinary adventure — extraordinary not only because of what we are doing but because of the people working so hard each day to make all of it possible. I don’t want to try to list names because I’m sure I would forget someone, but I also don’t want to end this section of the journal without mentioning the exceptional crew of which I’ve had the luck to be a part.

We pass through the port, between the boats, and any way you look you see various creatures. Flying overhead are dozens of frigate birds; sometimes groups of brown pelicans cruise by, looking for some piece of food or returning to their nests. In truth we only have to keep still for a few moments to find ourselves surrounded by a rich and diverse fauna that always takes us by surprise.



One side of the port is covered in a dense forest of red mangroves (Rhizophora), while the other, where we are stuck, is a mixed ecosystem with both hard and soft substrate, in which the rocks are covered with a multitude of green, brown and red algaes, mostly the genera Enteromorpha, Ulva, Halimeda, Acetabularia, Bryopsis, Avrainvillea, Penicillum, Rhipocephalus, Derbesia, Cladophora, Padina, and Ceramium, as well as small colonies of Caulerpa verticillata. Among them are a few patches of the sea grasses Thalassia and Syringodium.

Among the most common fish – juvenile sergeant fish (Abudefduf saxatilis), parrotfish (Scaridae) and various grunts (Haemulidae), among them the schoolmaster (Lutjanus apodus); needlefish (Belonidae), a few bicolor damselfish (Stegastes partitus), a multitude of larval fish (including a tiny seahorse) and a few gobies. There were also crustaceans, like the ciliated false scilla (Pseudosquilla ciliate), channel clinging crab (Mithrax spinosissimus), and a small Caribbean lobster (Panulirus Argus), mollusks like the chiton (Acanthopleura granulata) and knobby scallop (Chlamys imbricata) and segmented worms that live in tubes, like the variegated feather duster (Bispira variegata).

On land different kinds of iguana keep appearing, passing, eating or simple basking in the sun.