January 11, 2008
We gathered at the lab around 6 am for a day trip to Champion. The dive gear and equipment was loaded into a taxi and headed for the main docks. Taxis here are small pickup trucks, designed for tourists. Luggage, dive gear, and surf boards all fit easily into the bed of the truck. Once at the main docks we met our boat, loaded the gear onboard and set off of the day. Each of the three divers was collecting data on a particular part of the study. Jim Palardy, a PhD student is studying coral bleaching and looking for relationships with the colder temperatures that have resulted from La Niño. After completing coral transects at 6 and 15 meters, he took pictures of the corals. Laura is interested in fish diversity and completed a fish transect at 6 and 15 meters. Hogfish seem to be the most interested in eating the barnacles, so they are her primary focus. Jon removed a time-lapse camera and helped the others out with their data. At the end of the dive all three divers brought up lava rocks that would be drilled for a later use. Two temperature loggers that were placed at this site previously were also brought up so that data could be downloaded. They had been down for 6 months and were covered with half-inch barnacles. The divers all talked about the thermocline and how noticeable it was. Evidently you can see a shimmer in the water much like tar looks on a hot day. It is hard to tell what they are doing below the ocean surface as I am not diving and have to rely on their descriptions.
Champion is a small island about a 2 hour boat road from Puerto Ayora. It seemed to be a popular spot for snorkelers and divers as I saw 6 boats come while we were there. The top of the island had Punta cactus rimming the edge. It looked like such a barren place. Frigate and lava gulls were nesting along the cliffs.
Once back to the docks we repeated the morning procedure only in reverse. Unload the boat, load a taxi, and back to the lab. We actually got back to the lab earlier than usual, as we had to take the clothes we planned on taking with us on the cruise to quarantine. Here they went through every stitch of clothing we had, turning it inside out and reversing the pockets. Then they take our bags, seal them in a large plastic bag and put them in a freezer for a day. We get the sealed large plastic bag back the day of our cruise. They want to make sure we don't introduce any insects or seeds to other islands.