Thursday, August 26, 2004

26 August 2004

There is a certain leap of faith -- literal and figurative -- involved in strapping on fifty or sixty pounds of equipment and jumping off the deck of a dive boat two hours away from a continental mainland. But, yesterday, we did it anyway. Twice. We had, of course, each made similar excursions exactly 35 times before -- neither of us count one fairly useless plop into a Tennessee mud lake that we made out of boredom and then declined to log -- but the previous time had been in 1990.

Chalk up dives numbers 36 and 37, on the Great Barrier Reef. What a way to pick up where we left off! I'd never seen so many echinoderms in a single day. Also saw some giant clams in varied neon colors, and also some live tunicates, which are invertebrate chordates that lose their notochords and such early in their development. Don't know whether Rick's camera got over its early malfunctions, though, so can't promise any photos just yet.

We've also been leaving a trail of old things that have finally died after their last utility was squeezed out. My ugly old Army surplus brimmed camo hat flew off the dive boat in a high wind. My ancient Timex, water-resistant in its youth to 15 meters or so (yes, I know that doesn't mean "waterproof"), took on a thin internal layer of fog, then began babbling in digital gibberish before finally dying this morning. Maybe this is a sign that it's time for new things.

And, of course, I'm managing to make professional connections on three continents -- in fact, today marks a milestone in that I'm officially off professional duty for the remaining two weeks of the trip. (May visit another researcher's lab in another part of the country as well, but that one's more of a social call.)

We're off to Cairns tomorrow, so watch this space.


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