Squalls happened today. Frequently and tropically. Swollen seas, gusty winds and torrential downpours were our companions for the day’s activities. Luckily diving involves getting wet anyway so the latter was par for the course but the former two had an effect on our plans. Of the two dive parties venturing out this morning the first had to turn back from their oceanside target site and select an alternative in the shelter of the lagoon. The second dive party negotiated some dominating seas to find their calmer waters on the far oceanside of an island to the wind. While those beneath explored the watery beauty around the reef, those on safety watch above could see the approaching squalls and watch the gradual arrival of tumultuous curtains of rain before an overcast break between downpours allowed a little drying for soaked bodies.
Despite the less than ideal conditions a full days diving and terrestrial work went ahead. Temperature loggers were recovered and replaced. Fish, coral health, coral biodiversity and other surveys were the order of the day, all contributing to the build up of scientific knowledge of the Archipelago. In some respects the weather worked in our favour as we explored new dive sites within the lagoon that proved to be stunning in the richness and health of their corals, and biodiversity and abundance of fish life.
Whilst we were all getting wet diving Pete continued his terrestrial forays:
“Today another two islands were visited, both proposed as IBAs due to their breeding seabirds. The tide was on the rise when we reached the first and we could not navigate the boat over the coral reef fringe surrounding the island. This meant we had to jump over the side of the boat swim-surf over the reef fringe and then walk the remaining distance to the shore; a bracing start to a day of monitoring!
The first of the islands has held over 20,000 breeding pairs of Sooty Tern in previous years though none were present today. The island did hold approximately 1,600 pairs of Lesser Noddy and the usual numbers of breeding Red-footed Booby, Common Noddy and Common White-tern. By the time we finished our survey the tide was high enough for the boat to collect us from shore and deliver us to the nearby sister island. This island has spectacular stands of Grand Devil's Claw (Pisonia grandis) trees and these are home to the largest number of breeding Lesser Noddy in the Chagos. Despite some of the veteran trees being blown down in the recent storms, the Lesser Noddy were breeding in all stands and, a new sight for me, in stands of smaller Neisospermia (Ochrasia) oppositifolia on the island too. This extension of breeding range on the island produced the highest count of breeding Lesser Noddy for this island, some 14,000 breeding pairs. Whilst the storms have damaged trees and chicks of tree-nesting seabirds have been lost by being blown out of the nests, other species benefit. On the forest floor large numbers of Coenibita hermit crabs were waiting for their next feed, including the giant among this family, the Coconut Crab. More to follow on this unique omnivore tomorrow, if the expedition plan is unaffected by the weather!”
Jon, our expedition doctor, who accompanied Pete on his island explorations during the day arrived back at the boat early in the afternoon. This allowed him the time to turn his healing skills to the air compressors which fill our scuba tanks. Critical to achieving our underwater aims these need to be kept in tip top condition so the engine surgery kit of spanners, spares and nuts and bolts came out with a few cans of oil and perhaps a little dose of profanity. Duly sworn into wellbeing the compressors did their duty and we’re set for diving in the morning. Fingers crossed we won’t be getting quite so sodden and windswept while not submerged.
Select a blog
Every month one of the pieces held in ZSL’s Library and at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo will feature here as Artefact of the month.
Get the latest on ZSL's conservation work in Asia.
Find out more about life in our B.U.G.S exhibit
A new Open Access journal for research at the interface of remote sensing, ecology and conservation.
See the latest ranges, updates and special offers from our exciting new online shop.
Excerpts from ZSL's award winning members' magazine.
A blog for lovers of ZSL London Zoo. Bringing you amazing animal facts and exclusive access to the world's scientific oldest zoo.
Discover more about the UK's biggest zoo with our fun blog posts!
Join the ZSL Discovery and Learning team as they venture out of the zoo and in to the wild.
Catch up on our latest Conservation Blogs
Follow the latest news on ZSL’s Arts & Culture projects at ZSL London and Whipsnade Zoos, and ZSL’s conservation work through the lens of the Arts.
ZSL Whipsnade Zoo's elephant keepers give an insight into the daily goings on in the elephant barn.
Read about conservation of tigers in Asia.
One man is boldly going where no other ZSL videographer has gone before - the land of Mountain Chicken Frogs.
From the field, to the lab, catch up with the scientists on the cutting edge of conservation biology at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology.
The Wildlife Wood Project has been working in Cameroon since 2007 to encourage better wildlife management in logging concessions.
Updates from penguin conservation expeditions to Antarctica
Amur leopard conservation blog
Meet ZSL Whipsnade Zoo's latest (and leggiest) arrival, a baby giraffe!
Follow the ZSL Biodiversity and Palm Oil team, based in Bogor, Indonesia.
The Chagos marine reserve, designated in 2010 and currently the world’s largest no take marine reserve, is a sought-after spot for marine research.
Follow ZSL conservationists studying desert baboons in Namibia.