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Heron Island Highlights

AUSTRALIA | Monday, 19 October 2015 | Views [328]

My second trip over mid-semester break was another class research trip to Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef. We drove overnight on a bus up to Gladstone (definitely not the most comfortable bus ride, but I would do it again in a heartbeat to go back to Heron) and then a 2 hour ferry to the island. Here's some highlights from the five days that I spent there. 


    One of the highlights of my trip was definitely all of the snorkeling. My first snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef was at sunset by the ship wreck the first day there. I was lucky enough to dive down and swim next to a loggerhead turtle almost as big as I am! I also caught a glimpse of the outline of a reef shark on my way back in to shore. That was definitely a bit freaky seeing it disappear into the darkening water at dusk. 
     The next day, we went snorkeling before breakfast at Shark Bay. Just a couple meters from shore we saw some pretty massive sting rays and shovel nose rays. And there were so many of them! After breakfast, we had our first boat snorkel. From the boat, we had to swim about 5 meters to get to the edge of the reef. And when you swim over the reef edge, it's like that scene from Finding Nemo where it pans out and you see all of the colorful fish beneath you. It was absolutely breathtaking. I don't think I have ever seen so many fish in one place in my life! 
      We also did a night snorkel that night. I'll have to admit I was a bit nervous about it, especially since I had seen that shark the day before, but decided to brave it anyway. We were all given dive lights and glow sticks to attach to our snorkels. We took the stairs down from the dock into the harbor and jumped in from there. The first thing I noticed were all the tiny fish that just swarmed to the light and then swam beneath me for most of the snorkel. They were probably about 3 cm each. We also saw a couple green sea turtles, some rays, a barracuda, and some other relatively large fish. Then we saw the shark. It was a black tipped reef shark about a meter and a half long. It swam directly under me lit up by all of our dive lights. It was an equally scary and amazing moment to be in the water with such a prehistoric looking creature. At night. We were only in the water for about 15 minutes for the snorkel, but it was probably the biggest highlight of my whole trip to Heron Island. 
   There were really only a few buildings on the island so there wasn't a lot of light pollution to obstruct the stars. So the conditions were perfect for stargazing on the beach! The sky was so clear the night we went. We could see the Milky Way and a thunder storm off on the horizon. I was even lucky enough to see a few shooting stars. 

    Since I was there with my Australia's Marine Environment class, I had a research project to work on. My group worked with zooplankton and we compared the different species present on the reef during the day and those at night. Really I was just excited to be using microscopes and to spend a little bit of time being dry amidst all of the snorkeling.  island highlights

Tags: australia, great barrier reef, heron island, heron island research station, university of queensland


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