BIOT MPA Survey Expedition 2015 - Day 10 - Nelson Island

This morning we woke up to rain driving against the porthole. Not a good sign. The wind gusting to 30 knots and large swells rolling the boat as we motored down toward Victory Bank. On arrival we found that the conditions were too rough to dive so moved on to Nelson Island where we found some calmer waters in the southern lee of the island. Around the same time, now mid-morning, the winds eased but the rain kept falling. Making the most of this we hopped in the water for some dives.

The shallow survey team cruised the southern coastline of the island from east to west while we went in with the deep team about midway along the island in 15 meters of water.

The bottom was sandy with patches of branching Acropora. What last year had been rich beds of live coral were now stands of skeleton overgrown with algae and sponges. We later found that the shallow survey team had encountered numerous crown of thorns starfish in their long transects – perhaps a culprit for the large stands of dead coral?

The dive did not continue like this though. As we went deeper we found a reef mound off to the west that rose from the sandy flats with a multitude of other coral species that were still thriving. The fish life here was more prolific and varied and there were a number of large Giant Clams with their variable body colouring.

Shoals of Yellowfin Goatfish and Goldspot Emperor hovered over the reef with Humpback Snapper milling about. There were large stands of Heliopora coral with their broad branches pointing toward the surface in wavy lines.

The sun was shining when we returned to the surface  and we thought we would have the opportunity to get the Trekker ashore on Nelson Island for a terrestrial survey but this aspiration was shortlived. As we were about to launch the wind shifted direction to the west and with gusts up to 30 knots and a choppy swell with white caps following on we decided against further work on the water.

So, here we are for the night in the lee of Nelson…hoping that the weather is better for more work tomorrow! 

BIOT MPA Survey Expedition 2015