Saturday, November 8, 2008

Look to the Sea

Much of Biscayne National Park is underwater. To work in the park, I need to drive a boat a lot, so I spent my first week in a Motorboat Operator Certification Course (MOCC) which allows me to operate the boats on the park. Although much of the park is underwater it's not always very underwater. That is, it can be extremely shallow and navigating around the area can be difficult especially when wave action is high and it is difficult to see the reef or shoal ahead. Driving away from the headquarters on a park boat provides beautiful views of vast expanses of the bay, the park's islands and the open ocean. Indeed, it's the preferred direction to be looking in the park because when you look back toward headquarters there are three huge landmarks that can be used for navigation. Unfortunately, they're all eyesores. There's downtown Miami (the least offensive) to the North then one of the highest points in the surrounding area (perhaps in all of Florida)....a hill known as Mt. Trashmore. Yep. The tallest piece of land is a trash heap. A final navigational aid is known as Turkey Point. It's a huge nuclear power plant. Turkey Point is especially useful for navigating at night because it's the brightest thing around.
Having passed my MOCC tests I am allowed to drive under supervision until I have enough hours to take the boats out on my own. Once I finished those tests, I had to test for my "blue card" which is the certification that allows me to dive with the park service (red cards are for fire, etc.). Now I'm a DIT (diver in training) until I have enough dives to be a real diver with the park service. Fortunately, I have been able to do some work too. A few of us have started a new protocol in the park for doing reef fish surveys. It consists of a lot of sitting in one spot and spinning 'round and 'round. Since this is my first time diving in Florida, I'm learning a lot of new fish and seeing species that are new to me. I watched a beautiful Blue Parrotfish the other day for some time. It could be a little while before I have many pics from here, but I'll try to have some soon. I wish that I had had my camera a couple of days ago because I dove into a whole bunch of ctenophores (comb jellies) and the biggest jellyfish that I have ever seen. They were light pink (especially their gonads) and as big around as my waist. It was spectacular.

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