Monday, September 11, 2006

UST Pictures

Sunday, September 10, 2006

UST beaches

David and I spent today and yesterday afternoon snorkeling. We went to the coast directly next to UST, down the stairs from the bus stop. Saturday afternoon we spent two hours (4-6) and today three hours (3-6) in the water, plus 30 minutes hiking each direction. Water was warm, upper 20s, and we did not get cold even though we only wore shorts. There was a strong thermacline at three meters. Visibility was three meters on Saturday and due to some waves only about one meter today. Still plenty to see.

This patch of coast is very different from the Clear Water bay beaches. It consists of rocks and cliffs, but sports patches of small in-between. Rocks are densely overgrown,; there is an abundance of shellfish, namely clams and oysters. In the sandy areas, one can find huge mussels (20 – 30 cm), who I yet have to identify. The most striking feature is the abundance of crabs in all sizes. Literally every single corner is invalidated by a crab. There are several patches of pink hard-coral, and some bright green anemone. I saw several small puffer fish, and clown and butterfly fishes.

The stretch is popular with local fishermen. They collect shellfish, and hunt fish by basically stabbing them with a sharpened screwdriver. The guys I talked to had just caught a small moray eel and a mid size grouper. Lucky they did not find the large mussels. People also fish with nets. They walk though the water up to their neck in order to stretch the net. Next, they beat on the water with long sticks, driving the fish into the net. Nets are about one meter high, have some floating devices on the top, and lead weights on the bottom, keeping them on the ground. Nets frequently get stuck to the ground and are abandoned by their owners. After a while, they form balls and are not so harmful anymore. Until then however, they trap many fish, subjecting them to a long and painful death.

I found one net today that must have been about 50 meters long, and was still floating over the bottom. I could not get it out entirely. Bringing up about 50% of it took me over one hour. I will get the rest next time. As part of the exercise, I had to free several fish and larger crabs. There were some lareger (30cm) snubnose pompanos, and I had a hard time cutting them loose without hurting them. They get scared by divers, and start shaking their heads and tails, so one must be careful to keep the knife pointed away from them. This is particularly difficult, since the strings of the mesh cut deeply in their flesh.

There are few decent pictures from the trips. The fist day, the sky was so overcast, that there was not enough light to take pictures without flash. Today, there was a camera problem. Anyhow, it’s a new superb spot, directly next door, so pictures will follow soon.