Tonight we are blogging from the living room as the mosquitoes have chased Joanna and me indoors. It appears the Bonairian mosquitoes have defied our fancy little Off Insect Shield! So here we are, with all the fans going full blast. My sister beside me is reading a book, Reef Creature Identification, which the financial lady, Donna, loaned me.
Today was very busy and fun-filled. The first order of business was to rent a scooter for Joanna. We ended up getting one from Macho Scooter Rentals, which is owned by a Dutch fellow. Joanna seems quite pleased, buzzing around on her two-stroke engine. The scooters go a distance of about 90 kilometres on a tank of gas, and require engine oil every two tanks.
Next we went shopping downtown. Joanna picked up sunglasses and something else. I also picked up a very nice polo shirt with a dive emblem on it, and a Bonaire beach towel. Then it was time to go meet Albert Bisculli from the Sea Monitor Foundation Bonaire. The laboratory he does his work in is called CIEE, which stands for Centre for International Environmental Education, funded by a variety of U.S. universities, mainly in marine biology. I was able to record our interview, but have not been able to edit it yet for publication.
Albert is one of these fascinating people that once you get them talking, you learn a great deal. For instance, in 1999, a huge hurricane sideswiped the island, resulting in five-metre waves pounding the shore for 16 hours. No shallow corals survived the onslaught, although the reef below thirty feet was unharmed.
The main goal of the Sea Monitor Foundation is to establish scientific data for water quality and temperature over a ten-year span. They are now in year six of their monitoring program. Bonaire passed legislation a few years ago to install sewer systems for all homes and businesses within 500 metres of the shoreline. The problem is sewage seepage from the septic tank systems into the ocean, which results in algae growth. We have actually seen a fair bit of algae growth on the reef, and the overall living corals are declining.
Joseph works with a professor from a university in Los Angeles who receives his data upload each week and analyzes it.
The interesting thing is that the Sea Monitor Foundation is completely funded by private donations from the local scuba diving population. The result is that the Sea Monitor Foundation actually owns the data instead of it being owned by any government entity.
Albert showed us how he extracted the data, and how he looks at the graphs that resulted. Primarily they plot temperature and light on different spectrums–light levels at 12 metres and 20 metres, with the five-metre sensor being a base line. Of the three sensors, two have light filters to monitor a different spectrum. The result is they can monitor the organic index of the water, or, in other words, the amount of light-filtering pollutants that result from septic tank seepage. The resulting algae growth can smother a reef.
We actually had to excuse ourselves at quarter to twelve, as TWR was hosting a luncheon in my honour at the studio. When we arrived, they had the Chinese food all laid out for us. We sat around the conference table in the former recording studio where we used to have concerts on occasion.
It was a fairly informal luncheon, where everybody just dug in and chatted between themselves.
The highlight was the tour afterwards that Brad Swanson gave my sister Joanna. Joanna quite likes Brad, who has a wealth of knowledge in terms of the history of the island. He was able to explain some of the steps that led to the current automation that TWR-Bonaire enjoys. There are triple redundant systems for almost every system, as the staff level on Bonaire consists of only about ten people.
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After the tour, Dave Pedersen said he had to get to the transmitter site, and I asked him if I could give Joanna a tour at the same time, to which he readily agreed. We then arranged for Joanna to meet us there on her scooter, and I gave Dave a drive so his wife wouldn’t have as far to go to pick him up at night. Believe it or not, Joanna actually beat us there!
While I had seen the transmitter before, it was still quite interesting. The heart of the transmitter is the 100,000 watt Nautel transmitter, with the larger phasing unit beside it. Outside of the main room, the rest of the transmitter site has seen better days. One interesting thing was the plans that Dave showed us for future expansion in the back area.
I gave Joanna a tour of the outside, and we had a look around where TWR’s former generators were located. Joanna wasn’t interested in walking out into the tower field.
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Afterwards, instead of diving right away, we went shopping in the huge Dutch supermarket. It looks similar to a nice Zehrs store. We were able to find everything we wanted. Joanna didn’t buy any produce there as she wanted to get it at the Venezuelan banana boat. We went downtown to the dock to the former fish market, and got limes, mangoes, watermelon, cucumber, and a plantain. Then it was home to gather our gear, and head to the Windsock Dive Site, which is right beside the airport.
We parked at the side of the road, and geared up and got in the water. It was a very easy entry.
And then Joanna tapped me on the shoulder at about ten feet deep, and showed me her pressure gauge. She had less than a thousand psi, or, in other words, only about enough air for a 25-minute dive at most. Apparently the dive shop had left an empty tank in amongst the full ones. I now realize that I have to measure the air pressure on each tank before I take it home.
We surfaced, and discussed what to do, and Joanna suggested that we simply dive for about ten minutes, and make the most of it. I then said that I had a full tank, and if she didn’t mind breathing off my regulator, we could buddy-breathe for the first part of the dive. As you may know, each regulator system now has two mouthpieces on it. Surprisingly, even though it was only Joanna’s second dive, she agreed to do buddy-breathing. In retrospect, Joanna said it was a good confidence-building exercise, as she now feels very comfortable doing buddy breathing. Basically, it involved me holding onto her tank, with her using the longer hose of my spare regulator to breathe with. I found it rather odd listening to the air coming out of my tank when I wasn’t actually breathing.
We limited ourselves to a depth of forty feet so that we would use less air.
Joanna actually spent about 15 minutes on my air, all the while snapping photos, as we steered around the reef in tandem. She managed to get lots of good pictures, and we had a rather enjoyable, if a rather odd, dive. After about 15 minutes, Joanna decided to go back on her own air, and we went up to about 30 feet, and continued our dive for another 15 or 20 minutes. All told, we were under the water for 37 minutes, and Joanna still finished with just under 500 psi, which is the normal exit tank pressure.
It was such a lovely evening that we decided to hang around the beach and watch the sunset. I put my camera on a rock ledge, and Joanna fired off several shots of the sun sinking into the ocean. At this vantage point, you can see the arc of the island and the entire waterfront of Kralendijk, which is rather interesting.
We had planned to go home and cook something on the skillet, but Joanna said to me that after diving, she was simply too hungry to go home and start cooking. With a big smile, I said to her, “Ah, you see my dilemma.” At least, that’s what I’ve always said was my excuse for eating out all the time. My holidays will soon be over, and I’ll have to go back to cooking for myself.
We went home and showered up, and then drove down to the Rumba Café. This has become my favourite evening restaurant where they have reasonably priced and delicious specials. While we were sitting waiting for our order, LeAnn from Bon Photo dropped by, and we had a very pleasant conversation. She seems like a very self-confident, bubbly and friendly girl who hails from Texas.
After supper, we edited our dive photos, and reviewed the blog from yesterday. We had decided to walk down the beach to blog, but as the mosquitoes were out in full force, we decided to try our front porch, only to be driven inside by the mosquitoes.
And so ends our second day in tandem, of what promises to be a wonderful two weeks together.