Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sea Camp day two

2013 Sea Camp Tuesday
With All-hallows eve a week away, fog blanketed Fiesta Island with an embrace that repelled the sun’s rays and cast the Sea Camp compound in perpetual gloom.  After the high energy and sunshine of our first day at La Jolla Shores, the atmosphere mimicked the sleepiness that seeped from the campers and spread through the soul of Mission Bay.  Even the wafting sent of hash browns and eggs in the air couldn’t pry the clinging sleep from the eyes of the most enthusiastic Sea Camper.   Eventually, grumbling tummies and full bladders alerted everyone that the second day of Sea Camp had arrived. 

Despite the depressing setting, bellies full of the best breakfast foods soon spurred our hearts to pound our brains into action.  On the docket today is hag fish slime, shark skin, and fish dissection at fish lab in the morning and the promise of snorkeling /seining at Mission point in the afternoon.  Among the various fish studied in the fish lab is the adorable hag fish.  This endearingly cute creature lives in the deepest depths of the ocean and has a unique way of preserving and protecting their favorite foods in Davey Jones’s locker, it slimes it with mucus.  Yum!  No joke, these things will coat the carcass of a dead whale on the ocean floor with mucus slime so thick that no sent can escape.  Now this slime has many other fascinating uses, for instance Nikko showed us how effective it is as a hair gel.  Nothing says yes I will go to prom with you like a head full of hag fish slime.  On a side not and even more shocking, we had a Slavens Sea Camp first at last night’s invertebrates lab.  Isabella actually ate one of the dissection squid.  I am willing to eat almost anything, but there is no way that I am getting one of those things down.  Props to Isabella! OK, back to today’s work.  The other cool learning experience is the mackerel dissection.  Future scientists had fun ripping the heart out “like an Aztec sacrifice” and opening the stomach to see what the warden gave the fish for their last meal. 

Speaking of food, it’s off to mission point for lunch so we donned our newly purchased navy blue Sea Camp hoodies and  our swim trunks and piled into the vans for the fifteen van drive, I mean rave, to the spot where the ocean meets Misson Bay, Mission Point.  By the way, did you know that all San Diego radio stations are “all about that base, ‘bout that base, ‘bout that base, no treble”?  Every 4 minutes or so.

After a quick lunch of sandwiches, cookies, and sprout ball it was time for snorkeling.
Mission point is the ideal location for introducing snorkeling because it provides relatively calm area that still has the biodiversity of the local Pacific waters.  Many species of fish and invertebrates use these protected waters as a nursery for their young so there is plentiful marine life that can be seen by simply floating along the surface of the water.  We again squeezed into our 8mm thick neoprene skin with the addition of hooded vests to guard against the inevitable chill of the 73 degree salt water that would soon engulf us and fins, masks, and snorkels.  That’s right, you read it right, 73 degrees!  I have never been here with such warm water.  I love the ‘new’ pacific, but it comes at a cost.  The downright hot water has caused the normally plentiful marine life to find cooler water.  In addition to the warm water, there is a high swell advisory so the visibility is next to zero which is less than satisfying for snorkeling.  Since you couldn’t see more than inch or two I was left to day dream about snorkeling in years past, cue the harp music and wavy picture…

This year we discovered the largest black sea hares I have ever seen.  The sea hare is the largest species of slug in the world growing to the size of a basketball and weighing up to 35 pounds.  The sea hare has been given its name from its two rhinophores that slightly resemble the ears of a rabbit; to be honest one would need to blind to mistake them for a rabbit.  They are so ugly that they are cute.  Cute enough for Riley M. (ok, this is a memory, but let’s place the class of 2015 in the vision) to attempt to smuggle one out of the water in her wetsuit for a new family pet.   As you can imagine, a 35 pound ball of slug slime has no natural predators.  We discovered not one but two of these titans of the slug world canoodling under a rocky ledge.  We could practically hear Barry White playing in the background.  We also were treated to Rebecca’s new head ware, a knobby blue sea star as well and a keyhole limpet.  The key whole limpet is always a favorite of snorkeling treasure hunters because licking its underside gives the licker seven years of good luck.  I licked my first limpet seven years ago and I have gotten to go to Sea Camp ever since.  Coincidence?  I don’t think so.   In addition to bestowing years of good fortune, this invertebrate has the ability to change its taste according to season according to the Sea Camp staff.  Being so close to Thanksgiving, Cameron (he really did get the 7 yars of good luck) and I clearly tasted pumpkin pie with a hint of sweet potato.  Yum!  We also saw snails, sea urchin, and fish galore including one territorial garibaldi that chased Codi all the way back to shore for seining.

Seining is an ancient way of catching fish where two people stretch a net between them while a line of people slowly march towards the net.  Startled fish flee the oncoming hoard of stomping feet and swim straight into the net.  Due to high tide, we were less successful than in years past in netting fish, but we still discovered the longest male pipe fish I have ever seen.  You may ask, Mr. Framke, how do you know it was Male?  Well, pipe fish are relatives of the sea horse and like sea horses, the male carries the young.  Don’t tell my wife, she’ll think I’m just a big wimp.  Our group also caught a kelp crab, some kelp crawlers, and a top smelt.

The only thing left to do is the mammal lab tonight and packing for the boat trip tomorrow.  Good night from San Diego,

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