The climbfish have now evolved to cover my life in the US - including very exiting life in downtown Baltimore (aka the wire) and ocean research expeditions with NOAA. I don't promise frequent updates but I will try and cover the most and least exiting times here. Enjoy!
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Saturday, August 3, 2013

A windy road in Paradise - Part 2

Staying in another remote location, The Cabezas de San Juan Reserve.
View was pretty good though...
Fajardo. Surely things would get better once we got to the mainland of Puerto Rico. We had heard that our local DNER partner had a spanking brand new 40 foot motor boat to take us around, and that they actually had gas for it. Though again, I should have known it would not be quite that easy (and frankly, something inside me was already sounding the alarm).

First warning came when our cab driver did not show up as agreed on in the early Monday morning. We lived by the remote lighthouse of the breathtaking Las Cabezas de San Juan reserve outside Fajardo, sharing the wilderness with only a few guards and a handful(?) of scorpions and native boas, not larger then 8 feet. When our taxi driver did a no show on agreed time we hiked down the 2 km to the guard station to explore our options. It turned out that no one is crazy enough to run a taxi service in Puerto Rico as early as 7 am.

Warning 2. Will caught this cute deadly scorpion during a visit to our bathroom 
Two hours later we showed up at the DNER office to find our boat captain. Stone face. The official at the enforcement office gave us a stern questioning look. "Hi, we are the habitat mappers from NOAA..." No reaction. I called up spanish speaking Antares, our local colleague working for the NOAA Coral Program, and handed over the phone. Our officer instantly came alive, gesturing rather wildly and while speaking a fast spanish. I picked out 3 words I had learned earlier during the trip:
problemo, manjanapossible. Not a good start. 
Robert Matos (DNER), together with Antares and Chris Jeffrey (NOAA) who had joined us for the day to get a first hand look at our habitat classification work flow. I could finally sit back and take some photos of other people doing the work
It turned out that the local coordination and communication had hit a new low point. The Rangers had both Monday and Tuesday off (Problema, Manjana) to rest in order to work during the upcoming long weekend, when they would be busy keeping track of  the party happy Puerto Ricans out on the water. That left us with one day (possible), Wednesday. As our undertaking was pretty hard pressed even with 5 full days of work on the water a reduction to 1 day was not a good one. We spend the rest of the day researching and negotiating alternatives. We managed to upgraded to two boat days, with a potential extra day, and the next day we where in business again working with another section of DNER. Finally, out of the planning and back in the water.
CJ and Antares taking over the work
Happy to be out of their cubicles!
Antares helping out with the habitat mapping.
A mix of the endangered staghorn coral and gorgonians (soft corals)
Will with 3 weeks of free diving in his back is getting some quality bottom time.
Suddenly we were surrounded by Boobies looking for a meal!
Exposed limestone outcrops in the land of birds and (hopefully) sharks

After a long day on the water I couldn't help getting... into the water. Me and Will went for a snorkel off our local beach as an unprecedented calm day allowed us to free dive on the exposed side of the Cabeza reserve. It felt very sharky but no finned friends turned up. Instead I suddenly got surrounded by a huge school of Tarpons and a few sharp toothed barracudas that arrived out of nowhere (pics below).
Large school of Tarpons and some barracudas looking for a meal
Ghostlike brain coral
We had two productive days once we got working. CJ from our group had flown down to help us, learn more about our work methods, and to prepare for the ecological assessment of the region starting next year. And our invaluable local colleague Antares came out with us as well for a day. Sure was great to have some extra help and share two beautiful days on the water. On Thursday when we had to take a day off due to lack of boat support again we where invited to go sailing with Antares and her boyfriend Mareano. Not having had a single full day off during the trip (its all relative) we jumped at the opportunity. We had an awesome day sailing from Fajardo to Culebra on Mareanos 44 foot sailing boat. I have to come back here and go sailing for a few weeks (anybody want to join me?)
The good life. Penelope Cruise and Johnny Depps desserted (but filled with tourists) Island in the background. We also passed by the black pearl waiting around for the next film(?) in Port del Rey Harbor.
Sailing in the Caribbean is just as nice as pictured. Damn, I'd like to do more of this!
Find 3 similarities!

On Friday morning we took the ferry back to Fajardo. Though we had a little late start our local fishermen Juan Sabat that we had hired for the day helped us achieving the missions most productive field day. The boat was pretty basic but he made up for it with stellar local knowledge and boating skills. We worked in sometimes knee deep coral infested waters without hitting the bottom once. We even found the time to investigate the Island where Penelope Cruz and Johnny Depp got stuck during Pirates of the Caribbean. This time it was filled by party happy Puerto Ricans content with the national sport of sitting in the water and drinking all day. 

Me, Juan and his small fishing boat in the background
View from the Lighthouse with the local keys and Culebra far off in the background.
Still lots left to map when we come back next time. 
Im slowly turning into an amphibian, time to go home... Got to love the tights though.
We flew home last weekend with a under the circumstances pretty successful mission in our back. And even though I already miss my daily free-diving and the salsa happy Puerto Ricans I am pretty content laying on the sofa all day today looking through the pictures from the last few weeks. Back to baking, commuting and gardening (it has turned into a jungle in my absence, though the house is definitely cleaner).
One year older as of this Thursday... Anna baked me a cake according to deeply rooted family Larsson traditions. Im all for it.

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