Bahamas 2000

Day out, Dive in

On Thursday, I woke with the excitement of SCUBA!  I prepped all my gear and checked the location of Neal Watson’s SCUBA Center.  Balancing all of the gear while riding a bike proved to be a bit challenging but eventually I got the hang of it.  I headed off to the dive shop, passing by kids on their way to school and local law enforcement doing a morning patrol.  After riding for a couple minutes longer than I anticipated I had the sneaking suspicion I had gone too far.  I checked again the location of the shop compared to where I was and promptly turned the bike around. 

Arriving at the Big Game Club, I asked where the dive shop was located and was directed to the back docks.  Feeling a little rushed because I lost a couple minutes “sightseeing” I was frantically looking for anything that looked like SCUBA.  As soon as I was within sight of the center I was greeted by a long haired bearded man and his dog playing fetch with a coconut.  He asked if I needed any help and I informed him I was looking for Neal as I am looking to dive.  He then let me know I was in the right place and that he was Neal.  He informed the crew that they had another diver and left me in their able hands.

After completing the proper paperwork I grabbed a water bottle and claimed it with my name using a large sharpie.  I was informed water and towels were on the boat and since I already had all my gear I was good to go.  The crew helped me aboard and gave me a refresher on how to strap my BCD to the tank and asked me what weights I needed.  Several minutes later we were off to our first dive site as I was finishing prepping my gear.  Between the engine noise, music playing and my general excitement to get back in the water I must have missed the name for the site.  I was given the information I needed for the first dive and that this dive would be the deeper of the two.  I am questioned about if I have a wet suit and I inform the dive master that I usually run a little hot and have not needed one yet as I have always dived in warm waters.  I asked about the temperature at the bottom and it seems within my normal range.

On the way to the first dive site a turtle is spotted on the surface but quickly dives back into the water as we approach.  We arrive at the first site and I gear up leaving my camera aboard as it cannot be taken to the depths we will go.  I am reminded to take a giant step as I enter the water.  A splash and I am back in the crystal clear water of Bimini.  I do a weight check and down we go, descending into the great unknown.  Well unknown at least for me as this is my first time diving in Bimini and I did not catch the site name.  We descend and it looks like I have a little water in my mask.  I purge it out with some air and I am all set.  The dive master, a buddy, and I are set up to drift and explore.  The current is strong but manageable.  We see a turtle swimming against the current, stick with it for a minute and fall back into the drift.  Although the coral is still amazing to look at, it is clear that bleaching is not unknown to Bimini.  We come across many lobsters hiding, an eel and many different kinds of fish.  I check my gauge and computer to monitor my air consumption and depth as we approach 60 ft.  I am consuming my air a little faster than I like so I try to slow my breathing down more.  We navigate over and around coral as we fight the drift every so often to inspect for life.  We find some invasive lion fish that are caught using a zookeeper by the dive master.  As we continue to explore the drift the line we are using to be tracked by the boat to get tangled in the dive masters gear.  My buddy helps her the first time to get untangled and I help the second.  Shortly after we do an air check and I am just above the reserve so we start our ascent with a safety stop as a deterrent for decompression sickness before boarding the boat.

After surfacing and securing our gear we head off to the second site, The Strip.  We are informed it is a comparatively shallow dive at roughly 30ft and bull sharks are quite common at this site.  I am excited as my camera is advertised to work at those depths.  I change over my BCD and regulator to a new tank and prep for the second dive.  We arrive at the site and wait to get some air time to help prevent DCS.  After our little break everyone gears up and we head into the water with two additional divers this time.  I start recording with my camera as we descend.  Around 18ft it starts acting up not letting me press any buttons then the viewfinder goes black.  I sigh thinking that it just bit the dust and I so much for waterproof to 30ft.  I see this small blinking red light and I turn it around to see the second display still says it is recording.  I figure well hopefully the back display just stopped working for now.  We continue our decent to 30ft and start moving along The Strip to check for sea life.  We found lobsters, barracuda, and many other fish that were easy to spot.  What were a little harder was an eel that was hiding in a hole and a scorpion fish that was hiding in plain sight (pictured).  Throughout the dive I was constantly checking my depth and camera for any additional signs of malfunction.  As I hovered around 30ft the cameras state did not change aside from constantly increasing the recoding time.  Buttons were non responsive which worried me but I choose to focus on the dive hoping the camera would come back to life latter on.  Throughout the dive we saw countless fish including a particularly friendly puffer fish.  In my previous experience I have found them to be timid but this guy seemed okay and curious of me.  We approached the end of the dive and explored the area a little more.  Since we were hovering around 30ft the whole time my air consumption was actually quite good.  I found an angel fish and followed it around until we started our ascent.  I followed the safety stop with my computers guidance and noticed my cameras viewfinder to come back to life and buttons reacted again.  I was informed a file was being repaired which seemed to complete successfully.   After completing the safety stop it I head back aboard.

After we are all aboard we start to head back as gear is rinsed and reorganized.  A short trip later with the great view of the island and we are back within view of the dive shop.  We finish gear disassembly and rinse and pack as needed.  I say my goodbyes to the crew and head back to give my gear a final prep before it must wait until our next adventure.

The day is half way over but my work is far from done.  I check in with Nicole and gain some clarity on the nature of my work.  After having a bite I get to work analyzing data from this year’s logs and finishing my blog for the prior day.  Several reports later and some reworking after some clarification on some IDs I look to eat and rest from the long day.  Before going to bed I checked on the footage from my camera to happily find that it did in fact save the recording from the second dive.

I look forward to what tomorrow brings as diving into the unknown, strip and some logs has made this a jam packed day. 

Until then,


Island Life

There is nothing like waking up on a beautiful island with crystal clear water to make you appreciate a small island in The Bahamas.  You tradeoff the creature comforts of the first world for the view and island culture.  When you are on an island that is about 7 miles (11 km) long you cannot afford to fit all the franchises and chains that most people have become accustomed to.  This really is a nice change of pace to make you appreciate all of the small shops and their distinct character.  An additional benefit is that a bike is more than adequate for transportation around the island.  It also makes it easier strike up a conversation if you see someone you know.  While on a ride to explore and pick up some odds and ends after finishing up my data entry for the day I bumped into my supervisor Nicole, who I had met a couple hours earlier.  She was also on her way to grab a few things and kind enough to let me join her, allowing me to get a better lay of the land.  After visiting a couple of stores we both acquired what we were looking for and luckily did not have to wait for the food shipment to arrive the next day.  On the way back she introduced me to a couple of locals who were happy to see her again.  Satisfied by the hunt we parted ways but would soon see each other again as Kel and Al were kind enough to invite us to dinner.

After short bike ride and I was again greeted with a warm welcome as Kel prepared to grill.  After some much need nutritional replenishment, conversation, and stories including how some kids wondered if grown-ups sleep, the dinner party was quickly coming to an end.  Before leaving, everyone took a look outside at the night sky to find Venus shining brightly.  I was suddenly reminded the amount of light pollution that comes with being in an urban community and how much you miss because of all of its byproducts.  The party came to an end and I left on my Huffy enjoying the island life.  I got back, checked on a few things before bed and took a look out the window to see my chariot illuminated and glowing reminding me the differences of island life.

What will tomorrow bring?


Back to Bimini!

Things were so busy – and awesome – at the end of the University of New Brunswick Saint John course last month, that we (okay, me!) never managed to get their final blog posts up. It was an absolutely fantastic course. The final days included a mangrove snorkel, Caribbean reef sharks, southern stingray rays and more dolphins! Great group dinners, an engaging conversation on eco-tourism and the final night out celebrating with Nishka – it was wonderful. We can’t wait to welcome Dr. Turnbull and a new UNBSJ crew back to Bimini next year!

Flash forward to yesterday (Tuesday), I was thrilled to welcome DCP’s first 2018 Short Field Experience Intern to Bimini. J.P. first came to Bimini during Sacred Heart University’s (SHU) 2014 field course. He’ll be taking over the DCP blog during his time here, so enjoy!


An early travel day from LGA (with a short stop in Ft. Lauderdale) has brought me back to the land and sea of Bimini.  Greeted by some familiar and new faces I am happy to arrive back at Alice Town. After being given a refresher tour, memories of my last trip come flooding back. After a little time to settle in and grabbing a bite at CJ’s, Kel and I get to work. As I look over the logs I start to decipher what all of the short hand writing means. Kel helps me to understand what I am unsure of and read some of the questionable notes. While documenting each log entry I get excited as I know data for sighting is coming up soon and it wakes the familiar feeling of when I was last on the boat searching the seas for the bow riders. After some time I start to gain a rhythm for the data entry. Time seems vanish as we approach the end of the work day. I will have to wait until tomorrow to see what is found on those remaining trips of ’17. The work day is over and Kel and I part ways for a little as I catch a cat nap to make up for lost sleep. After waking I head to Kel’s for dinner meeting another familiar face, our fearless Captain Al.  Some pasta with red sauce, garlic bread and brownies for desert leave my hunger satisfied. Some grown up talk while watching talking dinosaurs with the kids was just the right way to end the day. I bike back with leftovers in hand thinking it is good to be back.

Until tomorrow!


~Interested in learning about DCP’s work and assisting with data processing and collection? Don’t have the whole summer to commit to an internship? How about coming to Bimini for 12 nights this summer? We are still searching for the right two females to fill our remaining Short Field Experience internships. Session 1 begins on 25 June. Session 2 begins on 13 July.

More field intern openings!

DCP has opened two more Short Field Experience Intern openings (SFE interns)! These SFE interns join our Bimini, The Bahamas field site for 12 nights.

Session 1: Arrive 25 June - Depart 7 July

Session 2: Arrive 13 July – Depart 25 July

SFE interns will get a jam-packed experience, learning about DCP's data collection, data entry and data analysis procedures. SFE interns will contribute directly to DCP's research and education efforts while getting a taste of the research life for themselves. The fee for this experience is $600 which covers lodging, utilities and drinking water. Transportation (by air or ferry) to Bimini and food while on Bimini are not included. Spaces will be filled on a rolling-basis, so we recommend getting your application in as soon as possible. To apply, please complete our internship application, however only the following supplemental materials are required: cover letter, resume and one (1) letter of recommendation. Applicants must be 18 years old to apply and preference may be given to those applicants over 21 years old. *At this time, due to housing constraints, only female applicants will be considered.*

Questions? Email us at info{at}dcpmail{dot}org.


Wednesday began with breakfast and our blog writing. During the blog, a small bird, called “chip-chip” locally, flew right into the window behind us! It was a bit sad to see it on the porch and while we were watching it, two more flew into the window; one individual bird tried twice! Dr. Turnbull went outside to block the window and startled one of the birds back to life (ok, maybe he poked it back to life). Class time focused on lectures on coral reefs and sharks. Who knew that Dr. Turnbull thought stingrays were so cute?

We used our free time to do some more shopping, racing back in time for lunch, only to discover that we weren’t the latest ones (cough, cough, Dr. T!). Today’s boat trip departed at 1430 and focused on snorkeling local reefs: one artificial and one natural. Our first stop was the “Sapona.” On the way, we saw leaping eagle rays and at the Sapona, we saw some folks fishing. Compared to yesterday, the water was glass. You could see right to the bottom. The Sapona was cool and has a “colorful” history. The current was stronger than we expected, so you definitely had to pay attention as you swam around the wrecked boat. Ryan tried to collect some shells, and was surprised by a large hermit crab in residency. Christine watched a small stingray (male?) seeming to pester the larger (female?) rays. A lot of the rays had scratches on them. The most courageous of us swam inside the boat, while others stayed on the outside. A tourist boat soon joined and they were entertaining to listen to. We were surprised at how loud it was underwater, particularly the snapping shrimp. At one point, some seaweed drifted through and the smaller fish went after it in a feeding frenzy. There were lots of large French angel fish, some of which were zooming around a pipe. (Thanks for the photo, Melina!) There were two porcupine fish as well. It felt like we were in an oversized aquarium – “is this real?!”

Next up, was Middle Turtle Rock. When we first got in we saw a barracuda and a sharp nose shark. We saw a small green turtle and Emma got to see a parrotfish poop sand! Over the course of the snorkel, we saw a chain moray eel, lots of squirrelfish – one of which kept trying to get into a space with other fish, but having a hard time finding a space – eagle rays, a southern stingray, a biiiiig filefish, triggerfish, four-eye butterflyfish, rainbow parrotfish. There was so much diversity here and everything was very vibrant. We wonder if this is a nursery area, given the number of juveniles we saw. There was a lot of different topography – crevices with cooler water rushing through. It was amazing to be that close to coral, giving those of us who do not free dive a really nice chance to observe things. The flipside is that we had to actively be aware of not damaging the coral.

On our ride back into the harbor, we saw more eagle rays and even a sharptail eel – a very rare sight from the boat. We got buzzed by a seaplane and waved to Kel and her kids who were waiting on shore. We got a break before dinner for showers, relaxing and sunset-watching. Natalia votes that today was the best day so far! After dinner we kept working on our assignments and are eager for tomorrow!

Until then,

UNBSJ 2018

Braving the waves

On Tuesday morning, we saw a water spout (essentially a tornado on the ocean) from our class space. It was an, ummm, interesting way to start the day. Thankfully, the rest of the day was nice – it’s getting pretty warm down here! After writing our blog, we did a few of our cetacean species presentations. Then, we had a lecture on photo-ID and were able to practice on archived photos before identifying the two dolphins we swam with on Monday: Cerra (#38) and Sulfur (#102).

During our break before lunch, we did a little shopping and saw the ruins of the hotel where Hemingway used to stay. It was really warm as we walked around and then headed back for cat naps and our delicious lunch. The boat departed at 2:30 p.m. and just as we excited the marina some of us were lucky enough to see an eagle ray jump twice! We saw some more eagle rays cruising the harbor and soon began our search for dolphins.

We were certainly spoiled the first two boat trips, finding dolphins so quickly. Today, we had to be more patient. The search was broken up by the first of two loggerhead turtles. As we searched through the building waves, we came upon three young spotteds, including our buddy Sulfur (#102). Soon, these youngsters were joined by older dolphins. The group was cruising, riding the big waves. It definitely seemed to get the dolphins’ attention when the captain would engage the engine; they would come quickly to the bow. The larger group split up and Kel asked that we follow the younger group. We gave an underwater observation a try, getting a chance to see Sulfur again, along with two others. There was a lot of active pec-to-pec rubbing between the two un-ID’d dolphins (Update: Nicole ID’d these as Vee (#101) and un-ID’d #110; Vee is pictured here). Yesterday Cerra was super vocal; today, the dolphins were very quiet. The waves were pretty big, which made this swim more challenging that previous days. Watching the dolphins showed us how well adapted they are for the marine environment – and how out of place we are! When the dolphins swam away, we boarded the boat and continued to follow them on their journey south. At 18:04, our trio joined eight other dolphins, including the first clear calf sighting of the day. As it got later, we had to say goodbye and head to shore. Kudos to Ryan, who braved the waves in his face to keep an eye on the bowriding dolphins so DCP could mark exactly how far they traveled.

Shortly after, we got another nice glimpse of a loggerhead turtle. It was a wet, fun-and-slightly-scary rollercoaster ride home. But, we were all holding on, to each other and our hats! Back at the Sea Crest pasta dinner was amazing. Before bed, we ate brownies, finished our cetacean species presentations, worked on our assignments and headed to bed.

Until tomorrow,

UNBSJ 2018

Do aliens really exist?

The laughing gulls woke Christine Monday morning, but she wasn’t laughing! After breakfast, some of us went shopping and others swimming – and got to take a shower in the torrential downpour afterwards! We dried off and headed to class.

The afternoon was the most exciting part: just like Sunday, we didn’t have to wait long at all! Some of the same dolphins were once again just offshore. Today, they didn’t seem as interested in the boat, as they traveled south. We are already trying to identify individual dolphins! Because these dolphins were on the move and not interested in slowing down for us, we resumed our search, taking a break to snorkel “The Bimini Road” (aka “Atlantis.”) Though we did not see any aliens or Atlantians, we did see a pufferfish, a trumpetfish, squirrelfish, a stoplight parrotfish, lots of blue tangs, a triggerfish (hovering at the edges), damselfish, butterflyfish, lots of sergeant majors and of course the rocks. We could tell why people are drawn to thinking it has design and therefore human-made. Dr. Turnbull noticed a big difference in fish and coral abundance since his last visit several years ago – a lot more sediment in the area, fewer and less vibrant coral, fewer fish. Is this all because of the cruise ship development and use? Hurricane Irma (Sept 2017)? Both? We wonder if ReefCheck has any long term data on this site….

After our snorkel experience, we continued our search for dolphins, getting farther from the island than we had before. On the way we saw the old submarine that had run aground (stay tuned for details). After a long search, we saw a pair of spotted dolphins. Only one stayed (was it Lil’ Jess #35?) and she was not interested in the boat. We watched her for as long as we could and when she swam away, we kept searching – and quickly saw a large loggerhead turtle at the surface! “He” was very big, with a brown-ish shell, and taking a few breaths at the surface before diving down. After snack, we turned toward home, searching along the way. We got a radio call from another boat operator, letting us know that they saw dolphins in the area we were about to pass through. Initially there were seven Atlantic spotted dolphins. We couldn’t observe them from the boat for very long, because it was getting so late, so some of us quickly geared up and got ready to swim!

Underwater, only two of the dolphins stuck around, but it was amazing! It was an adult and a juvenile; both appeared to be female, though it was difficult to be sure for the juvenile. They were whistling and one was blowing bubbles as she whistled. The repetitive whistle went on for a long time, as she swam in calm circles around us. We were intrigued as they rolled, giving us nice views of their bellies. After a nice observation, they headed south and we headed back to the boat. (Update: In class, we ID’d both of these dolphins: it was Cerra (#38) – the big whistler, and Sulfur (#102). In this pic, you can see Sulfur, with Cerra sneaking in the background.)

Back on the boat, we got to see many more dolphins. Since we did not have time to stop, each subgroup came for a quick bowride before pulling away; there were a total of 17 more dolphins. Nicole, who was watching from the bow, was able to ID Tina (#14), Sulfur (#102), Niecey (#48), Leslie (#80), several calves, including a very little one, a few juveniles and possibly #111 and Romeo (#10),. What a great way to say goodnight!

We got to have dinner outside at the marina, which was nice. Then, it was time for assignments, animal crackers and bed.

What will tomorrow bring?

UNBSJ 2018

3 a.m. wake up: Totally worth it

We are so happy to welcome Dr. Stephen Turnbull and students from University of New Brunswick Saint John back to Bimini! It’s been a few years since UNBSJ has done a course with us and we’re thrilled have to them. This week, all of the DCP blog posts will be written by the UNBSJ students. Enjoy!

-Kel & Nicole

Bimini is the smallest airport we’ve seen so far. We thought Saint John was small! It was super chill as well. Maybe the maintenance guy was the one helping us? As opposed to Nassau (where Natalia flew threw) which is much more developed and like America. The water in Bimini is so beautiful, flying over was amazing and though those of us who weren’t given ear plugs are wondering when we’ll get our hearing back! Half of us were delayed in Canada and when we departed Fort Lauderdale we were in the midst of a storm, only to emerge in the sunshine before landing in Bimini.

As we landed on South Bimini, we took the water taxi to North Bimini, where we’ll stay at the Sea Crest. Seeing Bimini ahead, getting a glimpse of where we’d be for the next, was great. When we left Saint John we thought it was beautiful – 13C – ha! Those of us who arrived early in the morning were able to head to a snorkel practice at the beach. Startled by a shark…nope! A manta ray! It was huge! Even though Ryan was the closest one, he missed it! Those of us who were delayed hit the ground running devouring lunch with the group so that we could all be ready for our 2:30 p.m. dolphin trip! Kel warned us that it can be a long, boring boat trip searching for dolphins….

Ten minutes after departing: dolphins! At first there were 9 Atlantic spotted dolphins, including 3 calves. One of the calves was quite small and we suspect that two of the adults were males. We watched as those presumed males stayed close to each other and on the outskirts of the group, generally following the mom and calf group. At one point, at least two bottlenose dolphins came through, but they did not really join the spotted group. A few surfaces and then they were gone, as the spotted dolphins traveled south. Soon, the dolphins turned and headed north. Half of us got our gear on to try an underwater observation, but the dolphins kept on moving, so we took our gear off and observed from the boat. Sam was likely most happy to stand down, after sitting in his dry wetsuit in direct sunlight. Hot. Suddenly, the dolphins seemed to turn toward each other and all change direction, headed south again. We wondered why and soon had the answer.

More dolphins! The group size was soon at least 20 spotted dolphins. This was the first time we’d ever seen wild dolphins…this many dolphins, all in one place! We squealed with excitement as we got to follow the dolphins for hours. Included in this group was another calf, with a very distinct notch in its dorsal fin. Kel is so excited to add this to the catalog (a thought that just came to her as we were writing this!). Though the dolphins were still on the move, we decided to give a swim a shot. Since the dolphin group was so big, we all tried to get in. The swim was short, but Kel got some underwater video. Melina saw some bubble rings and play. Ryan saw some mating attempts – socio-sexual behavior? There were also some jellyfish, so some of us dove down and looked at them through the sunlight. One triggerfish cruised through as well. The dolphins were traveling too fast for us to keep us, so we waited a few minutes to see if they would cruise back before climbing aboard the boat. We continued to watch them from the boat, cruising farther from our island home. The captains were watching the time and announced it was time to say goodbye. Two dolphins, Leslie (#80) and presumably her calf, rode the bow for a few minutes. Leslie peeled off first and her calf followed soon after. It was a great way to end the long, first observation!

We headed back to the Sea Crest for showers and supper! After, we did some of our assignments and had a discussion on eco-tourism: what is it? Have we experienced it already? Then: bed.

Until tomorrow,

UNBSJ 2018

What’s up with the harbor, dolphins?

For the second time in the last month, I received a report of Atlantic spotted dolphins in the bay of Bimini. I’ve been studying these dolphins off Bimini’s shore for 15 years, with only a single report of spotteds in the harbor last fall, soon after Hurricane Irma (and those dolphins were very close to the opening of the bay/harbor). So…what’s up with coming in the harbor, dolphins?

As we work to ID which dolphins are undertaking this exploration, we hope everyone will be safe and respectful around the dolphins in the this area (and everywhere, of course!) !) – meaning, cautious driving, no touching, no feeding. So far, we know that Romeo (#10) and Leslie (#80), with their calves and another presumed mother/calf pair, were in the March explorer’s club (thank you, Atmo & Amlas!). On Sunday, it was Paul (#99), Vee (#101) and un-named #110. All looking healthy and not stressed (but circling in an atypical area).

Wild animals always keeping it interesting. Who’da thought.


(Interested in supporting DCP’s research? Consider joining our August eco-tour and help search for the dolphins yourself! 26 – 31 August 2018. Click here for all the details.)

Thank you,!

Happy National Dolphin Day! Yup. Did you know that April 14th is National Dolphin Day? This year, we are once again thankful for all of our supporters and today we add to that list. My Pet Needs That is focused around providing advice and guidance for pet owners worldwide. We are grateful to be a part of My Pet Needs That’s current campaign to help non-profits. Thank you!

If your company is interested in becoming a corporate sponsor of DCP, please contact us at info{at}dcpmail{dot}org. If you are interested in making a donation – whether a one-time show of support or monthly commitment – head to our Donate page under the “Ways to Help” menu.

PS: Interested in joining DCP in the field, assisting with research and observing dolphins? Join us in The Bahamas from 26 August – 31 August 2018. Learn more here!

Contact Us

Write to us via snail-mail at:

Dolphin Communication Project
P.O. Box 7485
Port St. Lucie, FL, 34985

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info {at} dcpmail {dot} org


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