Watling's Island adventure!

We started off our morning with scrambled eggs, blueberry muffins, and cinnamon raisin bagels. Due to the beautiful sunny weather we decided to spend the entire day out in the field. We left around our usual time of 9 a.m. and headed south along the East side of the island to the intertidal zone, Blackwood Bay; this site was voted as one of our most favorite places to explore. On our way there, J-dub stopped the truck, hopped out of the cab, pointed at some plants, and exclaimed, “Here are some red mangroves that are actually alive!” This was exciting to see, as the hurricane back in November caused a lot of destruction to various organisms, including the mangroves. After some quick pictures, he hopped back in the cab and we continued on our way.

Once we arrived at Blackwood Bay, we were allowed to explore for about an hour. A wide variety of creatures were found and held: Porcelain Crabs, Decorator Crabs, Spray Crabs, Eroded Mud Crabs, Blue Crabs, Lesser Sponge Crabs, and a new species of crab that we have yet to identify. In addition to crabs, we saw Lettuce Leaf Sea Slugs, Massive Fire Worms, Snapping Shrimp, Gobies, Scale Worms, Red Rock Urchins, West Indian Sea Eggs (urchins), Mantis Shrimp, and Ghost Shrimp.

After our adventure at Blackwood Bay, we piled in the truck and headed to Watling’s Castle. Watling was a British loyalist from South Carolina who was given the island of San Salvador by King George III after the American Revolutionary War. The castle is about the size of a small two-story house and is currently in ruins. We took several group pictures in the hearth in what was the kitchen, and we also took a picture of a Purple Land Crab that had scaled almost 18 feet up the corner of a wall. It was interesting to see the proximity of the buildings and to realize that people walked through the heat and environment in the heavy outfits that were once popular in society. We also pondered over the size of the hearth compared to the rest of the small buildings. One of our fellow students realized that it needed to be fairly large since Watling’s Castle was the main plantation house at that time; they had to cook very large meals for the plantation owners, their families, and their slaves. The past momentarily came alive as we compared it to the present. 

After leaving Watling’s Castle, we headed to Grotto Beach—which is an absolutely beautiful beach—where we had our lunch of sandwiches and fresh fruit. We loved the giant apples and thick oranges. Once lunch was gobbled up, some of us took a dip in the ocean, some of us took a nap, and a couple of us rested in hammocks to study for our final. The water was very relaxing and the time was very much appreciated.

After an hour of that free time, we left Grotto Beach to head for town. Right outside of town is a fossilized reef along the shore. We got to explore this reef and were able to see the skeletons of very old corals, as well as watch waves break against the rock. Many of us adored the view and different designs of the corals. We ended up capturing many landscape photos in our excitement then climbed back down the reef to enter town. Some of us used that following hour to restock our supply of snacks while the rest of us enjoyed a fantastic view of the ocean and the glorious feel of the sea breeze. One of our Witt students grabbed a one-gallon container of Gatorade and is enjoying it graciously! After shopping, we all sat under a pavilion by the sea, and listened to a local sing and play music on his guitar. He gave us all a smile and chuckle to end our trip.  

As four o’clock trickled closer, we got back on the truck and went back to the GRC. We cleaned up our gear so it could be stored for the next group of Witt Students to arrive then got cleaned up for dinner. Our dinner tonight was a favorite for many: turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, veggies, and cake! We call it our Thanksgiving dinner. After dinner, we took some time to work on research until class at seven-thirty.

As our knowledge-filled trip winds to an end, many of us are glad to see our families soon, but are also sad to be leaving such fantastic friends and surroundings behind. There is much we have seen and a great deal of new information we have learned to apply to the world around us. We have grown as a team and as adults. A lot of people have faced many fears and conquered them. There is a new confidence, a slightly new outlook, and a huge experience for us all to bring home and share with others.

Our time on San Salvador will be remembered well. The activities we have taken part in, the organisms we have held, the beaches we have seen, and the research we have put together will always be in our minds. Many of us have made great friends with one another and with other students from different schools. We have learned to grow both individually and socially: to give others a chance and see the beauty within each of us. We are excited to share our experiences, memories, and pictures with all of you!

Jennifer Knisley ’18, Zach Statler ’18, Sam Bott ’19, Anna Aylor ’18, McKayla Blake ’17, Amber Luke ‘17

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