Castle, Coral, Conch

It’s day 14 here at the GRC. The bugs are at an all-time high, the wind has stopped, and it’s super-hot. The group took a break from their research projects this morning to make a trip out to Watling’s Castle. We learned on our first night of class that King George III gave a former South Carolina loyalist, Watling, this island. We traveled to the remnants of his attempted cotton plantation that was built towards the end of the American Revolution. We roamed around the ruins for a while before overheating and heading back to the truck.

On the way back from the castle, we stopped at what is known as a fossil reef. 125,000 years ago, the sea level was five meters higher than it is today. The sea level eventually declined causing the reef to become exposed and dry out. The corals became calcareous fossils of what they used to be. Corals build their skeleton out of calcium carbonate. They layer on polyps as they grow in size. We saw examples of brain, star, and Elkhorn coral that demonstrated this layering structure in the fossil. It gave us a firsthand look at the inner workings of a coral reef. After the fossil reef, we got to head into town for a quick stop to rehydrate and restock on snacks.

This afternoon most groups worked on our organism and research projects. This evening we left the GRC for a special treat; dinner out on the town. We all got to relive the glory days by riding a school bus to and from the restaurant. We had the whole restaurant to ourselves and were handed conch fritters as an appetizer. They were delicious. We have previously learned conch meat harvesting can be bad if harvested before the conch can reproduce. Most conchs that have been harvested have a hole in the top of the shell. We had a nice spread of grouper, conch, and fried chicken.

We all can’t believe we are already this far into the trip. The beginning of the program has flown by and now we are in crunch time with school work, but that has not stopped us from having fun. We have made new friends and shared lots of laughs. This experience has encouraged all of us to try new things and go out of our comfort zone. In the field, on the truck, or in the classroom we see all our lessons, field or classroom, come to life on San Salvador. We all have a deepened appreciation of coral reef ecosystems, marine conservation, and each other.

Payton Hurl ‘20
Drew Suffoletta ‘20
Madison Manger ‘19

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