Sunday, April 1, 2018

Garbage Beach

It is April! The weather in Massachusetts is warming, and I find myself thinking more and more about the upcoming summer. I have a number of projects that require field work in the summer months, so I'm spending my spring preparing for them. I got a small study funded to examine the fauna on shipwrecks in New England, and collecting my samples will require me to SCUBA dive at some pretty challenging locations. I need to be at the top of my diving game this summer, so that translates into a lot of dive training this spring.

Our group of divers at Garbage Beach
Carl and I loaded the car and headed out on Saturday morning to Garbage Beach in Woods Hole. We had invited some friends along and ended up gathering a group of five. Garbage Beach is just a little strip of beach down the street from my office at WHOI, and it is an easily-accessible site with interesting animals living on the bottom. The catch? The only place to park and prepare your dive gear is the parallel parking spots on Water Street, a narrow road lined with cafes, boutiques, and research buildings. It's usually clogged with tourists in the summer, but we were early enough in the year to claim some space. Still, we got plenty of weird looks as we assembled our tanks and donned our dry suits.

We swam out from the beach toward the southwest, gliding over the sandy seafloor. We passed patches of boulders covered in the boring sponge, Cliona sp., and strands of algae. As we swam deeper, the light waned, and the water grew colder. The coldest temperature my dive computer registered was 40⁰ F - and I became ever more grateful for my dry suit. Eventually, we turned around and headed back to the shallows. We passed eelgrass swaying in the sand, and there was a giant jellyfish caught among the blades. Eventually, I could see the surface of the water above me. We stood up and walked back up the beach. It was a great dive!

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