Our class has happily settled into life on San Salvador and every day brings new adventures and topics to be learned. Saturday evening, students each presented on an organism which ranged from Fire Corals which are in the phylum Cnidaria, to Spotted Sea Hares which are in the phylum Mollusca, to Posionwood trees in the phylum Anthophyta. After the evening class, a group of students headed to the Almond Tree, a local hang out down the road from the research center.
On Sunday, a group of students including myself went to a local Baptist Church with Dr. Larsen and his wife Shirley. The truck we use to get around the Island has an open bed with seats. On the way to the church, we drove through a rainstorm so by the time we reached church we were dripping. The congregation was very warm and welcoming and we got a ride back with a woman who works at the research center because she had a van. Another group of students went exploring along the beach while other students caught up on sleep. In the afternoon we didn't end up going snorkeling as planned due to the storm. My classmates and I made effective use of our time by doing some reading and napping.
Yesterday we took a packed lunch and drove around the entire Island. San Salvador is roughly 12 miles long and 6 miles across, with one main road that goes around the whole Island that is around 26 miles. The main road is only two lanes wide and is a little bumpy in areas where parts of the road have been washed away. First we stopped at Snow Bay where we snorkeled around looking for corals. Instead, we found turtle grass beds with lots of Sea Biscuits and Cushion Sea Stars. A Yellow Sting Ray and a large Spiny Lobster were also spotted. We ate lunch in the shelter of a house damaged by past hurricanes as more rain came down after snorkeling. After lunch we got back on the road. As we were driving we saw a Yellow Crowned Night Heron by the side of the road. Soon after that, it started to rain but by the time we reached East Beach we were mostly dried off. At East Beach we walked along the beach and up a small hill to a monument documenting where Columbus is said to have first set foot in the New World. Some students snorkeled at East Beach, but the water was difficult to see because of wind. Everyone spent some time enjoying the sun on the beach.
Today we started the day by hiking to North Point, which is down the road from the Research Center. On the hike Dr. Larson identified many of the low growing plants. We discussed different ways plants have adapted to survive in harsh environments such as windy shorelines with little soil. On Cut Cay, a small cay off of North Point, we spotted an Osprey. When we got back, with the aid of hand tools, cleared the path to the tidal pools we explored last week which were extremely overgrown. In the afternoon we went out to go snorkeling, but the water was turbid because of big waves so instead we played on the beach. We returned happy and sandy.
There is never a dull moment here on San Salvador and there are always new things to see (or old ones to review). Since arriving, 11.5 inches of rain have fallen, but the sun comes out to dry us off. Meaningful and humorous conversations fit around educational discussions. We're always ready for the next meal after our excursions. Life on the Island sure is grand!