Archive | August 2014

Bahamian Food = Carbs for Life

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Family dinners are the best 🙂

Last night….last  night…

It was amazing!! The food. The company.

Everything.

A simple life of an island scientist at its best. And it only gets better with tonight’s meal.

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For dinner last night, it was an hourly event. The preparation started around 1630 and we didn’t eat till 2100. During that time, Jurique and Jack went to the grocery store and to the docks to get dinner. Two large jacks and two snappers.

Jurique worked his magic in the kitchen when he got home though. I mean, I was so hungry just watching him, I ended up glaring at him as he cooked hoping he would go faster. Nope…took his time dancing to some Bahamian Rake ‘n Scrape.

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Fried fish baked in coconut milk gravy.

With the fish, Jack fillet them and scrapped the excess meat off of the bones. With this, Jurique fried them, made a coconut, cabbage, and tomato gravy, drizzled it over the fish and popped it into the oven. The coconut gravy had coconut milk, sliced tomatoes, cabbage, onions, and salt and pepper to taste.

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Baked macaroni has to be one of the best side dishes ever. He even got the large elbow pasta. He mixed egg and milk together for moisture in the noodles when they were done boiling and drained. He then mixed in grated cheddar cheese and baked it till it was golden brown on top and the middle was set.

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He made another side, sweet and white potato salad. He boiled sweet and white potato together and cut them into large chunks. Once they cooled he added mayo, green sweet pepper and onion. No eggs or mustard necessary for this fine dish.

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The final pièce de résistance: Peas ‘n Rice with coconut milk. I’m not the best with peas ‘n rice, so I watched him like a hawk and even tettered over to the cooking area. First, he heats up some oil to sautee the diced onions. Next, he adds tomato paste to give the rice that brown hue as it cooks followed by the peas. Finally, Jurique added the coconut milk with water mixture to match the amount of rice he was going to put in.

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For me, Jack made it even better. He had heard Jurique and I talking about Vita Malt, a classic drink that ‘every’ Bahamian grows up on. Whether they enjoyed it or not that’s all on them. Let’s just say Jack did not enjoy it. I happily took it off his hands as the best colleague ever. A little wine to make the night extra special.

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I’m telling you, Bahamian and most Caribbean foods are so delicious that you forget how much starch is actually in the meal. You forget that the 100 squats per day you have been doing since you have been here just went out the window with that first bit of macaroni.

Tonight…oh man. It was on par with last night. We caught our dinner again. How much fresher can you get then catching your meal, cleaning it, and then cooking it?

We did a half office and half boat day today. After lunch (with the leftovers from last night) we heading out to Rocky Point and then to the Deep Blue. We did track a sperm whale acoustically but could not locate it. So we headed back to Rocky Point and along its coast to catch some crawfish.

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Crawfish or Spiney Lobster season begins August 1 and ends March 31. The size has to be 5 1/2 inches from the tip of the tail to where it connects to the head for it to be legal size to catch. Similar to Nassau Grouper and the Queen Conch, it is a major commercial food that we both enjoy and export.

We caught 5 of these critters and a trigger fish. Jurique and Jack cleaned them and Jurique cooked as usual on the grill. The lobster was sliced in half, deviened, and antennae and legs removed. It was seasoned with slices of butter and garlic.

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The trigger fish was scaled and skin. The skin is too tough to eat. The fish was filleted, season with some salt and pepper and placed on the grill as well. We still has leftover rice and macaroni from dinner last night and lunch today.

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Throw in a salad and we all patted our food babies.

 

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Squid Beaks and Sperm Poo!!

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Several pods of the Pan Tropical Spotted dolphin made its way towards us once we saw them heading back to shore. They decided to take us on an adventure and ride our bow.

For the past 3 days, we have had land days. Sunday was our day of rest and boy, did I rest. I spent the whole day out being a tourist on the beach. Sitting in a hammock with a good book (I finished it that night), and enjoying the sun creep over the sky to its setting. Beautiful.

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Taking down information such as location, species spotted, etc.

Monday and Tuesday were both office days. If I am not a professional at scanning by now then I don’t know what. Many researchers, including myself for my Masters, take both hard copy data and electronic. That is, once we take the immediate information on our papers we transfer them to the computer and back that information up two to three times. It saves a lot of work in the long run because we can look up that information quickly by typing in the search field what we are looking for or the time frame. It also helps to secure all the data so if there is a storm or fire (Lord forbid) then the hard drives can be taken and all the years of information is safe. They can always be reprinted and filed as before.

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Scooping up nearby faeces with a thin net.

We launched the boat from the nearby dock that was surrounded by mangroves. Interestingly enough, it was near where my parents had stayed while they were here in Abaco. I have to say, the weirdest and crappiest job we have is collecting, well, crap. The proper term would be faeces.

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After a sperm whale flukes, there are fluke prints [small eddies] in its wake. This si the best time to look for samples. Searching for faeces that we spotted after the sperm whale fluked. We even got a skin sample that floated up top!

So when the sperm whale defecates (poops), there are either smalls clouds, chunks, or good size chunks. The larger chunks are what we want. Jack jumps/slides into the water with his snorkel and goes swimming around looking for chunks of faeces surrounding the boat. The other on the boat keep an eye on him and other floating bits. Sometimes they sink so he dives down to them. He does this ‘unique’ fapping motion with his hands where he beats the surface of the water if there is a chunk after he collects enough sample pots. This motion cause the chunk to dissolve and separate. If there are any squid beaks or interesting solids, they are scooped up.

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Net full of squid beaks that was seived through the net.

There was one sperm whale that we found today. We were actually looking for Blainville Beaked Whales and this guy popped in the corner of our eyes at this site. Found some squid beaks that looked pretty cool.

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Calf [baby dolphin] jumping out of water to greet us.

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Needed this picture!! Proof that I was there.

As we were driving around near Gorda’s Cay, we came across several pods of dolphins. They are called Pan Tropical Spotted dolphins. They were jumping around, blowing bubbles, riding our bow and…and…getting a little frisky with each other.

All in the day of a scientist: sperm whale poop, squid beaks, and dolphins having a go at each other.

Rough Days

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Beautiful sunset as I sat in the hammock in the backyard. Yes, this is MY backyard everyday till I leave this place.

So the past three days or so have been a real cycle. A cycle in the sense that when an office day hits, you know generally what to expect. And on boat days, you know you will be out till at least 1700 starting early in the day around 900. The water can be glossy calm with the wind literally at 0, and a thin film of sweat begins to form all over your body. It is one of the most uncomfortable feelings. I’m not a small girl so just the extra heat on certain places made me feel even more uncomfortable then usual. I was praying so hard that we would get a chance to go swimming in the Deep Blue.

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Freshest of the fresh coconut right off the tree, chopped, and knifed out into a bowl. So delicious.

So on the 21st it was an office day. Scanning, editing, photo ID, etc. Nothing too fancy or exciting. I have designated myself to scanning all of the documents from 1996 that they have. Why? It is more compact. When Dr. Claridge and her research partner travels, they can just take a hard drive instead of a massive folder. Saves so much room in the luggage for other important things…like snacks.

Yesterday, the 22nd: it was a boat day. Blistering hot calm sections throughout sitting for hours. Encountered a sperm whale (fecal sample collected), dwarf sperm whales (they exist! Saw 3 in a pod) and finally the ever elusive blainville beaked whale (only 1 brief glimpse before it dove). That night was dinner with my parents at the facility. Of course my father whipped out the photos!


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Today was a different kind of office day. The weather report predicted that a tropical storm/depression was heading our way. Strangest thing: the storm moved around us. You can see the clouds, the rain, the wind and yet it went completely around us like a halo. Then it proceeded to travel away from us, only leaving a very pleasant strong wind (those sand flies were gone!).

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To prepare for the ‘storm’ that never happened, Jurique and I had to go out to the boat and clean the underneath. How come? Because time comes for the boat to be pulled out of the water, it would be harder to clean the boat of any algae or barnacles that may have grown on it. Also, if there is algae on the boat when it is pulled out, it can leave a nasty stain color on the boat white exterior from the sun. So we did that for a bit until I heard thunder and decided to better be safe than sorry. We left the water, working around the house on other chores such as laundry, more office work and errands in the settlement.

After all of that work to pull the boat out and collect the recorder from Rocky Point, there was no storm. Just very breezy. Either way, we couldn’t go out on the water. Parents leave tomorrow to head back to the main city to begin school this week.

Cheers to another week here in Abaco!

WTH is that?!

 

 

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Pop culture reference for you 🙂 I think this little guy was the inspiration for Alien.

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The adventures these past few days have been quite interesting. We spotted this little guy floating at the surface after a sperm whale fluked. We all were saying something different. Something like a squid’s tentacle, a watch, a fin strap, or even the strap that goes on a boxer’s glove. Nope. We were all wrong.

It’s apparently a type of Black Scaleless Dragonfish. I don’t know what genus particularly. If you know, leave it in the comments or share it around so I know what it is.

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Randy getting a drink 🙂

Randy was back again today, this time by the fuel dock sippin’ on some water from the hose that ran down to him. The question of the hour is were does he go (any manatee in The Bahamas actually) for fresh water? The theory is that they may go out to the blue holes when they spew out, since fresh water comes from them.

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Hole in the Wall Lighthouse. Built in 1886 out of limestone quarry. Historical monument being left to ruin.

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Recording station for the hydrophone. This baby is powered for up to 3 weeks underwater.

We placed down a new recorder at Rocky Point and took out the old one. It’s a stand up recorder that’s held down by a good old cement block. We came back later in the day to ID some of our Bottlenose dolphin friends 🙂

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We were literally driving around the rain tuffs. only in The Bahamas can you do that.

We encountered a Loggerhead turtle and a sperm whale today. The turtle was just hanging out at the surface as we were driving by, took a few breaths, and then disappeared into the depths. Pretty cool! With the sperm whale we were able to get that awesome poo sample!

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You have to centrifuge the poop to get the solid pebble so that they can send it of to the lab.

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Loggerhead turtle ahoy!

A full day. We didn’t get back home till 1900 from leaving around 900 this morning! Let me down in the comments and share this around to find out what kind of Black Scaleless Dragonfish that little guy is 😀

Yummy, Lion Fish are Tasty!!

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Pan fried goodness.

All day on the boat till about 1800 with a surprise for us all: LION FISH!! That’s right, we had Lion Fish tonight. We speared it, filleted it, cooked it, and ate every last bit of it.

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lion fish tend to hid out in crevices and ledges. Some of them end up belly up on the underside of the ledge. Be careful while taking a peek. You may come face to face with one.

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Bright orange/red or even slightly darker with white stripes. It is slow moving and floats around its home area.

The reason why we had Lion Fish for dinner is because we decided we might as well eat it if we are going to eradicate it from this reef while boating in between research sites. Lion fish are an invasive species on this side of the world. They originate from the Indo-Pacific and made their way to Florida. How? The word goes that they were brought over for an aquarium (do not know if private or public) and either released into the ocean or the aquarium broke/flooded during a storm and ended in the ocean. A similar story to the snakes in the everglades. Now they are multiplying in the Caribbean waters and are down to Bermuda currently.

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De-spinning lion fish.

They have spines all over the fin portions of their bodies. Most of the time, they are stationary creatures, suspending in the water under crevices and ledges. Their diet consist of anything they can get into their mouths and have no active sea predators in this region. So they devastate a reef by eating anything smaller than them. In The Bahamas, there are now Lion Fish Derbys and cooking contests to encourage fishermen and locals to spear them on site. Groups and organizations encourage these contests to destroy the thought that Lion Fish cannot be eaten. They are technically safer to eat then a puffer fish when you think about it.

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Speared through the gill.

The way to a perfect Lion Fish begins with the spearing. Make sure you aim straight for the head/brain or through the gills. The brain shot almost guarantees an instant kill. As long as it can pierce through without drawing blood. If you spear through anything but the head area, there is a possibility of blood and a higher risk  of some hungry sharks showing up.

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Kitchen scissors not strong enough. Lion fish was in a cooler that gradually warmed making it slightly safer to handle. WEAR GLOVES!!

Once you spear, place in a cooler till ready to prep. My colleague began to use a kitchen knife and scissors to cut through the spines. Unfortunately, they weren’t strong enough so he went for the big guns: a cutlass and hammer. Once the spines are removed the fish is fine to eat.

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A clean hammer and cutlass were able to cut through the spines. Do not miss and hit your fingers by mistake!

The spines are where the poison for the fish is, not the entire body like a puffer fish. The spines are tough to snip through so using the hammer and cutlass provided enough force to cut through the spines at the base. Be careful while doing this, gloves are highly recommended just in case the poison is still active in the spines. Remove the scales and guts, and cut the meat how you desire to cook it.

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We had them dredged and deep fried along with some Blue Stripped grunts. Some white rice and steamed cabbage and spinach, huzzah! The meat is white and flaky similar to salmon. For me, the meat took on the seasons flavor used instead of its natural flavor popping out. So it’s a very mild flavor that tends to take on whatever seasoning is used. The meat is soft and the bones are not hard.

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Calf doing some head flops into the water.

Throughout our regularly routine sites, we encountered several bottlenose dolphins and a sperm whale today. Some poop samples as well came our way for the whale.

Overall, 4 very happy and full day for us scientists.

 

Under the Sea :D

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Finally became a mermaid!

Amazing!! Such beauty!! You have to be here to experience yourself. This is what I want to protect, the coral reefs. Not that the mangroves and blue holes aren’t important. My passion is with this beauty. I am beginning to get swayed though to the marine mammal dark side of the force. Oh, Dr. Claridge. I see what you are trying to do to me. Sneaky, sneaky.

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We had a great swim out by the coral reef between Gordon’s Cay and Sandy Point. It was and is so beautiful.

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Trumpet fish playing hide ‘n seek

We hit our first site this morning before heading out to the coral reef out on rocky point. Saw roughly 35 bottlenose dolphins swimming around and feeding. Afterwards, we headed out to the Deep Blue, listen for a sperm whale and tracked it down for 4 hours.And to give us extra luck, a nice chunk of a poo sample. After centrifuging the sample (really fast spin-y thing that collects heavy stuff at the bottom of a test tube), we found some squid beaks.

I didn’t get home till about 1800. Even then, we still had to rinse the equipment off with fresh water from the salt and download the gps and pictures. On top of that, it was my night to make dinner. Well, cheers to another hard day of work.

Beach Bum and Family Tree :)

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This sun-kissed skin just turned burnt! Aloe vera, here I come.

I am living the life of an island scientist today after an all day office event yesterday. Surprisingly, even for a day off, it has been quite eventful. I had some time to spend with my parents who flew in from Nassau, New Providence. Both my parents are in the education field, however, my father is a priest. For the next several days or so he will be running around the island as a substitute for the residing priest that is here. That is his duty as a missionary, he travels where the Church needs him to be and he goes.

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Laundry hanging out to dry. Time to become a ‘tourist’ and take a nap in a hammock.

They arrived this morning on the flight. Pops had used Mums phone by accident so I knew she was here. She was trying to surprise me. I know deep down that the only reason she came on this trip was to see me, where I am staying, and who I am interning for. No matter how old one gets, if your parents are caring, they will worry for you.

Pops took us around Sandy Point. He was surprised how much the place has changed since he was a small child. Let me tell you, both my parents are in their 60’s. The last time they were here was over 30/40 years ago. So quite a bit has changed. More buildings are up, some homes are gone…even the house my father lived in as a child had crumbled away in the bush, overgrown and unkempt over the years.

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Pops said he and his brother would run up and down the shoreline, picking sea grapes and coco plum from the bush before and after they swam or fished.

Mum spoke fondly of the people who took care of her and my eldest siblings when they were but small babes. The paths that they took to get to the beach, overgrown. The dock they jumped off of as children, extended and with a bar inshore. The aunts and uncles that watched my father as a child, passed away.

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The view outside my window every time the sun begins to set.

I can vividly see my father and his brother (10+ years his senior) running around in their jockies and jumping into the sea. Or taking the boat out with their father to sea all day. Frolicking to the Aunty across the street to spend the night, munching on some snacks.

I came here for research…but its nice knowing where my father comes from.