Friday, June 4, 2010

Scientists are the best friends...

My family doesn't breed scientists. We either marry them or we have them as best friends. Cary was just that, and her science is marine biology. She likes to throw out the Latin names of fish, turtles. and crabs. She knows them all, collects a lot of them, and she draws you into their drama.

So it was when I was 25. Cary called and suggested I spend a couple weeks in Tobago with her and 12 other marine biologist types. We'd be counting the fish population in a bay off the northwest side of the island. She promised a lot of science, a lot of rum, and more snorkeling than a sea lover could imagine.

Cary's cast of colleagues was straight from academia. Several were PhDs, working either for NOAA or teaching/researching at various universities. A couple were NOAA interns, anticipating long careers in labs and oceans.

Our job was to count the fish in Man Of War Bay. The local government needed a census to help monitor the fishing industry. They wanted to proactively be able to stop over-fishing of low count species. None of us were being paid to this - for all of us except Dennis, our leader, this was summer vacation. Dennis was making this his career.

We snorkled constantly. We counted fish until we ran out of numbers. We set up ways to collect fish in pools, count them, and then set them free. We counted fish at midnite, at 2 a.m., at dawn. We did everything except eat fish. We ate breadfruit, spaghetti noodles smothered in butter, and granola bars. We drank the local Coca Cola, lemonade or rum. When we weren't in the water, we were hiking across the dense growth to the other side of the bay. Nine guys, five girls. Lots of intellect. Lots of sleeping on the beach when our cabin was too hot to sleep indoors. Lots of locals calling us the 'honky biologists'. I loved that term. I wasn't anywhere near being a biologist, but my latin was improving!

Dr. Adam, the herpetologist, with a prize.

Dr. Matt, with a sample or two.

We lived without news. None of us took a phone or a computer. Notes were taken on paper and everything was photographed multiple times and ways. 

And on the first Saturday, the locals invited us to their three day street party. We danced to Bob Marley tunes, ate delicacies unknown, and found out what 'really good' rum tasted like. 

One day a local 'nature guide' stopped by and asked us if we'd like a hike across the island. He'd show us the nearby bamboo groves, point out where turtles were being caught illegally, and he promised us the most beautiful private cove for swimming. 


And best friends for the summer.


BANJO52 said...

scientum honkum scientamus honkamus
scientis honkis scientisis honkisis
scientis honka scientan honkan


Nice story and photos!

The Retired One said...

DEFINITELY Paradise!! Spectacular!!!
I am sooo jealous.

Whitemist said...

We scientist aren't only dry phrases and names, right???
The rum sounds very good!

Stella said...

Lovely, lovely! You have been fortunate to live an interesting life!

Jo and Stella

altadenahiker said...

Gosh, what a treat. The few prof scientists I've been lucky enough to know have been/are great company with lots of dirty jokes .