EV3406 field trip

19 May

Sorry for the delay in putting this up- I’ve had a lot of internet tv to watch lately.  (I’m only kind of kidding.)  This weekend was really fun but also really tiring.  We were at Orpheus Island Research Station for basically three days and at the end of those three days we had to analyze the data we had collected and present it in a 10 page report… hence the all-nighter I pulled on the last night.  It was worth it though because Orpheus Island was absolutely gorgeous and we went to some really cool places.  I took tons of pictures until disaster struck and my expensive camera was put out of commission.  (I’m still not ready to talk about it.  Soon.)  Anyway, I figured I’d give a general run-down of each day.  I’ll leave out the boring geomorphological data collection part and focus on the fun parts.


We met on campus at 3am Friday morning to board the bus.  That was not a typo- it was THREE O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING.  Forgive my language, but it was cold as shit.  Like, the coldest I’ve been in a long, long time.  Somehow the bus was even colder than outside… it was a rough night/morning for everyone, I think.  We got to the boat ramp around 5am and had to wait around outside in the freezing cold for the ferry.  It was 30 minutes late, and when it finally came it could only take 1/3 of our group, so the rest of us had to wait until it came back.  It was about an hour round trip over to the island and back, and the ferry made three trips.  Like I said, it was rough.  On the plus side though, I got to see a gorgeous sunrise over the ocean, made even better by the fact that six of the planets were aligned that night (apparently marking the beginning of the end… bummer) and Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter were visible as the sun rose.  It was pretty amazing and I of course took photos, even though my fingers were freezing off.

We finally all got over to the island and had some breakfast.  Thankfully, Scott realized that everyone would be exhausted so we had a pretty easy first day.  We got a tour of the research station, had an introductory lecture, and got to do a little exploring.  Here are some photos I took around OIRS.

Our accommodation:

The dining hall:

An awesome reef aquarium setup outside the wet lab:

After lunch we went for a walk around Pioneer Bay, which is where the research station is located.  It has a fringing reef with an extensive reef flat that we surveyed on Saturday.  On Friday though we just walked around and Scott told us important info about the reef and the areas we would be surveying.  We didn’t actually have to do anything except for listen, so I took photos (obviously.)  Here are a few of those.

After that we got to go snorkeling!  We were supposed to have three opportunities to snorkel over the course of the weekend, but due to time constraints and the tides, this ended up being our only one.  I wish I had known that at the time.  Still, I was one of the first ones in the water and the last one out and I got a few cool photos, so it was all good.


We got back just in time to catch a gorgeous sunset.  After that we ate dinner and I was in bed by 9:30pm.  That’s it for Friday.


We got to sleep in a little, which was nice, and had a late breakfast while we waited for the tide to drop.  I guess I should mention that for everything we did this weekend, we had to work around the tides.  Boats can only get in and out of the island at high tide, and we could only collect our surveying data at or around low tide.  When the tide got low enough on Saturday, we headed out to Pioneer Bay to do some surveying.  We had to do three short transects and one long transect.  I realize that most of you don’t know or care what that means, but the point is that it was a lot to do in one day.  It ended up being kind of fun though- it was a beautiful sunny day so my group wore our bikinis and worked on our tans while we were out surveying.  It was also really cool to be out on the reef flat.  We saw stingrays, coral, giant clams, a lionfish (!), a pufferfish, and lots of other awesome reef biota out there.  Here are some photos from the day.


Saturday afternoon, disaster stuck my camera.  The photos from this point on were either taken with my underwater camera or with Lauren’s Nikon D500 (a much nicer camera than my D50 so it was exciting to use it… silver lining?)  Sunset that night was equally as awesome as the previous night.  Afterwards, we ate dinner and got started on our project.  We still went to bed pretty early, which in hindsight was not a great decision because we had to do that much more work the next night.  Which brings me to Sunday, the last full day.


Sunday was… an experience.  If I had to choose a phrase to describe the day, I would pick “extreme geomorphology.”  We surveyed a different reef on the windward side of the island.  More wind means higher energy, which means waves, which made getting there tricky.  We had to travel by boat early in the morning when the tide was high and the ocean was calmest to a place called Cattle Bay.  We unloaded all of the gear there, then Scott took us on a hike into the rainforest-y interior of the island.  I’m still not really sure why.  Apparently we were looking for a lake, but we ended up not finding it and after most people in our 45-person group got bitten by green ants (not pleasant) Scott decided we should probably turn back.  After that, Scott and two grad students took a boat with our gear around to Iris Point, the reef we would be surveying.  The waves were too rough to take us there by boat, so we had to hike there.  This basically involved rock scrambling for about 30 minutes, then scaling a cliff, then climbing down the other side of the cliff.  It was kind of awesome but I really can’t understand how/why we were allowed to do any of it.  I didn’t take many photos on the journey (I was too busy fearing for my life) but here are a couple.

After lunch on the beach, we started surveying.  We did two long transects on Iris Point.  To be honest, it was kinda boring.  The high wave energy makes it difficult for much to live there, so it was a lot of coral rubble and coralline algae.  Like I said, boring.  I only took a couple of photos throughout the day.

We got back to the research station around sunset, ate dinner, and got cracking on our report.  It was not a fun night.  We had to do most of the part as a group, which is always kind of difficult.  Let’s just say that by 2am or so, tensions were running high and we were all a little bit pissy.  The discussion and conclusion section were individual, and three of the four of us (myself included) ended up staying up all night to finish.  “All night” in this case, though, means until 4:45am.  That’s when everyone else had to wake up to start packing the boat, which I guess brings me to Monday.


I submitted my report via email around 5am.  Scott asked me, along with the other unfortunate all-nighters, to be on the first ferry which was leaving at 6am since we were already up.  It meant that we would have to sit in the cold on the shore for three hours waiting for everyone else, but that to me sounded better than cleaning the bathrooms in the cold, so I waded out to the ferry and was on my way while it was still dark outside.

The sun rose while we were on the ferry.  It was an amazing sunrise, but it was hard to appreciate it because I was clutching my backpack (with my laptop inside) to my chest and holding on for dear life as the boat got tossed around by swells.  It was VERY rough that morning… there were a few times that I really thought we were going to tip.  I took this video to try and capture it on film, but I don’t think it comes across very well.  Let me just say: it was terrifying, and experiencing it on 0 hours of sleep certainly didn’t make it any better.

When we finally got to the mainland I kissed the ground, took a quick photo of the sunrise, spread out a towel, and promptly fell asleep on the grass.  I slept until the bus came, then slept the entire bus ride.  We finally got back to campus around noon and it was back to reality.

So all-in-all, a good experience.  It’s pretty amazing that I even had the opportunity to do something like this as part of a class- it’s definitely not something we have back at UVA.  I’m also infinitely impressed that Scott was willing (and had the energy!) to give up two of his weekends for field trips.  I really appreciate it because they were both a lot of fun.

That’s all for my field trip posts!  There’s only a week left of class (so hard to believe), then a week-long study break, then finals.  After that I say goodbye to Australia and do some traveling.  It’s going to be a very exciting last few weeks- I’m in the process of planning some pretty sweet trips, which I’ll tell you all about soon.  Check back this weekend for a new post. 🙂


One Response to “EV3406 field trip”


  1. TEAN Photo Contest 2011 « Kat in Australia - March 3, 2012

    […] one is from my EV3406 field trip to Orpheus Island.  The actual title of that class was Coral Reef Geomorphology, which is the study of reefs as […]

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