Wabash Blogs Immersion 2009: Belize - Invertebrate Biology

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Day 1: The Road to Paradise...

Austin Kline ’09 - Our day started sharply at 4 AM in front of the Chapel, with just a few bus rides, 3 flights, and a boat trip separating us from our final island destination.  For me, as I imagine it was for everyone on the trip, the travel from Belize City to our final resting place of South Water Cay will be just as memorable as some of our experiences on the island.  Customs went smoothly and we were soon sent out to board our plane that would take us to the small town of Dangriga.  Dr. Wetzel had warned us that the plane and landing strip in Dangriga would be “slightly” smaller than we were probably accustomed.  After several photographs of the plane and some nervous laughter we were all seated on the small 14 seat Cesna.  The short flight over the coast of Belize contained beautiful scenery that was also accompanied by some exciting turbulence that I imagine is quite common for an aircraft that size.  Even with the unfamiliar atmosphere the flight went without a hitch and the pilot smoothly landed the plane onto a gravel/cement runway with impressive grace.  Next we took a short van ride to the coast where a fiberglass boat with two large outboard motors awaited to take us the last 15 mile to our island.  Up until now it was possible to catch glimpses of the natural beauty that existed below our planes, but it wasn’t till the last 5-10 minutes of our ride in the boat that it was evident how incredible our surroundings would be for the next several days.  It may sound cliché, but you could envision postcards being created from nearly every vista as the boat came into dock.  Absolutely flawless blue water was contrasted by pristine white sand, swaying green palms, and the surf crashing against the reef in the distance.  The island seems to be a perfect place to closely observe what these marine systems have to offer, teaming reef habitat within swimmable proximity and accommodations meant to provide all that is needed while not detracting from the natural beauty of the island.  All of us are looking forward to an excellent week spent snorkeling along the reef and if the trip to the island is any indication, it should be an incredible immersion experience.


In picture, view from plane during approach in Dangriga with runway in center.


Shane Dixon ’09 - Sunday, Day 1 in Belize.  We began our stay on the island with a 20 minute talk about being gentlemen while in our IZE accomodations.  It is amazing to see that this code that Wabash strives to instill in all its men is respected down here in Belize.  We were told that we can take whatever we want from the store and we are to just write it down on a pad that is placed within the store.  We then proceded with getting our feet wet, literally, with a quick two hour snorkel.  One cannot describe in words the crystal blue water, the unbelievably clear and pristine sunlight reflecting off the waves breaking on Belize’s barrier reef, and the multitude of flora and fauna that we encountered our first time in the water.  After fighting against the strong Southwest wind and current, we then began to make our way back towards the piece of sandy white beach from which we began our expedition when we saw a white figure dart in the water above an aquatic forest of turtle grass.  What at first glance seemed to be extremely pale ‘Bash bro turned out to be a stingray with a remarkable 8 foot long tail. This graceful animal moved into and out of the current with the ease that showed just how well its morphology fits the needs that are placed upon it by its habitat.  We are truly blessed to be down here studying first hand the biology that we have been looking over in lab for the last half semester.  With such a good start to the trip, one can only hope that we continue to see new and exciting species.