Thursday, August 8, 2013

Legends of the seas, Mote and Small Hope Bay Lodge

                                                       We recently were honored here at Small Hope Bay Lodge with the arrival of Dr. Eugenie
Genie and Small Hope Asst. Mgr Mike Hornby
Clark, of the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida. Genie Clark is an amazing person with a history of marine research that rivals just about anyone you can think of. She is often referred to as the "Shark Lady" because of her extensive research on many shark species. 

Genie Clark and the Mote group came to Small Hope to study the local species of garden eels here in the Bahamas. Surprisingly, not much information has been gathered on these garden eels and the MOTE group came over a period of 21 days to discover what they could about behavior, territories and mating. 

While the first group was here, Small Hope Divemasters and MOTE researchers developed a "blind", a circular structure made from canvas and PVC with window holes cut at various heights. Research divers would go into the blind to make observations so the eels would not be distracted or disturbed by the presence of the divers. They also set grids made of
Photo by Jann Rosen-Queralt
chopsticks and cotton string at three different dive sites with big sandy areas, known to be garden eel hot spots. Each member of the research team was assigned their own sector within the grid and would observe the eel activity in that area for the duration of the dive, noting any and all activity.

The second group arrived the day after the first group departed and the research and observations continued. Both groups also enjoyed their share of survey dives too, sans research. There were a couple shark dives, cavern dives, wrecks and walls. I got to accompany four divers from the first group on possibly the best dive I have been on since I arrived at Small Hope 2 years ago - 2nd Level of the Blue Hole!

Photo by Jann Rosen-Queralt
 As a member of the Small Hope staff, one of my favorite parts of the experience was listening to the various guests tell me how they first met and got involved with Genie's research. There was Tom and Patrice, two divers who Genie thought would suit each other very well and consequently set them up on a blind date. They stayed at Small Hope three extra days because they were celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary! Anne Doubilet, who has traveled with Genie to so many countries over so many years that she has lost count. Jann Rosen-Queralt, who, several years ago, was just learning to dive and wanted to see whale sharks, when she heard from a friend that Genie just so happened to be doing a trip to Mexico to check out the whale sharks. Mallori, a 15 year-old girl who, having done a couple of book reports on Genie's books, had developed a friendship with her and was subsequently invited on this trip. Everyone that I talked to was so enthralled with Eugenie Clark, enjoyed her presence and her research trips so much, and had learned so much from her, as much in diving as in life experiences. It was truly an honor to host this amazing woman. And to be a part of this important research trip.

Thank you Mote, and thanks Genie!!!!
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