Seacrets

The night wrapped around us, blowing and stopping, blowing and stopping. The wind was back.

During the week, it had quietly disappeared. It became simply gorgeous. No mosquitoes around either to plague us, like during hurricane season. The water became suddenly clear again too, after its recent plankton soup. it felt like a sudden surge of Caribbean spring.

Spring here is definitely not the same as it is at home – where spring literally explodes. There is still a subtle difference in seasons – besides the windless hurricane season slam in the late summer and fall. Right now, we’re coming to the end of the Christmas winds, because even though they’re called Christmas winds, they last for months. Thank goodness too. They keep this region tolerably cool.

Still, you feel the weather more on a boat. Lines chafe, we rock around, we open and close the boat’s hatches with each rainstorm. And most mysteriously, we watch the sea change.

It’s hard to notice it from the surface. For all intents and purposes, it stays the same mesmerising azure. Underneath tells more nuanced tales. There are rhythms of change which we only get hints of.

The big stuff, like coral bleaching, is more obvious. Particularly this year, where Bonaire’s Marine National Park, Stinapa, have just published their findings. 61% of coral cover within the marine park was bleached in 2020’s hurricane season. Hurricane season being when sea temperatures got really high. 61%! It was shocking to read, but not surprising. We saw it. Much of the reef went as white as hospital sheets.

Much of it is thankfully back to its normal colour. Not all of it – but enough that you don’t go down and reach for sunglasses. This in itself is amazing, suggesting it’s part of the reef’s natural cycle. Corals can bleach, lose their internal algae, yet if they get it back in a certain amount of time, they don’t die.

Where do the algae, the zooxanthellae go in the meantime? Do the wait outside the doors of the coral waiting to be let back in? Do they float around in the water column? Are they carried in the beaks of parrotfish, whose coral chewing habit can help to repopulate them back behind the coral’s castle walls, back within living tissue?

I don’t know. As far as I’m aware, no one does. It remains a mystery. We just know in large bleaching events, some corals recover and some don’t – if temperatures go back down. The sea doesn’t tell us any more.

We went swimming the other day, Lu and I. We saw a large jellyfish – the first time we’ve seen such a large one on this side of the Atlantic. Indeed, it was the same jellyfish we get at home, the moon jellyfish. It was easy to identify, Aurelia aurita, because of the four moon-shaped rings in the middle of its bell. We get heaps wash up on Borth beach in the summer. Never seen one here, thousands of miles away. Just floating under Questie like it had come to remind us of home. We booped it on the nose.

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