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Punta Gruesa

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The second phase of 2009 at Punta Gruesa saw many accomplishments. A big thank you is due to all Expedition Members (EMs) and staff who have worked hard to make the project a huge success. Despite having a decrease in numbers because of the Human Influenza type A, everyone stayed healthy, pulled together and continued to collect the data to reach our project goals.

Punta Gruesa also entered in a new environmental era by having solar and wind power, lessening carbon emissions and noise levels without the fuel generator and enabling us to have electricity 24/7. This is a great benefit to both the base and to the surrounding environment. PG will soon be able to run on natural energy alone.

PG will soon be able to run on natural energy alone. This phase started with the
PG will soon be able to run on natural energy alone. This phase started with the

This phase started with the usual stint of bad weather, but

gave

the

oppotunity to explore cenotes in the local area. With information from reliable sources

(our neighbors, the fishermen) we landed on a cenote in the nearby town of Bacalar.

A few intrepid EMs and staff went exploring! Cenote La Normal is attached to Lake Bacalar (a freshwater lake) and is approximately 100m in diameter. We explored this new sinkhole, having to walk down a dirt trail and kit up on a barren slope to go into the water. This trip was preceded by a visit to the Mayan ruins of Chacchoben. These ruins are set into the jungle and are a beautiful representation of some of the temples from the neoclassic period. The jungle was alive with wildlife and many birds, including parrots and one toucan that was spotted on the treetops.

MMaarriinnee LLiiffee

This phase has been successful in recording sightings of many species for the first time in Punta Gruesa! Divers were lucky to see a Caribbean reef shark as it lay sleeping under an overhang, which caused many excited squeals underwater. There have also been sightings of nurse sharks at 2 of our dive sites. Last phase a new spur and groove site was discovered, which was christened Los Gorditos (the Fatties) after the school of Chub that reside there. Among the new faces identified were Cherubfish, Black and Shy Hamlets, Peppermint Basslets and Longsnout Butterfly fish, to the delight of the fish geeks on base! This new deeper site has opened up the species diversity present along this part of the barrier reef.

Dolphins were encountered again right in

front of base. A dive was heading out and

didn’t quite make it to the dive site as the

Barred Hamlet (left) and Peppermint Basslet (right), seen at the site LG.
Barred Hamlet (left) and
Peppermint Basslet (right),
seen at the site LG.

dolphins made their presence known.

A number of EMs were able to snorkel with

a mixed pod of Bottlenose and Atlantic

Spotted dolphins. Attracted by the sound of

the boat’s engine, the dolphins were

extremely curious, approaching closely and

remaining with the snorkelers for over ten

minutes. This year is the first time we have

seen the Atlantic Spotted dolphins, and like

their bottlenose cousins they were

extremely playful, surfing the waves and

leaping out of the water. Hopefully there

will be encounters like this in the upcoming

weeks.

Heeding the invitation of Country Director,

Danny Ponce-Taylor, PG took the journey

up to Playa del Carmen to witness The

Sacred Mayan crossing or “La Travesia

Sagrada Maya”, an event which has taken

place 3 times, and on 2 of those ocassions,

GVI staff has actively participated in the

rowing ritual. The historical origins of this

event can be traced to the Mayans that

lived in Playa, and traded with the

inhabitants of Cozumel. Rowers would take

merchandise and other items across the

channel on strong wooden canoes to

venerate Ixchel, the goddess of fertility and

beauty. It is reproduced as accurately

possible in 3 days of festivities for the guests

and endurance for the rowers. The

weekend started with a traditional blessing

of all of the rowers by the Mayan god

Ixchel. This was held at the Xcaret, where

everyone had the opportunity to visit the

park and witness this traditional event. The

row from Playa to Cozumel is undertaken in

the canoes and involves several hours

under the hot sun and in the high seas. The

rowers were successful as they completed

the crossing to and from Cozumel over two

days.

Expanding our network and enhancing our

links with our partners, we welcome Baruch

Figueroa from Amigos de Sian Ka’an (ASK).

Baruch will be working closely with GVI

Mexico to aid staff with the training of EMs

and share his marine science expertise.

Baruch was initially a volunteer on the GVI

expedition in Mahahual under the National

Scholarship Programme and moved on to

become a permanent staff member. Since

then, he has been working with ASK in the

marine

organization.

research

aspects

of

the

Everyone can feel safer in the water knowing that many EMs completed their PADI Advanced Open Water, Rescue and Divemaster courses this phase. In addition, our first Emergency First Responder Instructor group was trained in Punta Gruesa. We wish them all the best in their future of first aid teaching and we are sure they will enjoy passing on the knowledge they have gained to their students. Our best wishes also go out to our three dive trainees. For the first time this phase, three EMs joined GVI Punta Gruesa as part of the Divemaster Traineeship program. Having successfully completed their ten weeks on base and built up their knowledge of marine fish and corals, they are now off to undertake their divemaster course with XTC divers in Xcalak where it is assured they will gain valuable experience in working within the dive industry.

On 22 nd April “Earth day” was once again celebrated in Mahahual. This worldwide event designed to promote the protection and conservation of the Earth saw the light one more time, and GVI Punta Gruesa went into the local town of Mahahual to involve the community in a variety of

activities. The kids from the local primary school were enthralled by our puppet show performance featuring the tale of Polipo the coral polyp who has an argument with his algae which ends up leaving because it

is hot and stressed. Poilpo is eventually

reunited with his algae thanks to the help of

a number of marine animals he meets on

his long journey through the ocean including the very wise black durgon. The show was a huge success and the kids enjoyed it immensely. Furthermore, they took away an important conservation message regarding caring for coral reef ecosystems. Following the puppet show the children were taken to the beach for a series of environmentally themed games, including a recycling sack race and a ‘rubbish’ sponge throwing game. For the older crowd, the bubblemaker experience was repeated., but not without the help and support of the dive shop Dreamtime, who lent ponnies and tanks, and the Matan Ka’an hotel, which werekind enough to let us use their pool. And for the not so youngsters, an discover local scuba dive was organized by our instructors and divemasters, urging them to not only gewt into diving, but get into conservation of the habitat that is closest to them. A seed was sure planted in their minds.

EMs & GVI staff recreate a coral reef scene with local children celebrate Earth Day
EMs & GVI staff recreate
a coral reef scene with
local children
celebrate Earth Day
to

We also had a stand on the beachfront of Mahahual to inform people of the conservation work we are conducting and the issues that marine life face. Many tourists and locals visited and were receptive to the information given, and the stickers they took away! The day ended with a friendly football match between PG and the Mahahualians. PG managed to hold their heads high as they scraped a victory with a winning golden goal.

Back on base and half way through the phase we experienced our first tropical storm of the year. It came out of nowhere, lasting only a couple of hours but brought with it strong winds and heavy rain. In the morning we awoke to blue sky and calm waters with no human or material losses,

The staff

and EMs soon got to work on building a

except for the compressor hut.

new

and

more

sturdy

home

for

the

compressor

which

is

now

nearing

completion.

 

BBeeaacchh CClleeaann

Litter washed up on the shoreline (including a television) just north of base.
Litter washed up on the
shoreline (including a
television) just north of
base.

Marine litter is a substantial problem along the Caribbean coast and in light of this, PG started a beach clean monitoring program this phase. A 200m stretch of beach to the north of base was cleared one Friday morning. The collected litter was separated into different categories before being weighed. Each subsequent Friday we have been back to remove and weigh trash from the same stretch of base and update the results into our database. The most common type of litter washed up is plastic. A non-biodegradable material, plastic is responsible for the deaths of over 100,000 turtles and marine birds each year. The amount and variety of litter that washes up

on shore each week is quite amazing! So far we have found children’s toys, enough shoes to open our own shop (if only we could find a pair!), and even a television! We will continue to monitor the beach and gather data over the coming phases.

BBiirrdd MMoonniittoorriinngg

Phase 092 witnessed the start of the Punta Gruesa bird monitoring program. Each morning we have been recording data along one of the four transects near to base. The Yucatan is extremely rich in bird life with a number of endemic species found in the area. In addition to a number of sea birds including pelicans and frigates, we have observed different species of woodpecker, hawks, vultures and even an osprey! Towards the end of phase two members of the GVI staff team attended a bird monitoring workshop to learn more about local bird species. With our newly acquired expertise we hope to expand the bird monitoring program for next phase.

A vulture perches on a tree branch in front of base.
A vulture perches on a
tree branch in front of
base.

All in all it has been a fantastic phase once again with many exiting new discoveries. As summer approaches with much planned for the coming weeks, we can’t wait for the next phase to begin.