As a kid I have snorkeled with those plastic goggles that you can buy from the toy stores. The only problem with the one size fits all snorkel gear is that they usually let water in, I barely could breathe underwater let alone try to see some fish!
However, thanks to Melisa Wong and Michael Dowd, this trip was even more spectacular than I could have ever imagined. I had arrived at Rose Bay super excited to meet Canadian scientists for the first time. I had come with the hopes of getting some film footage of eelgrass issues up in Nova Scotia for my October show “Uprooted”. All summer long I have been gathering bits and bobs of video that will be previewed alongside my work. So I came prepared with my wet suit, water boots and my clanking cameras. It had rained all night long, and I was a little worried about filming in the rain.
They were a little bewildered that I got out the car and wanted teo start shooting. Actually kind of alarmed. I got a firm “No” and then they pointed to all the snorkeling gear.
“You’ll see the seagrass for yourself. We are snorkeling today not filming.” Melisa was very firm and started explaining how to wear the flippers, showing me the best ways to get a clear view with the goggles. This was the proper gear that I could see with, how cool!!! Well it didn’t take that much convincing. I was in the water as quick as I could get dressed. All these years painting seagrass from afar, I had never snorkeled in the meadows. Usually I document everyone else working in the field. I was super excited, like I had been invited to go check out another planet. Melisa even gave me a fancy GoPro camera to take some footage!
The bay was a little gray from all the rain, both Michael and Melisa were saying its better in the sun. I didn’t know the difference, as far as I was concerned the colors were fantastic. The green pigments of the seagrass blades( Chlorophyll ) were moving in many different directions. It was almost like watching a classical orchestra but better. There were overlaps of movement, short ones, long ones and then all of this gold stuff – rockweed that just surprised me as I swam around. It was truly like a Walt Disney movie, all of a sudden a school of fish would swim by. Or I got to follow a green crab using the eelgrass as a ladder. Occasionally the golden seaweed(Ascophyllum Nodosum) made vertical columns that looked like strange figures emerging from the field of golden vegetation. I kept swimming, and could have been there for hours. Melisa explained that there were areas of seagrass loss, they were not exactly sure if it has to do with the silty sediment, storms or other variables. There were definite shifts in the edges of the eelgrass beds and then it would abruptly drop into a lower level of earth. These drops in the levels of sediment reminded me of all the shoreline erosion I see in Essex where hurricane Sandy had eroded the earth there and there were shifts in levels.
For me this was truly an amazing experience, to be given a tour with experts, in eelgrass beds, how cool!!! I am very grateful to have been invited to Nova Scotia and meet these wonderful scientists. I have uploaded some of my footage here:
If you notice the bubbles being released into the water, this is the beautiful oxygen- CO2 exchange seagrass does in providing us with clean air.
Dr. Melisa Wong, Research Scientist, Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Dr. Michael Dowd, Physical Oceanographer, Professor, Dep. Mathematics and Statics, Dalhousie University