October 22, 2017
In case you were under the impression that it doesn’t rain in AU, I am here to confirm that it indeed does, even in the land known locally as “Brownsville.” This week has reached Oregon proportions of sogginess and grayness. But, considering that it is the first few days of consecutive rain that I have experienced in the last 4 months, I’ve got to say that I don’t mind much. This Oregon girl missed the sound and smell of home. But the biggest difference is that the AC is still turned on inside because it is 76 degrees outside. Also, after it rains for a bit, the air starts to smell strongly of eucalyptus, which is really nice. Since it was rainy all week, but I was still itching for a weekend adventure, I decided to head in doors to explore the Reef HQ Aquarium down town today. Julie, my friend from Denmark, came along with me. Reef HQ is famous for having the largest coral reef exhibit that totals 2.5 million liters (nearly 630,500 gallons) that is home to 130 species of corals, 120 species of fish, and hundreds of other marine critters. After walking around the Sunday morning market, we paid the $22 student fee and got our tickets to explore the many tanks and exhibits on display. Julie and I first went on a tour of the turtle hospital, something that Reef HQ is also famous for.
There were five turtles in the hospital today. One was a juvenile Green sea turtle, named Nemo. Nemo is here to keep growing a bit before being released into the ocean, to hopefully increase survival odds against predators. There was also a young Hawksbill turtle that was found washed ashore in Cleveland Bay and arrived malnourished due to having a stomach so full of plastic rubbish, there was no room for nourishing food. I was very happy to learn that starting next July, Townsville will be enforcing a plastic-bag ban. I wish that more towns would do that same worldwide. The other three turtles were larger. One of them is recovering from serious boat strikes. We could see the deep cuts in her shell. The largest of the turtles was likely also struck by a boat and then contracted an infection that caused her scoots (sections of shell) to fall off, which lead to a sun burn and further damage. This turtle, named Debbie, is a female Green sea turtle estimated to be around 60 years old. She will remain at the Reef HQ turtle hospital for a long time to come, until all of her scoots fully re-grow and her health is fully restored. After we toured the turtle hospital, Julie and I explored the underwater tunnel that had a predatory fish exhibit on one side and colorful reef exhibit on the other. My favorite fish that I learned today is called the Clown Triggerfish. It has distinctly pattered black and white body with huge, bright yellow lips. We also went upstairs to the touch pool and watched an educational lesson for children about how to safely walk along reefs and dangerous shells to not touch. Last week I saw a job posting for an Educational Program Coordinator here at Reef HQ, and boy if I didn’t already have my plane ticket home booked, I would be super tempted to submit my resume. I would love to work somewhere that I can teach the public about marine science, and Reef HQ would be such an amazing place to start that career! Maybe I will check their job postings once I finally graduate with my degree in a couple of years.
After spending a few hours seeing all sorts of fish that we recognized from our field trip to Orpheus Island and learning many new species, Julie and I decided to have lunch in front of the coral reef exhibit, which truly was the best seat in the whole place.After we had our lunch, it was time for the fish to get their mid-day feeding. We were fortunate to come on a day that the predatory fish were also being fed. It was amazing how the fish new that it was food time. While Julie and I were trying to avoid the rain by spending our day inside, the fish were all very excited for it to begin raining food for them. The fish schooled back and forth, some at the surface and others at the bottom waiting for the pieces to sink down. The sharks and carnivorous fish were the most exciting to watch eat. It can be surprising how aggressive the smaller fish also are.
By the end of our third tour, Julie and I had spent around 4 hours in the aquarium and had thoroughly explored every tank. On our way out, I of course had to get a photo on a seahorse and make a funny fish-face in the cardboard cut out.
The top left photo is a lion fish and the right is a stone fish. Reef HQ really was a wonderful rainy-day activity; although, I am pretty sure that in the end it didn’t end up raining much today. But this was still something that I have had on my to-do in Townsville list and I am glad that I was able to check it off along with Julie today.
Tomorrow is the beginning of our last week of class, which is totally crazy. On Friday afternoon, we will be celebrating at the JCU International Student Completion Ceremony. But, it isn’t quite time to say goodbye yet, as we still have exams to get through.