OMG, I Thought You Were Dead!

You’ve seen it in the faces of infants when they recognize their mother’s smiling face above. You’ve seen it on the face of an old friend across the room when she suddenly recognizes you…after all those years. And Doug Shulz, producer at Partisan Pictures, saw it clearly on my face, when he tapped me on the shoulder and pointed toward an old friend I hadn’t seen in nearly 35 years.

When we humans recognize a friend, our faces convey it with a distinctive widening of the eyes. Combine that with the surprise of seeing someone we aren’t expecting to see, our eyes grow even wider, often accompanied by a cartoon-like jaw drop. Judging from Doug’s expression while observing my face, I can only imagine how wide my eyes were. Since we were 20 feet beneath Cuba’s Gulf of Mexico waters, it must have been difficult for him to discern between an expression of surprise and delight versus a textbook example of wide-eyed diver panic. My eyes were transfixed on my old friend with a funny name whom I hadn’t laid eyes on since I was a teenager. Larger than life, vibrant, and embracing the sun, my friend was very much alive and healthy, clearly enjoying the good life in Cuba.

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Expedition to Cuba’s Gulf of Mexico: Preparations Underway

Exploring Cuba's Gulf of MexicoHAVANA, CUBA – Final preparations are now underway for an August expedition to explore and map one of the least known areas of the Gulf of Mexico — Cuba’s northwestern coastal waters, including Cuba’s spectacular Los Colorados barrier reef. A joint effort of the University of Havana’s Centro de Investigaciones Marinas (Center for Marine Research) and the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, this, the fourth expedition in a multiyear project entitled, Proyecto Costa Noroccidental (Project of the Northwest Coast). (See Exploring, Studying Cuba’s Gulf of Mexico for details on this important effort.) The fourth expedition will concentrate study on Los Colorados, an area with remarkably healthy  coral reefs, despite the alarming decline in the health of coral reefs elsewhere in the Caribbean. This research is providing the most comprehensive biological picture yet of this little-explored region, and Cuba’s healthy corals may offer important clues for protecting and restoring corals elsewhere. (See Can Cuba’s Mysteries Help Save the World’s Coral Reefs? in OceanDoctor’s Blog.) [Read more…]

Can Cuba’s Mysteries Help Save the World’s Coral Reefs?

Healthy elkhorn coral in Cuba's Gulf of Mexico (Photo by Abel Valdivia)Until that tranquil morning in late June 1974, the sum total of my SCUBA diving experience had been in a landlocked state, in a stifling, moldy indoor YMCA pool in the Philadelphia suburbs and a Pennsylvania quarry, flooded with icy soup-green water. Barely comprehending the new world of pungent humidity, mountainous afternoon cumulus clouds, and lush tangles of flowering succulents I experienced at water’s edge during my first visit to the Florida Keys, I was wholly unprepared later that morning when I found myself seated in sugar-white sand with 40 feet of warm, clear aquamarine water above my head. As impossibly multi-colored fish passed slowly within reach before my wide 15-year-old eyes, my gaze broadened as I marveled at the towering jetties of coral around us, living layer cakes of corals upon corals, brown and mustard rock-like structures, encrusted with brilliant red, violet and orange coralline fans and branches, swaying in the warm, nourishing current and, like eager spring blossoms, reaching toward the dancing sunlight scattered on the surface above. [Read more…]

Exploring, Studying Cuba’s Gulf of Mexico

Proyecto Costa Noroccidental research team aboard Cuban research vessel Boca del Toro, second expedition

The Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies (HRI) at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and the University of Havana’s Center for Marine Research (CIM) [Centro de Investigaciones Marinas] are leading a collaborative effort, Proyecto Costa Noroccidental [Project of the Northwest Coast], a comprehensive multi-year research and conservation program for Cuba’s Gulf of Mexico coast. Dr. David E. Guggenheim, president of 1planet1ocean, is a member of HRI’s Advisory Council and also serves as HRI’s Cuba Programs Manager and is co-principal investigator of the project with Dr. Gaspar González Sansón of CIM. [Read more…]