Bahamas: Warm Sun and Research

Jul 30, 2019

by Mckayla Petrie '21
Edited for content and length.

Day 1:

Talk about quite the travel day. All fifteen students and three professors arrived at Branscomb at 4 am to get packed onto a coach bus headed to the Orlando airport. Once all of our bags were checked and we made it through security, we boarded our plane to Nassau, Bahamas a few hours later. Once there, we had a long six hour layover to explore the airport and local area. We enjoyed a small Bahamian restaurant across the street from the airport that played some fresh, local music. Culture wise, it was a lot to see and hear.

Beautiful view of Andros, Bahamas.
Beautiful view of Andros, Bahamas.

Everything in the Bahamas reflected bright colors and oceany vibes. Personally, I felt right at home as I too love the ocean and bright, happy colors. The people were so inviting and happy! Even our later flight to Andros had locals that were happy to speak with us. Once we made it to the field station on Andros, we met the interns and staff we would share the station with for a week. It was a diverse group of individuals that were happy to help us. I couldn’t wait for what the week ahead held in store for us all.

Day 2:

Our first full day was jam packed with adventures on the island. We had a lovely breakfast of blueberry bread and eggs prepared by some of the native staff, while chatting about what the day ahead of us looked like. The main events of the day were hiking through some coppices and swimming in the blue holes.

One thing I can say I learned early on during this trip was that you have to be flexible. The days are long, the weather is unpredictable at times, and projects don’t pan out as you’d hoped they would… that is okay and all a part of the great adventure that the trip later showed me.

Day 3:

Monday morning I got up to see one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen. Truly AMAZING! After breakfast and lots of coffee, our group departed the field station for a day of research sample collecting and bird watching, more coppices, and blue holes. Day three was one of the toughest for me because I had been exposed to lots of bugs and poison woods. Two pieces of advice; bug spray or long clothes and lots of anti-itch cream!!!

That night after dinner, every group began working on their research projects. I worked on my parasitic snail sampling while others worked with spiders, lionfish, corals, and more. It was great to have both of our biology professors, Langford and Kjellmark, available to help us out.

Danielle '21 (left) and McKayla '21 (right) with a West Indian Top Shell snail.
Danielle '21 (left) and McKayla '21 (right) with a West Indian Top Shell snail.

Day 4:

My favorite day, hands down. Boat day! We set off for a day of snorkeling at a few barrier reefs around the island after breakfast, only to be greeted by a pod of dolphins on our boat ride away from the field station. The best part of that was the visibility. The water is crystal clear so we could see all of the dolphins, sea stars, and corals as we drove.

The water was so nice and the sun instantly warmed the skin. Another piece of advice is to bring sunscreen, rash guards, and a hat. Even if you think you’ll be fine, it is better to be safe than sorry. Lots of people got burned throughout the week and it just isn’t fun to deal with blisters and peeling when you’re in a new and beautiful place.

Day 5:

This was the day I started to feel the exhaustion. We went to Androsia to do some shopping and tour the factory. It was very cool to see how they make the fabrics with special wax and dyes. After spending some time in the gift shop, we went to a beach to do some sample collecting. All of us were hungry and tired from the days before, especially from being in the sun all day. After lunch on the beach, we finished our afternoon by exploring another coppice.

Mckayla '21 with a coconut.
Mckayla '21 with a coconut.

Day 6:

Our last full day on Andros. Our morning was spent with a boat ride to an old log shipping island to look for spiders and scorpions. We saw tarantulas, wolf spiders, and of course scorpions. The boat ride back was fabulous, the perfect mixture of sunshine and wind! We had the choice after a quick sandwich lunch to stay and relax at the station or go bird watching, and I chose to stay.

I learned from one of the staff, Alan, how to cut coconuts out of the tree and crack them open. I am so thankful I could relax in the sand, drinking from an actual coconut with some good friends. After a bonfire and ghost stories, my cabin and I went to bed for our early morning wake up call.

Day 7:

We all woke up and met in the Lodge for breakfast and baggage loading. Taxis arrived around 4:15 am to bring us to the airport. After checking our baggage and waiting for our plane to arrive, we boarded our 15 minute flight to Nassau. There, we waited for our connecting flight to Miami for five hours. We ate lunch, chatted, shared pictures and stories. It was a good reflection time to have with the group.

We boarded our flight to Miami, which was delayed, and had to run to our connecting flight to Orlando. Luckily, we all made it and shared some laughs. A coach bus was waiting for us, so we loaded our luggage and headed back to FSC with minimal traffic. Once back, we parted ways and happily went back to our dorms, apartments, and houses to shower and rest up after an adventure packed week in one of the calmest and most lively places I’ve ever been.