Australia Blog

Heron Island Water Do’s and Don’ts

By this point in the blog we’ve established several things. First, yes, it is hard for C of I (or Idaho for that matter) to beat a “winter experience” of being on a remote island in the Great Barrier Reef.  In fact, I’d take suffering through 30 minutes of lecture in an extremely air conditioned classroom on an island any day over a regular lecture at home (Note: Dr. Mark Gunderson’s lecture last longer than the scheduled 30 minute period so we’re not getting off that easily). 

Secondly, swimming and snorkeling are not entirely foolproof, despite their reputation as anyone-can-do-it sports.  In fact, there are many do’s and don’ts associated with water activity that you should be aware of for your next tropical vacation.

1. DO consider swimming with a member of the C of I swim team even if you’re a non-swimmer...as long as you can swim against a current and feel comfortable in ray/shark infested waters.  I don’t know if our lecture about dangerous animals in Australia is the reason, but I don't have enough faith in my abilities to out swim either a harmless shark or ray. Maybe the C of I swim team mentally prepares their swimmers for such arduous tasks...

2. DO remember that as long as you’re lathered in sunscreen 24/7, it is indeed possible to survive the tropical sun while in the water assuming the following minor details: avoid the sun between 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.; don’t assume overcast means no sunshine; accept that horrible tan lines occur in areas without sunscreen (ask Crissie about this one); and, finally, as a redhead, accept the daily challenge of finding someone to put sunscreen on you. 

3.  Masks. They’re great, but DON’T spit in someone else's mask to defog it. That’s gross.  Case and point: I accidentally grabbed Dr. Walser’s mask because it looked remarkably similar to my own and then proceeded to thoroughly defog prior to noticing it wasn’t mine.  Whoops.  Also, when you take a leap of faith about one foot above the water to enter coral mania, be aware that you don’t look graceful.  DON’T try to do fancy backward submersions or dives because you'll probably engulf some salt water.  Lastly, masks may also inhibit instead of promote underwater visibility.  Accidentally running into someone head on who is also looking straight down (aka “love taps”) is one way to learn to keep your bearings underwater. DO be vigilant.

4. As Kare and Betsy mentioned in their blogs, laughing/smiling/talking/recording data underwater adds a whole new challenge to life.  You should feel internally sorry for all the groups (but mine of course) who picked underwater research projects. Communicate underwater at your own risk.

5. The idea that all tropical waters are warm is an urban myth.  I can guarantee that everyone on our trip gets cold in the water after about 45 minutes.  I highly recommend a wetsuit or rashguard. Just DO it.  For those smarties who think peeing in the water can warm you up, think again.

6. DON’T be lame. If you are given the opportunity to snorkel/enter the water everyday, then take it. No matter how sleep deprived you are from journal entries, lectures and research, ask yourself, “Are you a true C of I student or not?”  If you answer yes, then you better be willing to rest when you’re dead. YOLO.

-Tanya Greewood

Junior Environmental Studies Major