( I have no idea if this image is going to show up or not - wish me luck)
Each day is a gift and not a given right.
Music, food, studies, and boy the stories I have to tell. A few days ago Dr. Qiu asked if I would like to join some of his ‘elite’ undergraduate students to take a boat trip out for the annual Reef Check. Of course I took this opportunity to not only learn some more about the reefs of Hong Kong but also to see some more of the beauty that this region has to offer away from the big city. The group took out a two story boat (the boat was owned by a friend of Dr. Qiu), it was equipped with two flat screens, beds, three wet decks, two dry decks, a kitchen, fridge, freezer, tables, chairs, and a grill for the Chinese version of BBQ. We snorkeled while the professor’s and some of the local experts did dives into the reef to count fish population and check coral, both hard and soft. Then we were able to sit in the “dry deck” with booths and beautiful hardwood floors and a pull out movie screen. The man whose boat we were on was also a expert diver and professional photographer. He talked about the reefs while showing a slide show of his images from the past few years. If you think that the images you see in National Geographic or Discovery Channel are amazing, you have not seen this mans work yet. His photographs are purely for educational purposes but he takes some phenomenal photos. I’m in the process of trying to get his e-mail to see if he would allow me to have some. Even though the whole speech was in Cantonese I still understood just from the reaction of the crowd and the pictures that he took. In just two short years we were able to see the extreme visual changes that took place at just one small location of reef. At first there were just rocks with very small coral formations and no fish species. The next year the coral had almost doubled in size with fish, and that third year the coral was flourishing with several fish in comparison to the first years photographs. He also showed images of several plastic bottles resting on the ocean floor and fishermans nets with more than just turtles caught in them. I’m not sure that anybody or anything could get out of one of those nets. Very sad. But that is what the Reef Check is for, not only to check on the status of the local species of corals and fish, but to educate the youth about what is happening and what will happen if the steady increase in anthropogenic causes continues to rise. After letting anchor down the professors started up the grill and brought out a big pan of rice mixed with pork bones & some seasonings. They cooked ‘hotdogs’ , ‘chicken wings’, and flat sausage on the grills & had some lettuce. So their version of bbq, and it was very good. Actually sitting in the middle of this beautiful little bay area on a very nice boat eating chicken wings and rice after a day of swimming/snorkeling was the most relaxed I have been in a long time. The rock of a boat puts me to sleep instantly, it always has. Very relaxing. Anyways, after we ate we took a dingy to the shore and were able to walk around one of the very secluded beaches on that side of the island. I believe we were close to the New Territories, but don’t take my word for it. We walked across a rock path to one of the several Geo Parks in Hong Kong. That path wouldn’t be there under any other circumstance besides low tide. High tide is about 1.4 meters in that particular area so it covers the path to the Geo Park making it a tombolo.
Yesterday I tried a snack from Macau, I cannot remember what it is called but it was the most conflicting taste that I’ve ever experienced. It was equivalent to a sugar cookie on the outside with dried fibrous pork chunks on the inside. Because I love food and cannot resist to at least try things, I ate one. It was, like I said, a conflicting taste! Also, walking the streets of Mong Kok last night I ran into street performers. One man was shirtless and very sweaty so of course I went to see what was going on. Well he was actually in a state of deep concentration and ‘jumping’ landing with his back on shattered glass. I asked a local and I guess because the glass does not hurt him he is at a state of peace. This is supposed to be very beneficial. He was bleeding and had chunks of glass sticking out of his back but I guess it was not hurting him. Then were was another performer, he was an elder, wearing a white tank top fit for a 5 year old girl, bright pink fiesta style pants and singing karaoke in the streets. I fell in love. Needless to say, I stayed for a song. Amazing.
I helped one of my lab mates finish up some transects for a future project. Basically we cut 3 x 0.05 mm^2 300/300v PVC cable and marked it into sections by meters (1-30) with red tags, and in between each meter 50 cm with blue tags. This would basically constitute an underwater marker/measuring tape for a year long project. The idea is to nail the pvc into the sea floor and form a perimeter around the research area and every time a dive takes place the transects will serve as a marker & a measuring tape to see what and if any movement or activity has taken place. I also was able to observe as one of the students used the SEM or scanning electron microscope. This microscope is actually a really interesting machine. It uses electrons instead of light to form it’s images. It has a lot of advantages over a regular microscope, some including a larger depth of field allowing for more of a specimen to be in focus at one time. It has a much higher resolution so that closely spaced specimens can be magnified at much higher levels and also because electromagnets are used instead of lenses so we have the ability to better control the degree of magnification. And of course, the images are strikingly clear. You have to prepare samples completely differently than you would a regular microscope which is interesting in itself, you have to use something called a “sputter coater”. I won’t get into the whole process but basically it places a very thin layer of gold over a originally non-conductive sample making it conductive, because the SEM requires samples to be conductive. Anyways, hopefully I will get to use the SEM once or twice before the end of my stay!