You might remember Bew from our first issue where we wrote about the expedition team’s birthday surprise for her onboard. Bew, who is part of the coral team, is a UP Los Baños alumna and is among those with the highest general weighted average among Master of Science in Environmental Science graduates. Let’s take a look at Bew’s usual routine during the expedition!
The Panaon Island Expedition has been my most anticipated fieldwork for this year - mainly because it is my first time to go on a three-week fieldwork which mainly involves scuba diving and coral reef surveys. For the whole trip, we have accomplished 34 dives in a span of twelve diving days! That is approximately three dives per day!
For the twelve diving days of the expedition, this has been my daily routine:
- 5:30 am: Rise and shine! After freshening up a bit, I usually head up to the dining area and observe the initial conditions of the site, particularly the weather and waves – wishfully thinking that the waters will be calm and that the currents will spare us for the day!
- 6:00 am: Time for the first breakfast! All members of the diving team are already up by this hour and are already starting to eat a light breakfast.
- 6:30 am: By this time, everyone is already getting busy at the deck to prepare for the first dive. After donning my survey attire, my co-research assistant and I then head to the salon to prepare the cameras that our team will use for the survey. To ensure that the cameras will not leak (i.e., will not flood) during the dive, the cameras that are enclosed in the underwater housing will be submerged in freshwater. I’ll watch out for any steady stream of bubbles coming from the camera, which indicate possible leaks that will damage the camera and the housing. If there are none, then the camera’s good to go for the dives!
- 7:00 am: Around this time, the survey team is already en route to the dive site via chase boats (while observing proper distancing, of course). I usually start mounting the camera that I will be using to the monopod during transit.
- 7:15 to 9:00 am: Survey time! As a member of the coral team, I am tasked to take photographs of the substrate on each meter of the four fifty-meter transects. Time runs fast underwater. I am usually surprised that by the end of the fourth transect, my underwater time is already an hour! If time permits, I also take shots of the reefscape and coral colonies after taking photos of the transects.
- 9:00 to 10:30 am: Time for a heavy breakfast after the first time! As Ms. Yvette said, the breakfast after the first dive is the best meal of the day. The survey team eats the second round of breakfast at this hour, while also passing the surface interval period. The team usually meets at the deck at 10:15 am to prepare for the second dive of the day.
- 10:30 am: Second dive of the day! We are halfway through the dives for the day after this!
- 12 noon to 2 pm: After the second dive, the team heads back to the ship to eat lunch. Everyone also takes this time to rest (i.e., take power naps!). Signal reception permitting, I try to catch up with my family and friends while resting. By 2 pm, everyone is already busy gearing up for the last dive of the day.
- 2:15 pm: Third and last dive of the day! After taking photos of the transects during this dive, I usually have more time to take shots of the reef and other subjects as I do not have to worry about the battery of the camera draining for another dive.
- 4:00 pm: The diving teams are already back at the ship by this hour and while having snacks, everyone is already sharing stories about the things that they saw during the dives (e.g., new sightings of fish, stressors seen in the reef, observations on the deeper reefs, etc.). I listen eagerly to the stories of my fellow divers as to what they saw during the surveys because I am always looking downward while diving, focused on taking photographs of the substrate. I often miss out on interesting stuff like turtles or barracudas because of this.
- 6:00 pm: After freshening up and resting, I go to the saloon to charge the batteries of the cameras that we will be using for the next day. I also start to save and backup the photos that we have taken during the three dives. We also try to prepare the cameras for the next day’s dive during this period so we don’t have to worry about it in the morning, but we often do this after dinner.
- 6:30 pm: Dinner time (AKA the fifth meal of the day) I personally look forward to the dessert being served during this meal
- 7:30 to 9 pm: By this time, the photos taken during the dives are already backed up on the hard drives, and the batteries of the cameras are already fully charged. Kent and I will start to prepare the cameras to be used for the next diving day by setting up each camera on their respective underwater housing. We are keen on setting up the camera, particularly on cleaning the corners of the underwater housing, to make sure that no lint, dusts, and fabric are trapped on the o-ring of the housing. This is to ensure that the cameras will not flood during the dives. After setting up the camera, Sir Vic and I will proceed to encode the notes taken during the dives. The science team also takes this time to discuss observations during the previous dives, as well as to plan the strategy on the succeeding dives.
- 9 to 10 pm: After making sure that the cameras are ready for the next day and that the photos are already saved (with backups), I usually unwind by either watching a movie, an episode of a series on Netflix, or play games on my Nintendo Switch as I wait for 10 pm to drink my meds. After drinking my meds, I then prepare to go to sleep. I try to get at least 6 hours of sleep so that I’ll be energized for the next day!