Thursday, January 08, 2009

Home Alone in Antigua

[Maryanne]I've been "home alone" now since before Christmas and although very much missing Kyle, I am relaxed and comfortable with my pace of life (It is so slow it would be hard NOT to be relaxed). Each day I do some minor chore, either grocery shopping, some boat maintenance or improvement, or simple housework; but mostly I relax, read, maybe swim, and soak up the atmosphere. The views from the boat are wonderful and the weather great... I know, tough life eh?


Views From Footprint as I sit writing this blog - How could I not be relaxed?


For several days over the new year, the nearby island Montserrat was venting gas and ash (as it often does), along with fresh lava extrusion and pyroclastic flows. The atmospheric and wind conditions were such that it dumped plenty of ash on us here in Antigua. I was cleaning off the solar panel several times a day, and it made me reflect on the life of those in Montserrat who must deal with this daily (not to mention the devastating eruption of 1995 where they lost half the island and much of the population were forced to flee). The volcano there had been previously dormant, and there are now regular eruptions, and another big one expected as Soufriere's dome continues to bulge ominously. Luckily they have a good observatory monitoring things to give advance notification for any future "big" explosion http://www.mvo.ms/.

The ash fall here in Antigua has stopped (no doubt it is falling elsewhere), I finally scrubbed down the decks (with seawater), and then yesterday relaxed with a swim/snorkel over to the Pillars of Hercules (a geological feature of eroded sandstone cliffs on east side of the Entrance to English Harbour - and if you hadn't guessed, looking like huge stone pillars). This can be seen best from the sea, and is a common to see the local dive boats and snorkel tours drop off tourists here. It's amazing how much clearer the water becomes as you head off out the bay. Underwater, off the pillars, there are HUGE chunks of rock presumably fallen from the sandstone cliffs above ages ago variously worn with the action of the waves (there is a 300+ year old huge ancient anchor on top of it all, so much of the rock fall must be older), many of the underwater rocks look like cow pats as the layers of sandstone have worn away at different degrees, more at the top. The fish are huge and plentiful, and local fishermen are regularly seen fishing with nets.

Footprint is on the Northern end of Freeman's bay, so I snorkeled in shore and along the coast line - I was AMAZED to find a huge, black, long-spined sea urchin by small rocks very close to the beach - a warning not to be walking in waist deep water around that area.. Yikes. On the way back from the pillars I cut across the bay directly back to Footprint, but kept a good eye out for speeding motor dinghies. On both to and from the Pillars, there were often sudden water temperature changes which I would normally associate with a stream, but I couldn't find the cause.
Pillars of Hercules

I also saw plenty of beautiful worms.. At least I think this is what they are - I don't have a sea shore guide for this area, so I can only compare with British, N. American, and my memory of the Red Sea species (It looks like a Peacock worm or a Feather Duster Worm). Worms generally need a soft sediment to live in, but some can make a safe home on solid rock. Unless you had studied seawater species you would not guess that these were worms at all. The main body of sea worms often lives below the surface or in a protective sheath, while it catches its food with a vast net/fan of fine tentacles, as the water flows by. The tentacles look beautiful, like a flower, and can quickly be pulled back in to its straw tube like sheath. The Sheath is built by the worm, either from protein deposits (like our fingernails) or with scraps of mud, sand or shell; those worms without such a sheath simply have their body buried in the sand/silt/mud. In this area the fans of the worm were much larger than I have seen elsewhere (at least a foot across). I didn't think of it until later, but it is possible they are some kind of feather star (from the starfish family), although I've never seen one with so dense a set of tentacles! I wish I had taken a better look - I have seen NO starfish of any kind and have commented several times how unusual I found this on our previous snorkeling trips. I'm definitely sticking (for now) with the identification of a worm, but I'll take a better look if I get that far out again. The easiest identification will be if they retract when I get close.

The water (in the bay) is terribly clouded this last few days, and you can focus on the planktonic life just drifting by your eyes (well, goggles) as you swim - and all that life will explain how come I needed to clean off the dinghy YET AGAIN of a forest of bottom growth.

No matter how relaxed I am, I'm looking forward to having Kyle home on Sunday (even though it is barely for one full day and 2 half days), and I've planned an extensive tour of the island together to ensure we don't miss anything that Antigua has to offer.

1 comment:

Karen said...

Ahhh.... now THAT sounds more like paradise, in spite of those "burdensome" chores you have to do. ;-) What a beautiful way to start the new year! From your pictures and descriptions, this anchorage seems so much more idyllic than your last one on the island.

The worms you described sound exactly like the feather dusters and tube worms I've seen in the Fl. Keys. Maybe you can bring your camera along on your next swim for some underwater pictures.

Looking forward to the stories about your tours of Antigua. Take care and happy sails!