Zimmerman ’14 on a Deep Dive Off Coast

Wes Zimmerman ‘14 – Today marked the second full day that we Wabash men spent on the beautiful island of South Water Caye, Belize. Our day began pretty similarly to that of yesterday – with a morning snorkel. However, this time was a much different excursion than yesterday’s. Previously, we only snorkeled off the shore of our island in a lagoon area, a turtle grass area, and a small patch reef no more than 200 meters off the beach.

Today we adventured a couple of miles off shore to a different patch reef via boat and our guide Ishmael. It was quite intimidating jumping into the water that far off shore; none of us knew whether to expect great ocean depths or something less drastic. It turned out that the area remained a pretty consistent 10-12 feet in depth and was not much different than the previous patch reef we explored. The view within the crystal clear waters of Belize was spectacular. The patch reef was teeming with life and beautifully colored scenery. The coral reef in the area was brilliantly colored as shades of orange, yellow, purple, brown, red and many others were frequently displayed in the area. Beyond the scenery, we were able to witness many of the same organisms we had spent the last six weeks discussing in class. We were able to identify various types of sea anemone, feather duster worms, lobsters, flamingo tongue (snails), and many other organisms.

Following lunch, our group ventured off to the north side of the island to an intertidal zone. This was a rocky area that experienced severe climate change throughout the day due to changing tides. We arrived in the area during a high tide and were able to witness many different organisms that can handle such a harsh environment. The organisms included many types of snail, sea urchin, sea hare, spaghetti worms, hydroids, and even a few crabs. Following our brief introduction to the area (we will be returning here tomorrow during low tide) we helped clean up the island a bit by picking up garbage that littered the coastline.

Finally, at night we embarked on a night snorkeling adventure. This began as a truly eerie experience that developed into the highlight of the trip to this point. Using our standard snorkeling gear (flippers, snorkels, and goggles) along with a simple flashlight we took off to snorkel the lagoon off the south side of the island. It was a breathtaking experience to say the least. We witnessed several different types of organisms at night like a box jellyfish and a moray eel. The moray eel was a beautiful bright green and was a truly astonishing organism to see in person.

So far the trip has been an experience of a lifetime and I am truly thankful to be a part of it. I would like to thank both Wabash College and Dr. Eric Wetzel for the opportunity to experience such an amazing trip and to develop new friendships and lifelong memories.