Wittenberg's Bahamas field study program provides a one-of-a-kind learning experience for students. This blog chronicles their day-to-day activities in their own words.

Another Island, Another Adventure

June 6th, 2012

The group preparing to head off for Man Head Cay

The group began their day by mentally preparing themselves for the swim from Rice Bay to Man Head Cay. Having been to Rice Bay before, this was familiar territory. Swimming all the way to a nearby cay, however, was something else. On the way, we saw a “Great” great barracuda and a large sand tilefish (seen only by our very own Nicki Perry). After our landing, we prepared for our ascent up the side of the cay. On the top, we saw breath-taking views of San Salvador Island, including the Dixon Hill Lighthouse which we visited only a few days ago.

The twins, once again in solitude, watching the birds

In addition to the large amount of plants on Man Head Cay, we also had the unique experience to observe the rare species of iguana native to San Salvador. Males were easily spotted since their red backs stood out against the grey rocks while they sun bathed. Females and their young were less easily spotted because of their more camouflaged appearance. While walking towards the end of the Cay, many students were surprised by a number of bridled terns angrily defending their roosts. Students were within feet of the birds and were able to observe various behaviors. While using the binoculars, a small group of students witnessed a battle between two birds over food.

The San Salvador rock iguana

The group ended their day with a quick climb down the cay and another long swim back to Rice Bay. Later in the afternoon students split up into their research groups to continue their projects on Sand dollar Reef or Bonefish Bay. Gordon was pleased to not have any more battle wounds from his enemy, the fire coral, although there was another close call. Some students were treated to a sighting of a sea turtle, while others had the amusement of watching a Black Durgeon swim sideways in shallow water. Around four o’clock, a tired group of students trekked back into the dorms for a cold shower and dinner.

Students spent the evening watching Blue Planet: Coral Seas, an excellent break from the past few days. Tomorrow we have a test, so many of us will spend the night studying and dreaming of the birds we learned about recently. Parents and friends, send us your luck, we are all hoping for A’s tomorrow!

by Andrea Rodriguez ’15 and Gordon Li ‘14

Old Reefs and New Discoveries

June 5th, 2012

Today’s blog is presented to you by Kayla and Sean!  The start of today was very different from any other day that we have spent here on the island. Rather than ogling at all of the beautiful living creatures of San Sal, we were all in awe of the dead fossilized reef of Cockburn Town from thousands of years ago.   The reef, which was initially underwater, was brought to the surface when the sea level lowered, drying and leaving the organisms that once frequented the reef fossilized for the rest of time.

The remains of what once was a massive brain coral

As we were exploring the ancient reef, we were amazed to find various shells and imprints of organisms cemented into the hard rock.  It was such a remarkable experience to observe the remains of organisms that we have been studying the living form of over the past week.

While all the students were having a wonderful time exploring, Dr. Phillips, being the Debby Downer that he is, announced that we would now be having a “pop field quiz” on the various snails that we had observed the day before.  While waiting in line to be quizzed by KR, students frantically picked up several organisms from the site and quizzed each other on what they were. Many students did very well, but the experience taught us all to stay on our toes when it comes to keeping up to date on field experiences.

Sara showing KR her vast knowledge of nerites and periwinkles

Due to us all acing the pop quiz, obviously, we were rewarded with a trip to town and a visit to the “straw basket lady.”  While in town, students bought several snacks, souvenirs, and even some gifts for all you people back home.

After lunch, all of the research groups headed out to their respective sites to continue work on their research projects.  The data collected for the day provided much headway for our projects and is sure to leave us with much to analyze.

Students browsing through the amazing creations of Mary at the straw market

We finished off the day with a lecture from Dr. Phillips on the native birds of San Salvador.  It was refreshing to learn about an organism that lived outside of the ocean.  Overall, the day showed us that San Salvador has many beautiful and extraordinary things to offer, both in and out of the water.

by Kayla Ward ’15 and Sean O’Regan ‘15

Sky High and Rock Bottom

June 4th, 2012

Today’s blog is brought to you by Jon and Alex! To start off the morning, all of the research groups set out to start their projects in various locations around San Sal. Everyone was ecstatic to finally put their plans into action. Well that is until Gracie, Matt, and Andrea came face to face with a barracuda at Bonefish Bay. No worries, projects were carried on!

A view like this made all the anxiety of climbing to the top worth it. Students were in awe to witness the beauty of the island from afar

After our morning full of research and a yummy lunch, we all set out for Dixon Hill Lighthouse and its cave. After a good five minute walk up hill, we all got to relax in the refreshing breeze and the shade of the lighthouse. Believe it or not, the walk was quite tiring, and the break was much appreciated. Then students lined up as JW started taking us up the light house. We were pleasantly surprised when we looked through the log-in book and found the names of the Wittenberg group that visited here two years ago. A lot of students, and Dr. Phillips, conquered their fear of heights as they climbed clear to the top of the lighthouse! I think everyone was pleased with the gorgeous view the top of the lighthouse gave us. Which included the sight of the path that led to the cave we were about to explore.

Don’t worry, he doesn’t bite, but that didn’t stop students from sprinting by as fast as the path let us!

We ventured through a slightly overgrown path that led us about ten minutes downhill and to the mouth of the cave. Along the way we encountered some thorny bushes, and some BIG, yellow webs. Unfortunately for quite a few of the students, those webs were accompanied by Banana Spiders. For most of us, it was probably the biggest spider we have ever seen at a good five inches long. Another fear was conquered as Adrianna trudged through the path passing three of these fearsome spiders that were “horrifyingly as big as her head.” Just a few more “dude points,” to add to the list!

Then we began our descent down the ladder into the abyss of the dark cave. Yet again, more fears presented themselves as the students became submerged under the earth. It didn’t take very long for Sara to feel like she was in the “underworld.” Once again, dude points were earned as she made her way to the back of the cave with the rest of the students. We reached a point where we were all able to turn off our flashlights and experience complete darkness. After that, JW set us loose to explore and meet back at the entrance of the cave for a group picture. That’s when I, Alex, conquered my own fear of crawling through the tight spaces the cave offered. The professors were immensely impressed with all the dude points that were earned today, and I’m sure the students were too!

Spelunkers we are today! Slippery rocks, chest high waters, and complete darkness couldn’t keep us from the amazing experience the cave had to offer.

by Alex Crawford ’15 and Jon Flores ’15


Sunday Funday

June 3rd, 2012

Hands-on learning with the transects

For all of our friends, family and blog stalkers out there, we apologize for not being able to post pictures and the text every night – the internet here is not quite what it is back at home! But we are doing our best to keep you updated.

We began our day today similar to yesterday with discussion on research projects. They are forming nicely and we will begin the real work on them tomorrow morning. In the afternoon, we set out for a very adventurous hike to the end of North Point to practice counting organisms on a transect line. Many of us were pushed past our comfort zones by having to scale down a very steep rocky edge! After many ups and downs we made it to our destination safely, a little island just past North Point called Cut Cay. We set up three transect lines starting near the water’s edge and going vertically up the rock. Students used a cubic meter quadrat to mark an area of rock and count all the organisms that inhabited the space all the way up the line.  This meant hundreds of snails, sometimes very small and hiding in cervices. Ed tried kissing a hermit crab, but unfortunately for him it did not turn into a princess!

It's not as scary as it looks! Well, for most of us...

After our work was complete, it was time to head back to the truck as we were all tired and hungry. The only problem was that the tide was rising while we were working, and the water that was once at our ankles was now at our waist! This resulted in very wet clothes, but a nice cool down for us. Today was a very strenuous and interesting day, but in the end, we all were happy we went on the “hike” to Cut Cay and to experience new terrestrial challenges.


Gracie Winzeler ’13 and Michelle Brumm ‘15

Representing Witt at the top of Cut Cay!