Friday, August 31, 2018

NOW Friday, August 31

This is a NOW post but it is related to Hurricane Maria.

Over the last week we dove and snorkeled two sites that we haven't visited since Maria, Rompeolas and Steps Beach in Rincon.

Rompeolas is a site in Aguadilla, It is a shallow, easy-to-get-to dive with a nice reef at the south end and really interesting rocks and cracks to the north. Maria devastated the area, destroying an oceanside bar and damaging all of the houses along the beach. The beach itself, like so many, disappeared, stripped of nearly all the sand. The damage is clear even in this photo taken three months after the storm.

Because of the shoreline damage and given that Rompeolas is less than a mile from Natural and half-a-mile from Crashboat, I was really afraid of what we'd find underwater.

We've had a lot of rain in the last week, thanks to a lingering "tropical wave" so visibility wasn't the best. Still, I was pleasantly surprised at how much of the reef survived.

There are more corals, both soft and hard, and more sponges surviving here than at Natural. I can't explain it. Just one of Mother Nature's quirks.

We also snorkeled at Steps Beach (the surfers call it Tres Palmas) in Rincon. This is kind of a bellweather area for us. One of the best remaining stands of elkhorn coral is at Steps. Once ubiquitous in the Caribbean and Central America, now up to 95% of the elkhorn coral in the world is dead. So this place is important.

As we first swam out, I was saddened by the amount of broken coral near shore. But as we swam into deeper water, the huge slabs of healthy coral colonies began to appear.

Further out the sloping reef also appeared in good shape. The hard and soft corals, anenomes, and sponges all seemed healthy and none the worse for having survived a hurricane. In some ways this isn't surprising. Rincon faces west. Steps Beach is south of the point of Rincon that juts out into the sea. (The point of Rincon is the point where the Atlantic Ocean becomes the Caribbean Sea.) The heaviest ocean forces from Maria were from the north and Steps was pretty protected from that. It is still a delicate area with endangered corals. It was good to see how well it survived.

And to make the day complete, Stephanie (our friend and the new owner of Ola Lola's) swam with a turtle for the first time.

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