Our First Dive!

Location:Turneffe Islands Atoll - Belize

Day 3
by Wayne & Karen Brown

Belize Aggressor III is anchored at the Turneffe Islands about 20 miles from Belize City. Turneffe Islands is not actually a barrier reef but an atoll. An atoll is a large, round coral reef. The atoll is a coral reef around an island that sunk thousands of years ago.

After putting on all our scuba equipment we walk down to the dive platform. We put our fins on at the edge of the platform and step into the water. Divemaster Juan hands us our cameras and underwater scooters, then we sink under the water. As we sink we grab the handles of our scooters and zoom down to the coral reefs below.

On our dives here we saw that the corals appear to be healthy, but most of them are not very large. We see small and large patches or clumps of corals growing on the reef. This atoll is probably a young reef. Corals grow very slowly and these corals probably have not had time to grow large as we have seen on the Australia Great Barrier Reef.

The corals’ growth is probably affected by other things, too. The visibility (how far we can see underwater) here is about 100 feet. The visibility on some healthy coral reefs can be over 200 feet! Corals need water that is clear and clean. The water appears to be free of sediment unlike the water we saw on last year's expedition in the Eastern Caribbean Sea (2001: A Sea Odyssey)

Fortunately we don't see a lot of algae covering the reef as we did off some islands on last year's expedition. There may not be as much agriculture here as on the islands we visited last year. When it rains the water can wash sediments and fertilizers from land out to the reefs and cause the algae to grow and smother the corals. Also helping keep the water that flows out to the reefs clean are large healthy mangrove forests along the edge of the shore in Belize. Mangroves will trap sediments and help filter the water that flows from the land into the sea. (We will try to visit the mangrove forests during our expedition.)

Another thing that may help keep the algae from covering the reefs is less fishing or not catching animals that eat algae. During our dive we saw many colorful fish. Many of the fish we saw eat algae. Large numbers of algae-eating fish help prevent too much algae to grow and cover the reefs.

Best fishes,.
Wayne & Karen Brown



Turneffe Islands Atoll, Belize

Position: 17º 09' N / 87º 55' W
Air Temp: 87ºF
Weather: light breeze, sunny with scattered clouds and calm seas.
Water Temp: 81ºF

Here we are ready to step into the water off the back of the Belize Aggressor III.

Here is the healthy coral reef we saw at the Turneffe Islands atoll.

This dusky damselfish is one of fish that eats algae. It guards a patch of algae on the reef. When any algae eating fish comes tries to eat the damselfish's algae the damselfish will chase it away.


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