DUOY July 2007
Franklin Viola photos
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Photography and Observations
by Franklin J VIOLA
Have you ever wondered how a bunch of school teachers really behave on summer break? Yep, you guessed it. Stay up late playing board games, cackle so loud other “adults” get little sleep and consume anything chocolate. Then drag out of bed with uncombed mop-tops and wondering why the floor is moving.
Welcome to the 13th annual Down Under Out Yonder (DUOY) Advanced Educators Cruise 2007, sponsored by the Gulf of Mexico Foundation (GMF) www.gulfmex.org through funds provided by ConocoPhillips, in partnership with the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.
After taking copious notes (yeah right) during two days of classroom on the beach (FGBNMS Galveston offices), sixteen select teachers ranging from kindergarten masters to college professors don mask, fins, neoprene rubber and SCUBA tanks to get up personal with coral and fish. Departure for this mid-summer “hooky” is midnight from Freeport, TX aboard the live-aboard dive boat, M/V Fling www.gulf-diving.com. Six hours (120 miles due south) later begins three days of diving (3 daytime & 1 night dive) at the Flower Garden Banks NMS. Distinguished as the northernmost coral reef in the continental USA, the Sanctuary is made of an East and West Bank. Two huge coral and sponge covered sea mounts rise up … instead of me regurgitating facts, you can read more at http://flowergarden.noaa.gov or on the GMF's DUOY webpage.
DUOY is a boat load of highly professional educators from Texas to New Jersey and Florida to California experiencing firsthand underwater science, fish counts with ID charts, benthic surveys along coral taped guideline, swimming with loggerhead sea turtles inside the marine encrusted steel forest of an oil/gas platform, finding unique nocturnal creatures at night, learning how to blow air-rings while off-gassing on mooring lines, listening to lectures between dives by marine experts whose names end in PhD, and of course, overdosing on enough Texas BBQ, Cajun gumbo and Blue Bell ice cream to qualify as A.D.D.
So what’s the mission of DUOY, the brainchild of FGBNMS Education Coordinator, Shelley DuPuy? Sending ambassadors slathered in sunscreen and intoxicated with nitrogen back into their classrooms to excite kids about our planet’s sub-aquatic realm. Can that be right? Invest corporate petroleum money on dedicated public servants to encourage the mother ship’s next generation of caretakers to explore real-estate swamped by water. To go on safari undersea with Golden Smooth Trunkfish (species color endemic to Flower Garden Banks NMS) or learn how corals reproduce or swim with stingrays or observe a tiny juvenile French Angelfish (distance of two feet) “clean” an adult Blue Angelfish. Wow, what a concept! Hey, you want to share that last brownie?