not going to the sea aquarium
Tuesday, December 24 2013
location: Room 208, Royal Sea Aquarium Resort, Curaçao
In the mornings, Gretchen and I take a light breakfast with her parents out on the larger of our suite's two balconies. I make a pot of coffee and we eat things like toast or cereal. Meanwhile various forms of wildlife make appearances. There are small warbler-like birds called Bananaquits that are building nests above the balcony's light fixtures usings bits of stringy material from a nearby palm tree. The nest is evidently unstable, since bits of this material is slowly raining down onto our dinner table underneath it, occasionally ending up in our food and drinks. There is also a species of pigeon (Patagioenas corensis) with a comical black circle around each eye, looking as if it had been drawn there by a cartoonist. Both birds are relatively tame and show little concern about our antics nearby. The tiny lizards that occasionally appear on the wall are much more skittish.
This morning, everyone in our party except Gretchen and me went off to the Royal Sea Aquarium to see the incarcerated wildlife do tricks and simulate love for humans. Gretchen finds such displays degrading for the animals involved and it depresses her. I used to go to zoos and things of that sort, but Gretchen has heightened my awareness of these issues and I don't find much entertainment in captive animals either these days.
So while the others marveled at (and were photographed with) trick dolphins and cooperative sealions, we stayed at the resort, reading in the shade on the beach overlooking the canal or snorkeling the nearby waters. In the morning, I snorkeled east on the canal as far as the bridge whose metal grating imprisons the sealions, and along the way I saw dozens of small silvery cornetfish concealing themselves by lying horizontally just beneath the surface of the water. Occasionally I passed through vast schools of tiny silvery sardine-like fish. Their internal anatomy could be clearly examined without any special technology.
Later I swam across the channel over to the seawall protecting the beach to the northwest of the resort and snorkeled along its ocean side. The waves were a little rough, but not enough to frighten or injure me. Looking down from the surface, I could see numerous species of colorful fish nibbling at whatever was tasty on the rocks. A little further to the northwest (12.085595N, 68.899319W), there was a pocket among the rocks that was covered with big black sea urchins, a species with menacingly-narrow six-inch-long spines. I would not want to step on one of those with my bare feet. (Later I would learn that this is a species that had been severely affected by some sort of disease, and their absence resulted in an ecological disaster as the algæ they ate spread unchecked and choked off the coral, causing reef ecosystems throughout the Caribbean to collapse.)
At some point in my snorkeling, I looked up out of the water and saw that I'd somehow made it through the seawall into the protected waters nearer to the beach. There were voids in the seawall, and it was easy to swim through them without knowing. It's also easy to swim back to the ocean side this way, something that a number of large fish seemed to be doing recreationally. They would hang out at the entrance to a void and wait for a wave to rocket them through. I did the same, and, while perhaps not as exciting as something one might experience in a water park, it was more visually spectacular. One of the things that makes snorkeling such an adventure is that it has a lot in common with flying, though it's on an alien planet with a thick atmosphere and strange colorful organisms, all of which (including your hands) look bigger than they actually are.
During the course of all this flying and snorkeling, something stung me on the inside of my arm. A burning rash of bumps eventually developed, and over time these turned red. I couldn't say for sure what had happened, but gradually I came to the conclusion that I'd been stung by a jellyfish. At some point today my nephew Mikah also claimed to have been "bitten" by something on his leg, though in his case no rash developed.
I should mention that the "canal" adjacent to our resort's beach gets a fair amount of boat traffic, most of which carries scuba divers to and from their diving places (though some boats seem to come and go for no reason whatsoever). The boats must travel slowly in the canal and don't make much noise there. But this evening there was enough traffic to cause me some irritation, since it's possible for a boat to appear out of nowhere while I'm trying to swim across the canal. The boats all have lookouts on the front to pay attention to obstructions such as weak-swimming snorkelers such as me, but their attitude generally seems a bit booze-cruisy and I wouldn't be surprised if collisions happened with some regularity.
In the mid afternoon as the sun disappeared from the beach, we went over to the pool area to alternately soak in the hot tub and pools. The furniture near the pools are too low to provide a view of the ocean, but that could be fixed if only a stone wall would be replaced with one made of steel rails.
This evening Gretchen made pasta with red sauce, which proved a little too flavorful for the kids. Left to choose their own dinner from the options available, they would have selected Oreo cookies.
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