Helping to Sustain a Way of Life in the Bahamas

Memories of counting conchs…and living rocks?

By admin | 19 September 2011 | No Comments
Published in Exuma Cays Expedition 2011, Uncategorized

After a little more time for reflection (and a vacation), we’re posting again! One of our volunteers at Lee Stocking Island, Jamie, was particularly intrigued by the stromatolites found just offshore, so she wrote a little about her experience encountering these ancient life forms while looking for conchs. She also shares a few jokes….here’s her post.

I am writing this blog at the airport leaving the Bahamas, reflecting on my two weeks time spent on Lee Stocking Island at the Perry Institute of Marine Science. For two days I would dive counting queen conch along transects and then tow for a day on sound side of the island. My most memorable tow was through Adderly Cut. I saw an old anchor that was about five feet in length in 20 to 30 feet of water, followed by a sea turtle. To make the tow even better, I was pulled over large formations projecting from the sand, called stromatolites. I would not have known exactly what they were had it not been for a shirt Karl was wearing a day earlier. The shirt featured a picture of these geological formations with a diver entitled “Stromatolite Hunter.”

Karl's retro stromatolite hunter t-shirt from his good old days at LSI.

Stromatolites are such an amazing thing to see because they are the oldest living things on Earth, dating back to over three billion years ago. Made from blue-green algae called cyanobacteria, they produced the oxygen we breathe today. Living forms are extremely rare to find, only found in two regions of the world. On my last day in the Bahamas we went back to the location, so everyone could experience the wonder of stromatolites. Some of us dove the site, while others snorkeled and free dove. I am proud to say that I have seen the oldest living things on Earth. To some they may look like boring, old rocks, but to me they have much more meaning than that. They made homes to many species of fish, including blueheads, redtail parrotfish, bar jacks, and many more. Catherine was lucky enough to photograph a nurse shark roaming about the stromatolites and even some sub-adult queen conch.

Adric explores the stromatolites. photo by C. Booker


A nurse shark cruises through the stromatolites. photo by C. Booker

Overall it was a great experience, I just wish I could have been there on the first dive when a hammerhead shark was spotted in 70 feet of water! I would like to thank everyone at Community Conch for this opportunity and wish them the best of luck. I would like to conclude this post with some queen conch jokes we came up with on our down time (just a warning that I am no comedian):

What do you call a young queen conch that spends a lot of money at the casino?

A high roller

What do you call a grouping of conch?

A conchregation

What dance to conch love to dance?

The samba

– Jamie

Jamie finds a little time to laugh at her own jokes after a tow.

* It was a big deal when stromatolites were discovered around LSI because back then, they were only known to exist in Shark Bay Australia. Today, Dr. Pamela Reid, a scientist at the University of Miami continues to study the stromatolites of the Exumas. If you’re interested in learning more, check out her website!


conch on shore

The harvest of juveniles that have not had a chance to reproduce is a threat to the conch fishery.