11.12.15 Day 5: {Insert Jaws Theme Song Here} – Hillary

blog54blog5 blog52 blog53Best. Day. Ever. But first, let me apologize for not posting last night. Yesterday was awesome (as usual) but last night I came down with a strange fever so I was out of commission. I was terrified that I was going to be too sick to continue with this mission, but I went to sleep early and woke up feeling like a brand new person. Thank goodness, because today was simply incredible. It started off the same way as all of the other days, we hopped on the boat and headed out to Aquarius. Since we haven’t seen any sharks, the science team decided to bait the reef today, so they put out a bunch of dead fish and lobster heads all around our site.

Martha and I had a virtual field trip set up with our school at 10:30 and we were super excited about it. We dived down into the habitat and called our school on Skype. It was so incredible to see familiar faces on the iPad screen. It almost felt like I was back at school, until I looked out of the window and saw fish. We gave our students a tour of the habitat and told them about the research we were conducting (even though we have gone over it with them a bunch of times at school). They got to see a goliath grouper sitting outside of the habitat and they were thrilled! When they started asking questions, that is when it hit me. This isn’t just an incredible experience for me. This is an incredible experience for every student at my school. They get to see that if you follow your passion in life, you will get to do amazing things. They get to see that if their teacher can go live under the water, then literally anything is possible. They get to see that one day, they too can live underwater, or be an astronaut, or really anything that their heart desires. I pray that this experience made a lasting impression on them, just as it is doing to me.

Once we finished Skyping with our school, we had two more schools to Skype with. The last school that we talked to got the field trip of a lifetime, because that is when we finally saw a……. SHARK!!! I spotted it swimming by one of the bait bags. It was the most beautiful site I have ever seen- a 6 foot long Caribbean reef shark. It swam around the habitat a bunch of times and the students got to see it, but I think Martha and I were even more excited than they were! They also got to see the goliath grouper and a green sea turtle that swam by the window! What a show! When we left the habitat to return to the surface, we unfortunately didn’t see the shark. On our afternoon dive, Martha and I helped the science team collect the cameras and tiles. It was a beautiful dive, we saw a green moray eel, a southern sting ray, a spotted eagle ray, and (my favorite) a hogfish with a lobster antennae poking out of its mouth! Priceless.

As I was lying in bed last night, shivering and miserable, I was thinking about what a fantastic experience this has been so far. I even thought that if I was too sick to go on, everything that I had done so far would have been more than enough. I remember going on my first trip to the Aquarius base on a field trip with my students a few years ago. I remember thinking how cool it would be to get to go down to the habitat, however I never truly thought that I would get to go inside once, let alone four times. I am pretty sure that I am the luckiest person in the world.

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