Saturday, July 23, 2011

Harbor Discovery

This was my first time to Boston but today's not my first time to the Boston Harbor. A week before the class began, I was at the Harbor, waiting to board the MBTA ferry to Charlestown Navy Yard for some Harborfest event. I remember I was happily licking my ice cream while waiting for the ferry to arrive. When it came, I got on the boat, found a shady spot to sit down, arrived at my destination and that's it. I didn't know all this time I was surrounded by so many species of marine life until this morning's excursion at the Harbor. What a discovery! And enlightenment...

Before we started our walk, Prof Berman tested us about our general knowledge of the factors that determine the type of species we will find. This is because different habitats breed different marine animals and plants. Some of the factors discussed include water temperature, tides, amount of sunlight, currents and weather. Then we were asked what you would call a mixture of fresh and sea waters. Some students could utter "brackish water". I have never seen this word before. Now I know...

Prof Berman said that low tide should be in at about 11.30am. We started our excursion at 8.30am by the Long Wharf dock when it was half tide. We saw green seaweeds growing on rocks and sandbed, white specks of barnacles (our group identified it as striped barnacles from the field guide), blue mussels and algae. We also saw more algae sticking onto the bottom of the barge. It is a different kind of habitat for the algae from the first. I noticed that the algae at the barge are greener than those that I saw earlier at the dock. Perhaps being in the water constantly provides the necessary nutrients for them to live better.

We moved to the area behind the Aquarium where there is not much crowd and activity. No algae and seaweeds were spotted. Prof Berman suggested that the conditions here are not that favorable for these species to grow as compared to the habitat at Long Wharf. Here, you get less sunlight, greater impact from the waves and it is about 600ft away from the Harbor ocean. However, other species thrive on such conditions. For example, we get more barnacles, and fish because a cormorant was spotted. Prof Berman said that the presence of this bird is a good indicator for fishing because the bird goes where the fish is. Another new knowledge and new word went into my head.

At 9.50am, we were at the Courthouse Dock. The tide was lower and we saw another type of seaweed that is more leafy and there are more striped barnacles.
Finally, we arrived at the final stop behind Barking Crab. The macho guys in my group put their strong hands into the water and grabbed some unidentifiable species. But later from the field guide, we could sift out some suspects, which include long-horn skeleton shrimps, golden star tunicate and sea lettuce.

From this trip, I was truly amazed by how much marine life we could find in the city. It was a feast for the eyes. Next time when I go to a harbor, I will not just keep my eyes on the food.

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