Arrival at Havana

The RV Walton Smith arriving in the port of Havana, 8 a.m., May 16, 2017

The R/V Walton Smith arriving in the port of Havana, 8 a.m., May 16, 2017. Image courtesy of Centro Nacional de Áreas Protegidas, Cuba’s Twilight Zone Reefs and Their Regional Connectivity. Download high resolution image (jpg, 343 KB)

May 17, 2017

John Reed
Research Professor & Chief Scientist
Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University

While in port, some of the crew visited Old Town to see the sights. Old Havana resembles Cadiz and Tenerife in Spain.

While in port, some of the crew visited Old Town to see the sights. Old Havana resembles Cadiz and Tenerife in Spain. Click image for larger view and image credit.

At 4 a.m., May 16, and 30 hours after casting off Miami, I awake as I hear the engines slow. I look out my cabin port hole to see a glimmering sea in the moonlight and in the distance, the high rises of Havana. At this distance it looks not much different than Miami. Farther down the coast is mostly dark coastline.

At 8:00 a.m., the pilot guides us into the port of Havana. Old sights that I first saw in 1967 greet me; the Castillo de Morro at the entrance of the Port and Old Town to the right. This visit is on a lighter note; the first time was on a highjacked airplane as I flew from Ohio on Christmas break back to Miami where I was going to school.

Today, I was to meet the officials we had been dealing with. Later in the day, our Cuban colleagues, and soon to be good friends who are sailing with us on Leg 1, came on board.

After clearing customs, immigration, and health, some of the crew took a water taxi from the ship into Old Town to see the sights.

Havana is also a great place to see vintage American cars.

Havana is also a great place to see vintage American cars. Click image for larger view and image credit.

After our greetings and safety briefing by the captain, we reviewed our science plans and proposed dive sites. This was the first time we had a chance to really look at the charts together and select dive sites that were the priority for our collaborative research.

We primarily selected dive sites located within or off marine protected areas and national marine sanctuaries such as Guanahacabibes and off known shallow water reef sites that the Cuban scientists had been monitoring for years.

The Cubans take great pride in protecting their marine resources and 25 percent of their coastal marine habitat is designated as marine protected areas. Most of the Cuban scientists that came on board are actively working and studying these areas. On Leg 1 of the cruise, we have scientists studying corals, sponges, algae, fish, and oceanography.

Prior to leaving the next day for our first dive site, we got to meet the officials and dignitaries that made this research cruise possible. Finally around 1 p.m., we headed out to sea to our first dive site about 20 miles away.

As we passed the sea buoy, we were met with more than a fresh breeze, but rather a brisk 20-knot wind and five to six-foot seas. We went ahead and prepped the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) for the planned dive to 150-meters depth and set up our science stations to record the ROV video/photo data.

But as we got on site, we realized that it was not to be today. Just too rough and windy to launch the ROV. Oh well, this has happened many a time in my 42-year career as a marine biologist – nature always trumps! This evening we are now steaming to our next dive site, 50 miles west, and hopefully out of the wind.

 

 

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