22 July 2017
Library Sessions Finish with a Fishy Twist!
July has been a busy month for the Montserrat staff, as they host 19 students from a school in London. July also involves the official ending of library sessions, which staff and volunteers have conducted bi-weekly for the past three years. As they come to a close with library sessions, the Montserrat staff and students put on fun and interactive children stations, where children could play different games, crafts and activities based around marine protection at Little Bay! Games included: snakes and ladders (jellyfish and stingrays), origami, shark quizzes and puzzles, and the famous fishy finger painting!
As school is out and children are sleeping in until crazy o’clock, the team had a lower turn out of their library regulars, but still had a lot of fun making blow up origami pufferfish, painting angel fish, learning about the difference between dangerous and safe animals, including puzzles based around shark conservation. The girls had a wonderful experience participating in a community event and tuning into their creative side to make such amazing and diverse activities! Library sessions will definitely be missed, but CCC has a few more community events up their sleeve before completing the project in September!
1 July 2017
Learning all about Flightless Birds!
This was Coral Cay’s penultimate library session in Montserrat since we arrived on the island in 2013. The topic was “Birds that cannot fly”, and was chosen because of the interest and surprising depth of knowledge from some of the regular attendees (Sylvester and Sylvan) at the last library session. There was a fantastic turn out with ten children attending both the presentation and the craft session afterwards.
Children were introduced to the flightless birds of the ocean, the forests and jungles, as well as the fast runners of the open plains. Recently extinct birds from New Zealand and the Indian Ocean were also included.
A talk about flightless birds wouldn't be complete without a discussion about kakapos, or owl parrots as they are also known. These nocturnal, ground-dwelling birds are highly interesting in that they are the only flightless bird that uses a 'lek' breeding system; where males gather in an open area and diplay to court prospective breeding partners.
We are very pleased to announce that ‘Blue Halo’ (an on island partnership between the Government of Montserrat and the Waitt Institute) will continue with the library sessions on the third Saturday morning of every month.
It’s been such a pleasure to open the minds of Montserrat’s youngest inhabitants to the wonders of the natural world, and we would like to thank them for their enthusiasm.
8 June 2017
World Oceans Day 2017, Liloan, Philippines
The scene was set: Liloan’s municipal basketball court was decked out with a projector, educational posters, tables adorned with registers and prizes, and 150-odd chairs. Pop music blared out of the PA system and crowds gathered to fill the hall by 2.30pm. Of the 250 or so members of the Liloan community who came along, there were representatives from a local high school, the Local Government Unit (LGU), the police, the fire brigade, the coastguard, and the Mayor’s Office, all ready and raring to go and clean up their coastline.
Once everyone was registered, the formal proceedings began with a very kind welcome from the LGU followed by the obligatory playing of the National Anthem and the Liloan Hymn. Science Officer Sarah gave a brief presentation on behalf of Coral Cay Conservation, thanking our sponsors, 4Ocean, and everyone present for their support, before outlining the premise of World Oceans Day and this year’s focus on removing and preventing marine trash. She went on to explain how the afternoon would play out, including a selfie competition and a World Oceans Day pledge to reduce marine litter, which would end up being signed by around 200 people. Ma’am Benny, our principal partner from the LGU, kindly and enthusiastically repeated the key instructions in Visayan and stirred the crowd into action. Rice sacks were distributed and pairs of volunteers proceeded to spread out along Liloan’s municipal coastline to rid it of trash.
Using nets fashioned out of old mosquito nets by our very own BokBok and Dudong, the area along the sea wall was swept free of plastic waste, with many members of the community choosing to climb down under their houses to get better access to the trash. School pupils headed off to pick up waste around the town and at the back of their school site which leads out onto the water, while representatives of the fire brigade and police service, amongst others, headed north into a slightly more precarious residential area (with houses on stilts over the water), which is beset by a more serious trash problem. As they worked, a significant number of the local residents decided to join in with the effort of their own accord, expanding our forces even further, to nearly 300 in total. It really was a joy to watch so many people working together in such good spirits towards such a positive collective goal; residents were even offering snacks and pineapple juice around to some of the helpers to show their gratitude!
After an hour and a half or so of intensive beach cleaning, we reconvened in the municipal
basketball court for a celebratory group photo and prize-giving. 25x 4Ocean bracelets (made out of recycled plastic waste) were raffled off to those present, after which we announced the winners of the selfie competition. The competition had required participants to upload a selfie to
Facebook/Instagram that helped to raise awareness of the problems of marine trash, show what people can do to prevent it, and celebrate the importance of the oceans in our lives, along with a completed sentence: ‘I love the ocean because…’. The star prize – an opportunity to try SCUBA diving with Coral Cay Conservation for two, all expenses paid – was won by a young woman working in the Liloan Tourism Office, while the second and third prizes (snorkelling gear and 4Oceans t-shirts) went to a member of LGU staff and a local school pupil, all of whom seemed delighted with the awards. Meanwhile, Ben Jack, our Field Base Manager, was coordinating the task of tying up and weighing all the sacks of trash with the help of the Liloan garbage disposal unit. By the end of the day, we had filled a total of 56 rice sacks which weighted in collectively at a whopping 864 kg!
All in all, the event was a great success, having made a tangible difference to the health and
appearance of Liloan’s coastline, raised awareness of the problems associated with marine trash, strengthened relationships between Coral Cay Conservation and the wider local community, and with a lot of fun having been had into the bargain.
Don’t forget to check out the brilliant video of the event filmed and put together by our very
talented SCUBA Instructor, Pip (Pippa Roe)!
10 June 2017
Montserrat Gets in on the Action on World Ocean's Day!
Montserrat's CCC team, in partnership with 4Ocean, pulled out all the stops to honour World oceans Day by coordinating a clean up of Rubbish at Carr’s Bay with Monserrat Island Dive centre. A good turn out from the Monserrat community helped clean the bay of rubbish, with teams working along the shore of the beach and local stream (ghaut) as well as dive crews collecting rubbish from the floor of the bay.
By the end of the morning approximately 300kg of rubbish was collected, with 250kg from the beach and stream (including a large metal frame weighing about 100kg), and about 50kg from out of the bay. Bottle tops, polystyrene containers and plastic bottles were the main items collected. Everyone was so proud to know that this rubbish will no longer impact the oceans surrounding Montserrat!
03 June 2017
Learning all about World Ocean's Day
This week’s library session was in honour of World Ocean's Day. With a large beach clean planned for the coming Saturday it was a perfect opportunity to get the children excited, and more knowledgeable, about the upcoming event. The session was focused on the planet’s oceans – why we need them and the wonders that fill them. We also talked about threats to the oceans and how we can do our bit to protect them.
Rain threatened to make this a quiet session with only a single child present by the time it was due to start (usually the children arrive early). However, as the rain eased more children started to dribble (literally) in. In all, five children and a couple of mothers came to the presentation, and an additional five children joined in the craft activity. The children were full of questions and similarly keen to answer the questions put to them, and offer up their own knowledge of the issue.
The craft activity for the day involved making a shark hat which proved to be very popular.
27 May 2017
Open Day at the Taj!
It has been an exciting week at the Taj leading up to the big Open Day event which took place on Saturday 27th May. The past week was full of crafting activities, radio interviews, talks, mock surveys, and visual decorations for all ages. On the marine floor was Science Officer, Jerry’s turf to educate visitors about what we do on the reefs, how we do it and why. The sunny veranda by the pool was alive with cut-out marine creatures, 3D urchins, sea trash, and glittery fish for participants to count, identify, and learn about! On the terrestrial side; Science Officer, Ian turned the upstairs floor into a vibrant forest using branches from invasive neem trees, beach wood, blown leaves, and fallen coconuts! Participants had a fantastic time listening to recorded bird calls and looking for all the cut-out paintings of over 10 species of Montserrat birds, reptiles and amphibians.
The volunteers pulled together as well to create amazing posters to promote around the town, decorate the Taj and to use all the study aids as fun and interactive quizzes for visitors! It was a positive turn out of various ages, and a visit from some of our current scholars to join in this exciting day. This was also a great opportunity for staff and volutneers to come together for a bigger cause, and really push the CCC name and environmental importance of Montserrat to ensure we leave a legacy after we complete our work on this beautiful emerald isle.
20 May 2017
Learning all about Migration
In this week’s session at Brades Public Library the children explored the fascinating world of migratory animals. The presentation showed the movement of all kinds of animals including fish, reptiles, birds, mammals and invertebrates. The red crab migration of Christmas Island generated the most interest. After the presentation the children made origami whales which they then decorated to their personal taste.
As always it is difficult to pitch something at the right level when you’re not quite sure who will turn up. Some slides on caribou (reindeer) migration had the effect of generating a spirited discussion on Santa Claus. This being a far more important topic than migrating animals! It required some repeated efforts to bring the discussion back on track. It was good to see the children engaging even if perhaps it was not quite what was intended for the class ;)!
6 May 2017
Learning all about Crocodiles
This Saturday’s library session was about crocodiles. The children were enthralled by these fascinating creatures and enthusiastically participated (at times rather loudly) in the discussions. At the end of the presentation a short crocodile safety video was played so now all the children are aware of the dangers of playing in the water in places far away from the tame island of Montserrat.
After the presentation, the children created their own crocodiles, with some displaying a surprising degree of individual taste as well as artistic licence. Two boys competed to see who could make the largest crocodile.
This was an excellent session thanks to the powers of charismatic mega-fauna. The morning was thoroughly enjoyed by both children and staff. In all nine children were involved. The presentation was well received and the craft (constructing crocodiles from toilet rolls) was simple enough for young children, but also able to be embellished by the older children so that all enjoyed their creations.
22 April 2017
The Philippines Celebrates Earth Day
The CCC Earth Day event in Napantao, Southern Leyte, in corporation with 4Oceans, was a resounding success by all accounts, collecting an impressive amount of waste from the beach, raising awareness of marine trash issues with local children, and helping to build a really positive relationship between CCC and the local community.
With the word having been spread beforehand in Napantao by the local CCC staff, half of the staff and volunteers (all clad in 4Oceans- & CCC-branded t-shirts) went up into the village at 14.15 to drum up interest in the event amongst the local kids. The event itself was scheduled to run from 15.00 – 17.00, but it ended up running on until about 17.30 because of its popularity. As the children arrived at the beach, they were greeted by three CCC personnel (including a Visayan speaker) at the registration desk and litter collection station, the area having been decorated with an eye-catching printed banner as well as a number of hand-drawn posters to explain the nature of the day and the importance of preventing litter from getting into the ocean.
Each child was greeted and registered individually before the event was laid out for them. The two main activities organised for the afternoon were the beach clean-up competition and an opportunity for snorkelling and fish-spotting. Before they were able to snorkel, each child was encouraged to collect as many items of trash as they could/wanted to, with protective gloves handed out to each participant. The beach cleaning competition ran throughout the afternoon and picked up a lot of pace towards the end as the tallies started to go up. The kids were incentivised to find trash by being offered a sweet treat for every five items, although after a while they lost interest in the candy and began to focus on trying to win the three larger prizes on offer for the top collectors, with the winning child, Gerald, handing in 188 pieces! Rubbish was counted and sorted into bags according to the local recycling scheme, with blue bags for recyclable materials and red bags for general waste. Throughout the competition, CCC personnel not only praised the kids for being good citizens in helping to clean up their local beach, but also impressed upon them the importance of keeping the ocean free from trash and the many reasons why.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the beach, the ‘Fish ID’ station had a steady stream of young clients. For any child wanting to snorkel, they first had to go to this station to learn to identify and make the relevant hand signals for some of the key fish families found on the reef, including parrotfish, butterflyfish, damselfish, and surgeonfish. The staff running the activity used pictures, puppets, and games to make the learning visual, fun, and interactive. At the end of the session, each child was marked with a small picture of a fish on their wrist to show that they were eligible to snorkel. A number of the children stayed at this station longer than necessary because they enjoyed it so much.
Those who then wanted to snorkel made their way to the CCC base at the edge of the beach, where they had a safety briefing and were taught exactly how to use a snorkel. Before going in the water there was a chance to experience what it might be like to breathe underwater using SCUBA gear at a makeshift ‘bubble station’. Adorned with life jackets, five children entered the water at a time, with one adult each to supervise them in the shallow waters near to the base. For some of the children, it was their first time being able to see beneath the waves with a mask and they were excited and enthralled by the experience. Not only did the promise of snorkelling bring more children to the event, we thought it was really important to make a strong connection between the trash on the beach and the life in the waters next to them. The snorkelers were given a window into the wonders of their local reef and had a great time doing so, which we hope will lead to their value of the marine environment increasing.
Once the children who wanted to snorkel had done so, everybody reconvened on the beach for brief speeches and prizegiving. A number of children were applauded for their enthusiastic contributions to the beach clean-up, and three special prizes were awarded for the top three collectors. Everyone was thanked for the part they had played in the event and was reminded about the importance of preventing rubbish from getting into the ocean. In the end, 24 children aged between 6 & 16 registered for the event, and we collected around 1000 pieces of rubbish, weighing in at 15kg in total (4kg recyclables and 11kg general waste – and please remember how light plastics can be!). However, we achieved much more than a simple litter pick: we engaged a significant number of local children in marine issues and opened their eyes to the beauty of their reef, while going some way to build stronger connections between CCC and our local community, which will hopefully lead to longer-lasting and further-reaching positive impacts in the future. Thank you to 4Oceans for helping to make this event possible.
Some thoughts on the day from CCC personnel:
Earth Day at Coral Cay was unforgettable. Watching the children while participating in the activities for cleaning the beach was inspiring. Teaching the kids how to snorkel improved my communication with small children. Watching them and listening to their answers on what kind of fish and/or type of fish they have seen made me very happy that I took part in the Earth Day celebration. Adrian, CCC Scholar, Philippines
It was inspiring to see such young children participating, while staying so engaged and positive throughout. It was a pleasure to teach them about some of the local fish species, especially with everyone’s excitement and eagerness to learn. Ellie, CCC Volunteer, Australia
Direct action and engaging with the local community around the importance of protecting the ocean environment is why I am here, and this event, small though it may have been, is symbolic of the role of CCC’s efforts everywhere. There may have only been one winner of the clean-up competition, but in reality, everyone won – CCC staff & volunteers, the local community, and the reef were all enriched by this event. Sarah, CCC Staff.
22 April 2017
Montserrat Celebrates Earth Day
Earth day was a massive success not only for the environment, but also for the Montserrat team as they cleaned up the beach and reef of Carr’s Bay. Over 25 volunteers, locals, and expats participated in this amazing event, with the visit of the governess and government representatives. The science team put in a lot of effort throughout the week to prepare for this event; radio promotion, volunteer-made educational posters, infographics, and a lot of social media coverage.
There were three groups during the clean: beach team, dive team, and sorting team…
About ten divers took to the reef armed with gloves, knives and net bags. The CCC team started at 12 metres deep and worked their way to shore over a 100 metre stretch of patch reef. It was startling how much rubbish was collected from just this small area of reef, which included; fishing lines, rope, clothing, bottles, cans, bags & other plastic fragments, even an old vinyl record & a flag of Montserrat! Some of this material had clumped together into balls, rolling around the reef picking up sea creatures, coral, sponges, and ultimately harming marine life. Lines had tangled around coral and needed to be carefully cut away. Larger heavier items sadly had to left, e.g. tyres. However, the dive team successfully collected over 30 kg of marine rubbish.
On the beach blasted some fresh Caribbean tunes as a total of 15 volunteers spread out throughout the entire Carr’s Bay, getting bystanders to join and pick up every little bit of rubbish they could find. The runoff from Carr’s Bay Ghaut is substantial and also much of the litter is from bus stops and a fast food van stationed nearby. The sorting team organised the rubbish into; plastics, polystyrene, glass, and any other massive amounts of material collected. Over 200kg was collected from the beach, and together with the marine debris was then sorted into piles of similar rubbish types. Plastics as per expected was the majority substance found, particularly bottles.
After a long morning of rubbish collecting, everyone came together for some refreshing beverages & earth day decorated cookies, motivational speeches, and lots of selfies!
This day is not to be taken lightly. Every month the Montserrat Island Dive centre has a beach clean, and each time they collect over 60kg of rubbish. Plastic bottles and polystyrene are the most common trash picked up during Montserrat beach cleans. The rubbish from the runoff head to the sea, and small animals at the bottom of the food chain absorb the pollution, affecting the food chain, harming marine life and the food we eat. Thousands of tons of waste and trash are dumped into the ocean daily, and we need to do our part each and every day to reduce, reuse, refuse, and recycle!
10 April 2017
Blue Halo Steering Committee and Seasketch Workshop
This past week Project Scientist, Marisa, and Community Liaison Officer, Ian, attended the Blue Halo quarterly steering committee meeting and Seasketch workshop. Many stakeholders and project partners from Montserrat and abroad attended, to see the GIS planning tool, Seasketch, demonstration. This was particularly interesting to CCC as CCC data was incorporated into the SeaSketch tool. CCC along with other stakeholders got a chance to draw hypothetical borders, which they feel should be marine management areas into the programme. These could then be analysed to show the potential conservation values that the proposed area would have, based on accumulated data.
The tool proved to be very effective at facilitating engagement from different sectors of the Montserrat, and what was initially meant to be a demonstration ended up generating some discussion on draft areas for proposed marine management areas. The workshop also allowed different points of view to be aired in a constructive forum. This was a wonderful opportunity for the Montserrat team to present findings from their own marine survey sites and show their contribution to the conservation and protection of Montserrat reefs.
08 April 2017
Learning all about Rubbish in the Sea
The topic of this week's library session was “Rubbish in the sea” and was intended to create some interest in the scheduled Earth Day clean up on 22 April at Carr’s Bay. The presentation encouraged the children to think about where rubbish is generated, where it goes and what sort of things happen when it reaches the ocean.
The craft activity afterwards produced an Earth Day poster intended to complement the CCC/4Oceans banner being created for the beach clean-up event on 22 April. The children’s poster is made of their hand stencils surrounding a heart shaped earth (cleverly produced by Project Scientist, Marisa). The photo below shows volunteer, Anna, helping the children put their thoughts to paper.
27 March 2017
CCC Joins in Partnership with 4Ocean!
With a shared passion for the well-being of our oceans, we are very excited to announce that Coral Cay Conservation and 4Oceans have teamed up to tackle the devastating impacts of marine pollution and plastics! Coral Cay Conservation will carry 4Ocean’s ethos to the beaches and coastal systems of the Philippines and Montserrat, removing beach litter and increasing awareness amongst local communities.
4Ocean are dedicated to creating a sustainable future for the ocean by actively cleaning our oceans and coastlines. Check out their website at https://4ocean.com/ where you can purchase a 4Ocean bracelet. The 4Ocean Bracelet is made from 100% Recycled Materials. The beads are made from recycled glass bottles, and the cord is made from recycled plastic water bottles. Each bracelet purchased funds the removal of one pound of trash from the ocean!
Our efforts will focus on Earth Day (22nd April 2017) and World Oceans Day (8th June 2017) with fun, active and educational beach cleans driven by our dedicated science staff and volunteers; reaching out to local communities to maximise effort and remove as much litter as possible – preventing its adverse effects on the beautiful coral reef and oceanic ecosystems! Educational efforts will accompany the event, aiming to inspire the next generation of conservationists amongst local communities, hoping to reduce the amount of plastic and litter entering the oceans at its source.
Save the dates as we hope that you will all embark on this journey with us and strive to protect our oceans and protect their beauty for the children of the future!
25 March 2017
Learning all about Tarantulas!
The Library session this week was led by Jerry (Science Officer) and was focussed on ‘Tarantulas’, with specific reference to the endemic species of the “Montserrat Tarantula”. The presentation was interactive allowing the children to answer some exciting questions on the ecology of this interesting spider and its freakish association with the Tarantula Hawk Wasp. The children mostly loved the pictures on show but had to peak at them through hands over their eyes!
After the presentation, it was time for crafts and making their own tarantula. They first drew around their hands and fingers in order to cut them out and stick them together, and hey presto you have the body of a tarantula! Some colouring in and gluing of bobbly eyes, and you have a scary spider to dangle down to scare the parents. Everyone had a great time and all the kids were very well behaved.
Author: Jerry Slater
6 March 2017
Pinamudlan Elementary School Seastars lesson 1
On March 6, our Community Liaison Officer, Jesse Tinapay, Went to Pinamudlan Elementary School to give the first lecture of the Sea Stars program to 40 new students from grade 4 to 6.
For these 40 young students, it was the first time listening to Jesse’s Sea Stars lesson which was focused on marine biology and conservation. They talked about the marine life they can find in the oceans near them as well as talking about threats to the oceans and tools to protect the marine environment. This first lecture qualified the two groups of students as Bronze Star level Sea Stars.
With each consecutive lecture the students will move up a level, eventually arriving as Gold Star Sea Stars, at which point the students will be invited to the CCC base in Napantao to participate in a Reef Rangers day.
24 February 2017
Barangay Triana MPA Proposal Results Presentation
On February 24th, Jamie Parker (Project Scientist) and Jesse Tinapay (Community Liaison Officer) travelled to Barangay Triana on Limasawa island to present the results from CCC’s survey assessment; in the hope that the findings will help support the establishment of a new MPA.
Triana barangay officials gathered in the barangay hall to welcome CCC’s arrival; before Jamie Parker proceeded with the survey results for Trianas proposed MPA site. The abundance of fish found was one of the highlights of the presentation; while the high rock and hard coral substrate cover throughout the barangay waters was also a promising finding. All those who attended were taken through the key steps for establishing an MPA, and provided with the potential benefits to be attained from the added protection. The Triana Barangay officials were all positive about the results and Jamie was inundated with questions with regards to the MPAs effectiveness and spatial placement.
The next step for Triana is to update the community, and especially fisherfolk, with the outcome of this research assessment; setting out a transparent set of rules and coordinates that can be understood by everyone. This will hopefully start the ball rolling with regards to the birth of Limasawa’s second official MPA!
23 February 2017
Learning all about Rays!
The Library session this week was all about ‘rays’. Amy our new Scuba instructor put together a presentation about the different types of rays there are in the world. The presentation was divided into two different sections; flying rays and bottom dwellers. It featured different rays from each category e.g. manta rays and southern stingrays.
The kids learnt how to identify each ray from its body shape/ size/ colour, to its position in the water. They also learnt how to keep themselves safe when in the water such as always wearing shoes and shuffling feet to scare away anything hiding in the sand. After the presentation, the kids had a mini-quiz on what they learned during the presentation, full marks all round! With the presentation over, it was time for crafts. This week the kids made their own stingrays out of paper plates, which the kids really enjoyed as they practically made their own species!
Author: Amy Hornett
22 February 2017
University of West Indies Open Day and Careers Fair!
Everyone remembers the day at school where it was time to start thinking about careers, and pretty much what to do with their life! On the 22nd the University of West Indies Open Campus held their annual careers fair for the secondary school students, where many young employees in Montserrat got invited to present at the opening ceremony. Coral Cay Conservation’s Project Scientist, Marisa Sorrell, talked to all the students who attended about and the work that we carry out. She also promoted the Scholarship Scheme for those who are interested in the natural sciences and would like to gain more experience. In the science field gaining as much experience and skill sets as possible is very important, as it fills out an applicant’s CV, makes students more marketable, and creates amazing adventures and opportunities. Marisa explained the importance of volunteering and how it’s always for a great cause… and a great excuse for travelling adventures and playing with animals! The students were very engaged and eager to know more about the scholarship programme after hearing about all the fun diving and trekking they will do. Safe to say scholars for this year may be all booked up soon!
20 February 2017
Blue Halo Steering Group Meeting
The whole team at CCC Montserrat were pleased to be invited to a steering committee held by the Waitt institute recently, as part of their Blue Halo initiative. Stakeholders from across Montserrat’s environmental community were invited to discuss Blue Halo’s marine conservation and fisheries priorities for 2017, and to outline their ‘Marine Spatial Planning Process’ project that will enable the strategy to be shaped. This will detail how marine areas are currently being used, and by whom, and what conservation policies, including legal regulations, need to put in place for a sustainable use of marine resources into the future. A survey has already been conducted across the marine community. The strategy plan will go through draft iterations in consultation with the steering committee and the wider conservation and fisheries communities.
The attendees were shown interim spatial analysis maps of Montserrat’s coastline out to approximately 40m depth from shore. These maps were focussed on data gathered over a span of 200 dives undertaken over a relatively short period of time. The maps showed density plots of: Total fish biomass; Fish species richness; Coral & herbivore biomass. We were also shown videos of 3D maps of the ocean floor taken at a couple of particularly healthy reefs.
We were presented with 11 priorities and asked to debate and rank which objectives we each considered the most important, and where the focus of effort should be
directed: The top three chosen were ranked as:
1) Maintain or enhance biomass of species targeted by fisheries
2) Protect species diversity
3) Conserve live coral and healthy reefs
In an atmosphere of friendly & open collaboration the audience was split into four smaller groups to discuss our own personal views, and then share back to the group in a final wash-up session. It was a very interesting meeting, a great chance to speak to the key stakeholders or island and a pleasure to be involved in a steering committee meeting.
20 February 2017
Tristan Conquers the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra!
On the 5th February, I set off on the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra with my boss, Alistair Cole (CEO). This is classed as the worlds’ coldest and toughest ultra-marathon, and I can assure you it lived up to its reputation! Facing temperatures as low as -41°C this was a true test both mentally and physically!
About a year ago, Al came up to me with a ridiculous suggestion that we signed up to this race. After initially laughing it off, it got me thinking and two questions came to mind: Have I ever truly challenged myself and how would I react when pushed to my limit? No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get these questions out of my head and I wanted to find out the answers. A week later I found myself in his office agreeing to do the race. I regretted it almost immediately when it dawned on me what I was actually in for, not just with the race itself but also with the training I was now going to have to do.
The following months were a mix of 4am morning runs dragging a tyre around my local ranges cursing myself for saying yes, and not being in my warm, comfortable bed, and gym sessions trying to work out which muscles to strengthen. There is no specific machine for training you to pull a 25kg sled over frozen lakes and rivers and so I was having to guess at which workouts would actually work. As the months rolled by and the race was getting closer I turned my attentions to the kit I would need. This, for me, was the fun part! Everything that I had been seeing in outdoor shops that I had no excuse to buy were suddenly ‘essential kit’ and I made the most of it! There were definitely times where I got that look that we all know from my wife that said ‘Really! Do you really need another one of those?!’ but for once I had the excuse that couldn’t be argued with…’If I don’t get it then I may not come back’ although I think I used that one a little too often!
By the time February came around I was feeling prepared. I was feeling fit, I was happy with all the kit I had and most importantly I now had a beard worthy of the Arctic! We boarded the plane and headed off to Whitehorse.
As soon as we stepped off the plane, the cold hit us and suddenly so did the scale of the challenge. I could feel my nose hairs instantly freezing and the ice starting to form on my moustache and thought, what is it going to be like sleeping out in these temperatures? It was only later that I found out that that was a balmy -20°C and that it was only going to get colder from that point forward.
The morning of the race finally came and we had the perfect weather coming up for the next few days. No snow, clear blue skies and next to no wind. The trail was nicely compact and it sounded like everything was starting as well as we could have hoped. At 10:30 am we set off.
Over the next 54hrs and 45 minutes we were both pushed to our limits, physically and mentally. The cold was like nothing I have ever felt before and just sapped my strength. To be honest I don’t remember the details of the race as it all blended together in a bit of sleep deprived haze but the most notable parts were:
- Menthol sweets are not a good idea in those temperatures. When you are wearing a buff to protect your face and eating them, your breath gets pushed up to your eyes making them water and they end up freezing shut…that was an interesting experience!
- At -40 and 80% humidity, everything freezes. Your clothes, buffs, jackets and even your beard. I was constantly trying to break the ice off various parts of my body or kit, and when you stopped, trying to keep warm and stop frost bite was a constant battle. Around 20 people dropped out in the first 2 days.
- You can fall asleep whilst walking. Due to the cold we had very little sleep (in the end only about 2hrs) and so combined with the physical exertion I was exhausted. At one point I remember closing my eyes for a second and then the next thing I knew I was in a tree off of the path.
- Walking at night, exhausted and sleep deprived, through trees with a bright moon and head torch means that the light is quite fragmented and this leads to a fun filled night of incredibly realistic hallucinations. There was one 6 or 7 hour period where I was constantly seeing children running over Alistair’s sled, people coming out of the trees to try and pick pocket him and a whole range of different animals and characters coming out of the woods to see what we were doing.
- On the positive side though, the scenery we walked through was absolutely beautiful! Walking up frozen rivers, through mountains, over frozen lakes and through forests there was always a sight to see that would lift your spirits and remind you why you were doing it. The most memorable one was crossing Braeburn lake at sunset on the last day. This was one of the times when I had to just take a minute, stop walking and sit down and enjoy the view. That is one memory that will stay with me for a long time.
- Crossing the finish line and the feeling of knowing that we had done it. We hadn’t given in, no matter how much we had wanted to, and we had the added bonus of finding out that we had come third in our category.
- The burger they gave you at the end whilst sitting in a warm café next to a fire. It was the size of a dinner plate and at that moment in time, was the best thing that I had ever eaten!
That evening we got a shuttle back to Whitehorse where we checked into a hotel, limped up the stairs on seizing legs and fell asleep in a warm bed (after a well needed hot shower). The next day was spent trying to keep moving and going for short walks to get the compulsory souvenirs for our families, groaning and complaining about aching legs and knees before finally giving up and getting a Dominoes pizza delivered to our room.
It was a fantastic experience which has left me with a real sense of pride and achievement and I feel like I got the answers I wanted to the questions that I had asked myself at the beginning of this adventure.
Author: Tristan Brown
18 February 2017
The Philippines Site Welcome the Bongawisan Reef Rangers
On February 18th, twelve elementary school students were invited from Bongawisan for their first fun filled Reef Rangers experience.
The day was packed full of games, including an adrenaline filled ‘slap the answer’, the ‘blindfold food-chain game’, ‘protect your MPA’ and fish Pictionary. These games kept the children on their toes whilst also developing their knowledge on all things marine. A few short lessons on marine life and coral reef ecosystems set up the Bongawisan students perfectly for a Napantao snorkel session; a first for many of the Reef Ranger trainees. The kids loved the experience so much that another reef swim was organised at the end of the day’s proceedings!
Exposing the children of Bongawisan to the wonders below the seas will hopefully encourage them to visit the coast more often; helping to inspire interest and ensure the future conservation of Napantao’s impeccable coral reef.