I was in 3rd grade when I wrote a book report on sharks. I was so proud of my work that I promptly walked into my house and told my mom I was giving up my dreams of space and fame of Hollywood to become a Marine Biologist. Considering I was a still growing child, my mother smiled and I remember her inquiring as to the change. I told her all about the book I borrowed from the library. How sharks aren’t scary at all. They were just misunderstood like me. I’m not sure what her reply was. Time has a way of changing memories or blurring them into nothingness. The obsession over marine life never waned though. I read as much as possible and my brothers would tease me relentlessly by calling me Dr. Fish. As years went on, I started college with Biology as my major at Hofstra University. Although I had been accepted into Hawaii Pacific and LIU Southampton, neither of those options were financially feasible.
I struggled mightily with my courses. I loved science but it didn’t love me. The abstract thinking was easy, the math and long reading was not. When I was told to find a career that could support me, Marine Biology became a memory and Psychology replaced it as my official major. During my last two years at school, I got permission to take a Marine Biology class. Sitting in the lecture hall with my coffee cakes and Dr. Pepper (the breakfast of champions in college), I was in awe. My professor brought in specimens, spoke of the oceans being where life begins…and talked about Bimini. I would stay after class and we’d talk about Bimini Road, the wildlife there-it felt like a fantasy. He planned a trip and offered me a spot as his assistant. I’d be certified to dive and get to live my dream of exploring sharks. My mother denied my request. I was her baby and having me in the water with sharks was a terrifying prospect.
Flash forward to December 2019 where my wife made my “dream to do” list a little shorter. We both traveled to Bimini Biological Field Station to take part in their Research Experience. Five days of shark filled activities, lectures, and insights into the future of this beautiful habitat. After a short flight on the smallest plane I have ever been on, my feet touched down on South Bimini, Bahamas. The white sand roads, warm sunshine, and sparkling ocean waters welcomed me as if my soul was coming home. The lack of cell phone service, the rooster screaming each morning, and American cars driving on the left side of the road felt peaceful. Bimini is an island to behold.
After depositing our bags in our temporary living quarters, we had a quick lunch then took a boat ride over to Aya’s Spot. While I waded through waist-deep water, my wife all but disappeared as we tripped our way through mangroves and sea grass until we came to a clearing. Here, five baby Lemon sharks swam around me for some time. A few bumped into my GoPro or gobbled up the food we dropped into the water. All the baby Lemons that is except “Tiny”. He seemed more interested in a floating leaf and my camera torque screw. It was my first wake up call that this vacation would be an eye-opening experience for me. Standing there as sharks swam around my calves, fear was emanating through my pores but to my amazement, nothing happened. These little guys didn’t care that I was there. They wanted their treats and didn’t bother with me…just my shiny GoPro. More on that later.
That night, I was lying in bed wondering what else this trip would offer. In one day, I had already felt that everything I knew was contorted and twisted in misinformation. I was also wondering how could so many volunteers and staff (twenty total) function effectively in a double-wide trailer that served as both the research facility and living quarters? Not to mention they all shared two bathrooms among them (eek!).
As I started to drift off to sleep (my tummy was full as allergies were a non-factor thanks to Chessie and the team accommodating my dietary needs) my mind was already swimming with ideas for a new book based on the island.
The first day was only the beginning…
***For more information about Bimini Biological Field Station Research Experience, please visit their website. If you want to know more about our experience, ask questions or use our photos – please contact us.***