Day 9 |
Oct 17, 2011

Oranjestad, Aruba

By Robin Aiello, Marine Biologist

Co-ordinates: 12º31’16.8N, 070º02’35.5W
Weather: bright sunshine with puffy white clouds
Air Temperature: 27ºC

Another bright sunny warm day in the Caribbean – and I am going snorkeling again, this time in Aruba!!!!

But first, we had a morning at sea. It started with a leisurely breakfast, followed by a very interesting lecture by our Archaeologist/Anthropologist Claire Allum. Her talk was called “Seafaring explorers of the Caribbean” and it focused on the history of the peoples that lived along the coastlines of the Caribbean archipelago, from 4000BC to the time Christopher Columbus made landfall in the Bahamas in 1492.

Captain Alex had the ship alongside at Berth G in Oranjestad, Aruba by the time the guests were heading into an early lunch at 11:30am. Next to us in the other berth was a huge cruise liner, which made our beautiful little ship look very little, but all of our guests agreed that we were FAR nicer!!

There were two activities being offered this afternoon – the first one, heading off at 12:30pm, was a city tour of Aruba and surroundings. This tour, aptly called “The Best of Aruba” stopped at several places of interest. I was not on this tour, but from what the other Expedition Staff members told me, they started with a scenic drive along the white sandy beach called Eagle Beach that led to the oldest lighthouse on the island. Other stops included the Alto Vista Chapel (where the Spanish missionaries were based), the Baby Natural Bridge (the original Natural Bridge collapsed in 2005 due to natural erosion) and the Casibari Rock formations, which consisted of massive granite boulders.

By the conversation I overheard from the guests as they arrived back onto the ship, it seemed like the tour was fantastic, and everyone was very happy.

While those guests were on their “Best of Aruba” tour, 18 of us opted for another afternoon of snorkeling. We boarded a motorized catamaran called the MV Seastar and we headed out to the far tip of the island. The colours of the sea were incredible – the dark blue of the deeper areas contrasting starkly with the turquoise colours of the shallower sections.

Although it was hot, we had a cool sea breeze to keep us comfortable during the 30 minute motor to our first snorkeling site – the wreck of the MV Antilla. This ship was a WWII cargo vessel that was surrounded by the enemy, and instead of surrendering, the Captain of the ship decided to blow it up and scuttle it. No men were lost (they were all able to swim ashore), but the entire load of cargo was destroyed – a small victory for them.

This was a wonderful snorkeling site with lots of marine life! The wreck itself lay in waters about 60 feet deep, but there were plenty of parts of the ship that rose up nearly to the surface. There were thousands of schooling fish darting to and fro, at time nearly obliterating us from seeing below into the depths. There were schools of black and white striped sergeant majors, yellow-tailed trevallies, small aggressive jacks and even a few barracudas. For me, though, I was more interested in the variety of invertebrates that was growing on the wreck structure itself. There was so much to see, especially if you dove down for a closer look. There were tall purple tube sponges, nearly transparent colonial tunicates, soft ‘fern’ hydroids (be careful – these punch a mean sting!), and even some sea fans.

After about 40 minutes we headed back to the catamaran and relocated to the shore and a shallower reef area, where we saw even more types of fish, including pufferfish, porcupinefish, trunkfish, damselfish and even a scorpionfish. It was a great way to spend a sunny afternoon! We even had a friendly brown pelican that stayed nearby – swimming amongst us as we snorkeled. It isn’t every day that you get a chance to watch a pelican from under the water – a truly unique perspective!

We arrived back to the Silver Explorer by 4pm and had about 2 hours to roam the city streets of Aruba before all-onboard at 6:30pm for our sail away towards Cartagena, Colombia.