Thursday, November 15, 2012

Coming home

I had a pretty hard time waking up realizing that the day was here, I'd be going home. I woke up, and decided not to eat breakfast. Before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye. Everyone came out into a circle outside the door and after one of the staff spoke, everyone lined up to say goodbye. After all hugs and hand shakes, I got on the golf cart and we drove off. It was hard. I cried harder and harder quietly as I watched the lab disappear. We got to the airport and before we knew it we were off.

I had my fun sitting in the copilots seat on this first flight, headed to Fort Lauderdale.

Once we got there I got a cab, and let a couple join me. They paid their parts of the 30 dollar cab ride, so it was only 10 bucks for me. I used it to get food later...boy was that food good, and boy was I starved.

Next up was my flight from Fort Lauderdale to Tampa.

Dad picked me up at the Tampa Airport and then I was home.

I have to admit, it is very very hard being back. It feels strange, and I don't see anything the same. I am having a very hard time settling in and getting into the groove of things. I went for a walk to the USF Marine Science building (my usual nightly walk). It was weird and hard...hard seems to be the word. I didn't like it, and I don't like it. But what do I do? Just press on and keep going forward...eventually this feeling will wear off and I will warm back up and get back into the groove of things here.

Next up, I start college. But first...placement tests.

The pilot's area

The airport in Bimini

The pilot let me sit in the co-pilot place...

The pilot looking over Bimini and the water on the way home...


I love airplane rides. I enjoy seeing and flying through the clouds...

Coming into Fort Lauderdale...

Fort Lauderdale

The runway in Fort Lauderdale

Swimming with sharks with our Shark Crew...

Us on the line;

Once we get into the water we swim over to the line and grab onto the line. Once everyone has grabbed onto the line, the bait is thrown into the water before us. Many more sharks rush over to join the ones that are already there hanging out with us. Once all the bait is gone...

We are all set free to go swim with them...

My bud (Craig O'Connell) & I!

Just before leaving the lab I got a photo with my bud Craig.

I am looking forward to seeing him again, along with Dr. Sara and Michael Rutzen and Kim "Shark Lady" in Gansbaai, South Africa this summer.

Delayed flight? Lovely

My flight from Fort Lauderdale to Tampa has been delayed. Now I won't be in until 5:30ish PM. Nothing like being stuck in an airport with overly expensive food, and annoying people.

Good thing I have my laptop, head phones and cell. I am spending my time watching one of my favorite T.V shows on one side, and reading marine articles on the other. Split tabs, on halves of the screen. I wish time would fly a little faster. Now that I am out of Bimini, I want time to fly so I can just get home, go sit on a bench at USF and study for placement tests.

Getting ready to last hour in Bimini

I thought that my last day in the field was a couple days ago. It was the most depressing thought. Yesterday I thought (as the rumor went) that it was a team cleaning day, and then the rest of the day off. But it turned out that the rumor was a true rumor. It was another amazing day in the field, and I couldn't be happier to hear it. Our group did video trials, ushered sharks, and fed the juveniles. It was raining when we woke up, and that angered me to the core. Where is the sunshine? There can't be rain on my last day. After finding out our agenda's for the day we all started getting ready. Since I was ready quick, I used some of the extra time we had to pack my bags so I didn't have to worry about it in the evening.

The night before we had to say goodbye to Chris who was going to be leaving Bimini to head home yesterday morning. He said he would come in one more time to see everyone before leaving, so I thought a voice I started hearing was him. It sounded like him, so we went out to look for him. We all said, "Chris? Chris?" and then a man bent over at the door, looking into the staff room was there. I thought it was going to be Chris, but as he turned around, it turned out to be Craig O'Connell. I became so stoked to finally see him, and everyone who has already met him, stoked to see him again. He came to do research on bull sharks. He's working on a shark repellent. This contraption with the magnets get deployed into the water, with bait. The sharks come near it,but because of the magnets, they would hopefully turn back around. He is putting this great project together to be put out around coasts to keep sharks from coming within so much distance from shore. If it works, he shared he wants to get them out off the coast of West Australia and hopefully stop the Great White cull they are trying to start. Let's keep our fingers crossed, and prayers up that this works. This will save a lot of sharks, and in return, save us. We need our sharks!

I spent the rest of the time with Craig up until it was time to head out to the field, to help him out and talk. He works with Michael Rutzen in Gansbaai with "Shark Diving Unlimited". He's been doing this and research with him and Dr. Sara for 6 years? I believe he said? I got a lot of questions answered about Michael Rutzen, and shared my plans. I will be seeing Craig around in Africa along with the others soon.

Two jobs lined up, two colleges, and everything I could possibly need in South Africa. All I have to do is get my Associates at St. Petersburg College to prove myself thanks to me high school GPA, and then I am heading out. Plan B if I don't leave for my Bachelors and on, is to get my Bachelors at the University of South Florida and then get my Masters and PhD in South Africa. Unless of course God has other ideas for me, then we will see where He directs me. Not my will or timing, but His be done, Amen!

I enjoyed getting to hang out with him!

Finally it was time to head out for the day to the field. We loaded up the van and were taken to the Yacht club to our boat. The day went completely smooth and we got home sooner than we thought we would. We thought due to weather and possible bad visibility that we would be there into the night, but we got home just after everyone else had their dinner. We pulled the webcam into the middle to tape the sharks in the pen for video trials, one at a time, then every shark was captured (I got to handle two), and they were taken to another pen. Once we did exploration with each shark after trials, we ushered the sharks into the bigger pen and fed them at the end of the day. I of course jumped to volunteer to feed the sharks. Jean helped me and we fed the babies till they stopped eating.

We packed up to leave and I kept looking around to get last glances of the area, and enjoy my last moments. It was hard and depressing. The sunset was gorgeous, and the weather remained nice. Jean let me drive the boat (no planing) until we were ready to plane. I didn't get to do the boat handling class this time, so I can't use the boats, but he said it would be alright to drive it without planing. When he asked me to pick up a little speed, I actually turned it a bit to fast and sped up for a moment, then stopped and tried again. We freaked for a moment, and then got it together and tried again. I finally got it. I know how to boat. I have done this before, many times with my Papa's boat, but it's been years. So long, that I was rusty at it and realized quick that I needed to warm back up to it again, and refresh on my boating skills.

When we got back, I finished a bit more packing, then went out to beach club with the crew to hangout. It was nice spending more time with the crew before leaving. Everyone split up towards the end of the night, and some went to bed, so I figured I'd go to bed then.

Now I am up, and getting ready to leave soon for my first flight. I will be back in Tampa by 5 PM. It sucks that my time has come to a close. I am just hanging out now, waiting to leave. Some of my friends here are cleaning, and the rest already went out for the day to go snorkeling and spear fishing from what I saw. I got called out on the radio to the dock, so someone gave me that heads up and I ran to the dock to look for them. I couldn't see them on any of the boats, and then I heard cheering from out in the water. I quickly looked over and saw the part of the crew who were out on the boat heading out all waving. Tristan thanked me for coming, wished me safe travels and said goodbye, and everyone waved. I yelled my goodbyes and thank you's then went back in. In about another hour I will be out of here.

I just finished signing the Shark Lab guest book...

I wrote...

"Dear Shark Lab,

I am really going to miss this place. I have learned a great deal during my month here at the lab, and had the time of my life. This was a dream come true for me. On top of all the experiences gained, I made great life long friends. I will recommending this place to everyone I know and will meet who are getting into the field, or just want experience working and diving with sharks. One thing for sure, for myself...I will never be the same again! Thank you so much for accepting me and having me here. I do plan to return every chance I get, so this is not goodbye, it's see ya later! So see ya later Shark Lab!

Hannah "Shark Girl" Fizell
St. Petersburg, FLorida, USA
October 15th - November 15th, 2012"

And this ends it. Time to get ready to head out! So long Shark Lab! I can never give enough thanks to you for having me here! I had the time of my life and learned so much that I will take on with me forever! WOW! What a month!!!! The best month of my life to date!!!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Final day in the field for me?

Today I woke up ultra early...earlier than I ever have now that I think of it. Of course there was a few other times when I was traveling with family, or was getting ready for a trip, but it was hard and I wasn't happy to. This morning, on my own, I willingly got up 2 hours early. For the first time ever in my life (a real first), I went to bed a 8pm. Amazing, right? Normally I am up, at the latest, 1-2 AM, sometimes 3 AM on a fun night. But no, I was in bed at 8 PM and up at 5 AM.

I grabbed my laptop, my Bible, my notebook and pen to head for the table in the dining room. For once I was the first one up, not the last. First things first, to start my morning, I spent time with the Lord. It was peaceful and quiet, and I had just enough lighting from the sun coming up. Beautiful morning, and sweet time with the Lord, before the rest awake, breakfast is ready and the day is to be started. Absolutely perfect. I am going to start making this a new habit. Maybe not going to bed so early all the time, but maybe making the latest 10 or 11, unless it's a night with friends, a night shift, or something fun or work related that I would have to stay up for.

Finally the time came for everyone to be woken up. I listened to Lindsey knock on each door and then came the crew. I love these guys. Here we go! Time to start a new day in the field. I had toast while everyone had waffles, and as I finished breakfast they started. I spent the time on my laptop here, typing up my latest blog post about my shark dive. The one below this post. What a dive day that was.

When the staff meeting was over, we found out what group we were in and what we were going to be doing for the day. My group would be Gillnetting. It was me, "V Doub", Lauran, Wolf Gang, Annie and myself. We only got one shark, but it wasn't the right size. So we pretty much spent the day just relaxing on the boat, tanning and sleeping under the warm sun, while the sun was out. Then for the last couple hours, the sun was gone and I personally enjoyed the breeze while they got cold. It felt very nice.

The day went by very fast, and was ended viewing an absolutely gorgeous sunset. The sunset got me thinking about God and heaven. There was the sun and the clouds around, and the way it looked it was like heaven opening up. The sun beams going through the clouds to the water, and you can see the rays to the surface of the water. It was a glorious sunset and got me thinking on God and heaven. "What a heavenly reminder!"

I kept looking out at the water, and to enjoy the view of the water and of Bimini around the coast until I couldn't see any of it any more. Tonight may very well have been my last day in the field. Rumor is that tomorrow is just a cleaning day in the morning as a crew, then we have the rest of the day off. Tomorrow is my last day. Then comes the day I have been dreading since I got accepted...the day I go "home".

Best dive day we've had this month!

Me diving down to one of the Sharks!

WOW! What an exciting day we had yesterday. I am sorry I kept you all waiting for this new blog post. I was so wiped out last night that I fell asleep at 8 PM and just woke up a couple hours ago at 6 AM. It was a very good sleep, and now I am fully rested, having a nice breakfast and getting ready for another day out in the field. This morning I had the privilege of Skyping with my mentor who is currently out at sea on a research cruise. It was so great to see her and speak to her for  moment for a very quick hello. I love her a lot and have been missing her much.

Yesterday we had some visitors come in with returning Tristan for the day, along with his cousin. A few of us got to go for a shark dive with the P.I's, Staff and visitors from Russia. They came in around 10 or 11 AM in a helicopter. We went out for what became the best dive day we had this month. Quickly once the anchors were down and the line was set up, we geared up and got in the water. Several sharks were before us already, but once everyone got on the line and chum started being  thrown in front of us, a great number of sharks came out in front. The past two dives, the sharks remained calm the whole time, but this time they were (as some put it) "fiesty". The sharks were swimming fast, very quick, and spontaneous. Bringing intimidation out us, but love too, simultaneously. Sharks from behind and before us zipping fast between us. Many sharks came within a few inches of us, many many times. I remained in a glory moment. This was a dream for me. I was so stoked beyond words. I became quickly upset and short tempered when the person next to me kept kicking her leg in front of me to kick sharks out of the way. Many of my photos I had to delete because her fins were covering the shark. I kept pushing her leg out of my way, as she brought it back up, then I popped up and told her to stop, then went back in and she stopped for the remainder of the time. If I saw her even try it again, I'd reach down and push her leg again. You don't do that. One of the KEY rules of diving safely with a shark is to keep eye contact with them. Don't lose sight of them. Because if they come to close and there comes a possible close call as they are zipping due to hunger, and chum is being thrown in the water before us. If you CANNOT see because of your neighbors fin in front of your face and a shark happens to be behind, and you don't see till last minute to try and move, it could get bad. You don't block the site of your neighbor, no matter what reason you think is legit to do that. I got mad, but held my anger.

After the chum was out and a good portion of the sharks disappeared, we were set free to go swim with them. We all enjoyed a time of free diving with the sharks, and watching them gracefully swim throughout the waters around us. Watching their every move and behavior. It was a beautiful and fun and exiting day.

Once it was time to come up, and we were all on the boats, we went to the location of the deep line that was set, hoping for big sharks. We didn't have anything. They pulled up all of the bait the was put on the hooks. Either they never came in the area, or they out smarted us. Who knows. It was a bummer, but it happens. Some days you pull up sharks, and some days you don't get anything.

Overall it was still an amazing day. Not having anything on the line didn't subtract any of our excitement and joy. 

Of course I was very tired when we got home, so I went to bed (again I share) at 8 PM.

Diving down to one of the sharks in front of me. There is another one right there in the shot on the right.

The heavens shining down through the glorious waters!

I took this one as I followed the shark for as long as I could. At first I could keep up, but then the shark sped up.