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November 2013    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 28, No. 11   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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R/V Coral Reef II, Bahamas

on the hunt for 1, 337 fish to stock the New England Aquarium

from the November, 2013 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Dear Diver:

The New England Aquarium, on Boston's Central Wharf, needed a lot of fish. It was enlarging its Giant Ocean Tank, and to capture the fish needed, it had organized three one-week collecting expeditions to the Bahamas. Last year, I only made the waiting list, but this year, I had my choice and selected the third and last expedition, which sailed out of Miami in mid-March.

All the Aquarium's expeditions (and those of many other aquariums and researchers) use the R/V Coral Reef II, an 80-foot, custom-built research and collection ship designed and owned by Chicago's Shedd Aquarium. While the living facilities -- a single lounge area -- were simple but adequate, I knew I was on an expedition when I shared a bathroom with three other cabins (each one had two bunks, a washbasin and closet).

I was the first guest to board the ship at the Jones Boatyard, along the Miami River, on Saturday afternoon. The rest of the guests drifted in later. After an introduction and dinner, I climbed into my bunk. It would be a pre-dawn departure, under several raised drawbridges and past cargo terminals with their huge cranes. Once out of the river, it was a calm (unusually so, some said) five-hour crossing to Bimini in the Bahamas. At Bimini, a fisherman on the dock was fileting wahoos and tossing the entrails to bull sharks feasting below. A kid about age three was near the edge of the dock, his parents unconcerned. One of the bulls rammed into the dock pylons, and the teetering kid almost fell into the water....

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