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a blog .. of sorts .. by Charlotte Dunn, BMMRO's President

As some of you know, myself and Diane Claridge, BMMRO's executive director, are undertaking our PhD's at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. We arrived on the 3rd August this year for an extended period of study. Within the first two weeks, there was a conference organised by The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour, held at St Andrews with a focus on animal intelligence. The plenary speakers were: Louis Lefebvre (McGill University, Canada), Tom Seeley (Cornell University, US), Susanne Shultz (Oxford University, UK) and Elisabetta Visalberghi (Rome). The talks covered the breadth of animal taxonomic groups, included proximate and evolutionary perspectives on intelligence, and portrayed theoretical and experimental research findings. I was struck by the very first talk of the conference by Tom Seeley on honeybees. He described in a confident and relaxed manner his remarkable research on discovering swarm intelligence, shown specifically in how honeybees decide on which new hive to move to. He showed how the intelligence of a swarm is smarter than the smartest individual in a swarm, and related this nicely to human meetings. If you think this is as interesting as I do, buy his book, "Honeybee Democracy".

Unfortunately as we were attempting to settle into our academic selves, we were well aware of a rumble in the Atlantic, and had indeed been watching 'Irene' since her inception off Africa. On the night of Monday 22nd August Irene was downgraded at our last internet check. On Tuesday morning however, at 7am Scotland time, she had been upgraded in the present and in the future predictions, with 4 out of 6 projected models placing her path over the research centre in Sandy Point. By 10am we were both at Edinburgh airport, an hour away, with only hand luggage, desperately trying to get on a flight. We got to New York at 9pm local time that night and had a flight to Miami at 5:30am. From Miami we managed to get to West Palm Beach where we had arranged to fly to Abaco with 3 pilots who had flown over planes to the States for storage and safe-keeping during the hurricane.

Our first stop was our oldest boat, Chimo, stored in Marsh Harbour - a quick check of anything around her that could damage her, put the plug in so she would fill with water from the rain and not blow away, took off anything that would fly or get damaged, and tied her to her trailer. We got home to Sandy Point around 3pm and immediately went to work securing shutters, moving the other 2 boats, Luna and Feresa in-land, tying them to trees and moving everything and anything else that would smash into the centre. At night fall the wind had picked up, but we were well prepared.

On Thursday morning the wind was howling and the power finally went out, though we had water throughout the duration of the storm. We also had our phone line until lunchtime, so knew that the hurricane had not been too bad in Nassau, and was still headed straight for us. At around 3pm, although she had passed us, the wind direction changed to the west, and the surf picked up and parts of the roof started to fly off. High tide was at 7pm. Around 5pm things were pretty bad and we started to put passports etc. into dry bags, dreading high tide, as already the wave surge was reaching the deck of the centre. Just before 7pm, the wind shifted slightly to the South, just enough to make a big difference, and the worst was over.

The days after were spent hosing the house, chainsawing and clearing the yard, retrieving the boats, fixing the roof, making runs to the hardware store, and feeling generally relieved. We left as soon as we could fly out and got back to Scotland in the knowledge that the house was now pretty prepared if another storm heads our way.

News archives:
Dec - Manatees
Nov - Conference
Oct - Dolphins
Sep - Stranding
Aug - a blog
Jul - Poop!
Jun - Survey
May - Fin whale!
Apr - Internships
Mar - Conference
Feb - Education Officer
Jan - Minke whale!

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