Canceled Meetup

RECENT CHANGE OF VENUE "Return to the Reefs: A Diver’s 50 year Odyssey"



50 East 43rd Street between Vanderbilt and Madison (Basement Level).

Please come and join us early to have dinner and few drinks!

“Return to the Reefs: A Diver’s 50 year Odyssey”

By Gordon Chaplin

This is a story about returning to your childhood after 50 years, and quantifying the changes in the ocean. Seven years ago Gordon Chaplin was invited by scientists at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia -- his father’s old institution -- to take part in a 50 year retrospective study of Bahamian coral reef fishes using his uniquely extensive archives as a baseline. These archives led to his classic text Fishes of the Bahamas and Adjacent Tropical Waters. The text was his sibling -- he grew up with it and knew the reefs as well as rooms in their childhood home.

A silent film shot and screened by Chaplin's father in 1952 and featuring him as a child diving among living coral and plentiful fishes will be shown as a backdrop to the talk. It is one of the first underwater films ever made.


From 2004-2010, Chaplin and Academy scientists made five expeditions to the Bahamas, returning to a sample of his father’s collecting sites and replicating his collections, using exactly the same methods. They discovered that species diversity remained exactly the same, at first glance wonderful news, but the proportions of the community were changing as the sites, now mostly dead instead of living coral, crumbled away. Coral in the area changed from 80 percent living to 80 percent dead following the severe El Nino current of 1997-1998 which raised water temperature more than 1 degree Centigrade. Severe El Ninos like this, normally 1 in 1000 year occurrences, are predicted to come more and more frequently as global warming progresses, though so far it hasn’t happened again and some coral is gradually regenerating.

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