January’s earthquake in the Cayman
Islands had a previously unreported casualty – Little Cayman’s coral and
weather observation station.
Part of the instrument, referred to
locally as the “stick”, was found broken off shortly after the quake was felt
on Little Cayman and its concrete base was broken, according to Brenda Gadd,
managing director of the Central Caribbean Marine Institute.
“We went out to check on it and
found the concrete smashed up and the part of the stick was broken,” she said.
She said the centre hoped to have
the instrument repaired within the next two to three months.
The repairs will involve divers loosening
support ropes, straightening the pylon, and removing and replacing the broken
The coral reef early warning system
station is part of the Integrated Coral Observing Network, known as ICON, just
north of CCMI’s Little Cayman Research Centre. The 40–ft pylon is
standing in 23 feet of water.
It was erected last summer as part
of a partnership between the Central Caribbean Marine Institute and National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory.
The station reports data that is
integrated with satellite data on the web, and collects information on wind
speed, wind direction, air temperature, barometric pressure, precipitation,
light, sea temperature, pressure and salinity.
The station picked up on
significant coral bleaching last year, alerting scientists to warmer local
waters associated with global warming.
Ms Gadd said staff were “99 per
cent sure” the damage was done by the earthquake-related because “it was a
clean break (no marine growth at all on the broken pieces), and we only just
noticed it on that morning, which was the morning of the earthquake.”
The earthquake also stirred up the sea life in
the area that day, she said, describing erratic behaviour by fish and a rare
shallow depth appearance of a hammerhead shark as she and a colleague swam to
inspect the “stick”.