Marinebiologists from MixITiN adventures in the Red Sea

6 February 2020

Being an ESR in an international project gives us the opportunity to meet people we would probably not have met otherwise. In MixITiN we ESRs have built a good relationship among us, surpassing borders, which is why a few of us decided to go on a vacation together.
Kostas, Joost, Andreas, Maira and Claudia went to Dahab (Egypt) for some diving in the Red Sea.

The Red Sea was the best opportunity for most of us to refresh our diving skills or even learn how to dive, like was the case of Kostas. A few steps away from the pedestrian zone to the water was enough to reach coral reefs and admire the beauty of the amazing creatures that live within. We all followed the basic rule of diving – Take only memories, leave only bubbles.

And a lot of amazing creatures we saw!

Given that most of us live in Central-Northern Europe, the 20-25 °C of temperature we found in Egypt in December was more than satisfying. As of the nights, most of them were spent tasting the flavours of the Egyptian cuisine and discussing many topics, including, of course, mixotrophy and our projects (we just cannot help it).

Being the scientists we are striving to become, the sea is more than H2O to us. Joost brought a portable microscope, that connected to a smartphone, and some filters. Happy with our tools, and a bucket courtesy of the diving center, off to the water we were! To our dismay, we mostly found sand, though a single copepod did swim around under our microscope. Guess we should have really gotten wet instead of just scooping from the water’s edge…

Suddenly on the third day of our trip we learnt that diving was not allowed because of the World Youth Forum that was going on in Sharm El Sheikh. Fortunately, we had already decided that we wanted to visit the sacred peak of Mount Sinai (Arabic: جَبَل مُوسَىٰ; Jabal Mūsā) where both a Mosque and a Chapel is found right next to each other. We left Dahab in the middle of the night, so we could head towards St. Catherine’s Monastery where we would start our ascent to the peak. St. Catherine’s Monastery is located at about 1480m above sea level and the peak of Mount Sinai is at 2285m, so we had quite the ascent to confront.

At the peak of Mount Sinai, we tried to get some sleep in a tiny rock cave for a short hour until we could watch the magnificent sunrise over the mountain desert of the Sinai Peninsula. To some of us, if not all of us, this was the most beautiful sunrise we ever experienced. With the rising sun, that was shining beautifully orange, the warmth of the rays hit us and started to heat us up from the freezing cold found during the night at an altitude of 2285m.

Back in Dahab the following days we were finally allowed to dive again, and during an early morning dive we saw one of the most magnificent things the ocean can present, tiny sparkling organisms brilliantly bursting into blue lights for us to swim amongst. Being marine scientists, working on microplankton, this underwater sight could not be more exciting! The rest of the trip was spent on diving and enjoying the culture of Dahab.

Alas, all adventures has to end, and so did this, as Christmas was getting closer and closer we had to leave the warmth of Egypt and go back to the much colder Europe.

Being an ESR in MixITiN, has given us the opportunity to learn about peoples from a multitude of different countries. We are not just colleagues, we are peers, collaborators and most important of all: We are friends.