JBL Expedition 2015: California, South Seas & Australia
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Around the World In 18 Days

Although the two protagonists in Jules Verne's novel needed 80 days for the journey around the world, we managed to fit many unforgettable experiences, animal observations and measurements into 18 days. The 14 members of the JBL research team visited the island Catalina off Los Angeles in California for one day, Moorea in the South Seas for 2 days, various regions of Australia for 12 days and finally the desert next to Dubai.

The Team

consisted of 14 members , 11 of whom had been drawn by lot. The expedition leader Heiko Blessin, JBL sales manager Didier Lergenmuller and the expedition physician Dr. Ludwig Neurohr were clear from the start. Silke and Maik Figura from the Bremen area and Hans-Jörg Buben and Andreas Geisler comprised the North German group, and this group was particularly well versed in the fields of terrarium animals and ornithology. Nele Lechleiter and her father Thijl were especially interested in the fish fauna. Roland Wrobel from Kölle Zoo was the acknowledged salt water specialist and Sophi Pages carried out the biotope data measuring throughout the whole expedition. Matthias Kahmann was responsible for the data logging and for determining our GPS positions, so that we would be able to match each measurement to the GPS data at a later date. Michael Schmölzing carried out the water analysis at each freshwater biotope and Alex Leuthäuser was particularly good at detecting animals. In addition he and Heike Blessin photographically documented each biotope above and under water.

    Catalina Island: from Gobies till to the Great White Shark

    When we left Los Angeles by ferry for Catalina early in the morning we could hardly believe that we would find crystal-clear water with fascinating fauna and flora just half an hour away from L.A.

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    Moorea – a Remote Island Paradise in the Middle of the Pacific

    After the cold California Current we visited the coral reefs of the South Seas, so that, after we had been to the Barrier Reef in Australia later, we would be able to carry out a triangulation of our Pacific results. And even before we had entered the water, we were greeted by that South Seas aura, just like in the movies.

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    2300 km Coral Reef: Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

    With over 400 coral and 1500 fish species the faunal diversity is many times higher than in the South Seas. To save money we booked a day trip on the Poseidon, and it was so crowded, it felt like there were another 200 people on board. We were glad when we finally arrived at the Agincourt reef after a 1.5 h trip.

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    Results: Marine water

    This expedition gave us the chance to measure the Pacific’s water values at three different places during the same season. The cold California Current was measured at Catalina Island off the coast of Los Angeles.

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    From Sea Serpents to the Land Snakes

    After the Barrier Reef we had two whole days to carry out measurements and observations in the Australian rainforest. For that we drove to Lakes Eacham and Barrine and to some rivers and streams with promising flora and fauna.

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    Mudskippers and Saltwater Crocodiles

    During the trip along the coast from Port Douglas towards Cairns we stopped at a beautiful mangrove biotope. Quite soon we were finding lots of mudskippers (Periophthalmus) – they were all over the sand, on washed up coconuts and between the mangrove roots.

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    Underwater Forests in 30 cm Depth

    Aquatic plants and terrarium animal biotopes were on the agenda for the last day. Our friend Paul, who runs an excellent specialist shop for aquariums in Cairns, took us to some places where we found beautiful aquatic plants. The plants were growing in the current of the stream and provided protection to the many existing animals (shrimps and rainbow fish).

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    From the Jungle to the Sacred Mountain in the Outback

    Even though we were primarily interested in herpetological research and reptiles, we couldn’t miss seeing Ayers Rock, whose aboriginal name is Uluru. But first of all, on our arrival after a 3-hour flight, we were to meet those inhabitants of the outback who outnumber all the others by far.

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    Results: Freshwater

    Australia is home to many rainbow fish and therefore very interesting for us aquarists! Our research team analysed every water where fish or plants were to be found. A mere glance at the salt content (conductivity) shows the adaptability of the rainbow fish:

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    Water Holes in the Deserts of the Outback

    The gorges are popular destinations in the heart of Australia. That’s what the Australians call the canyons which often have water at the bottom. Normal tourists admire the water, sometimes have a refreshing swim and head on. Our gang unpacked our landing nets and water tests, entered the water and took photos of everything which had fins or legs and which swam, crawled or hopped around.

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    Strange Water Values and Red Plants in Ironfree Water

    Close to our camp was the water hole Glen Helen. On the walk to the actual water hole we saw crystallised salt in the riverbed where water was once flowing. An analysis of the water showed a high salinity with a conductance of 5230 microsiemens/cm.

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    The Waters in the North at Darwin: Crocodile-free or not, that is the Question

    Our last days in Australia took us to the Litchfield and Kakadu National Park, in the very north of the Northern Territories. Both national parks are renowned for their abundance of animals and especially for their high numbers of crocodiles. Of these only the saltwater crocodiles are really dangerous.

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    Results: Terraristics

    Australia has so many different biotopes that we had so many measurements, we couldn’t fit them all on the analysis forms! In the outback we determined the highest UV values we have ever measured.

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    From Desert to Desert It is only 12,000 km

    The JBL Expedition 2015 actually ended in Darwin. The return flight went to Frankfurt via Sydney and Dubai. But when you’re in Dubai anyway, if would be silly not to have a look at its gigantic sand desert and its impressive aquarium with a length of over 50 m.

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