MITZPE RAMON, ISRAEL–It is a tradition for Wooster Geologists in Israel to have a day trip on Saturdays (Shabbat) to places of geological and paleontological interest. This year we choose to go two hours south to the city of Eilat on the tiny Israeli coast of the Red Sea. We visited the Underwater Observatory Marine Park with its observation tower that extends above the sea for a view of the coastlines of four countries (Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia) and below sea level for a glass-enclosed experience with the fish and corals. It was plenty warm, and the humidity was a bit of a shock after a week in the desert, but the breezes were very pleasant. Above is, from the left, Oscar Mmari, Steph Bosch and Lizzie Reinthal.
This is the coastline to the east of the observatory looking into Eilat. You can see the fringing reef in the shallow water. Unfortunately, as you may have guessed, most of the reef is dead or dying. Coral reefs are stressed all over the world with climate change (warming and acidification, especially) and pollution, but those in the Red Sea are in particular trouble. This is a narrow, busy seaway so pollutants are not easily flushed out of the ecosystem. For more on this topic, see the post from a visit in 2011.
Our visit was much fun as we got to see many denizens of the Red Sea, including turtles, stingrays, sharks, octopuses, crustaceans, and many diverse reef fish. It was also educational as we could see many recent analogues for our ancient fossil communities.