Hurricane Hole Post 2017 storms

Hurricane Hole historically has provided a safe haven for boats and for marine life during storms. Red mangrove trees growing along the shores of bays within Hurricane Hole have prop roots that extend down into the water and which support a diverse community of corals, sponges, and other animals and plants. So far we know of no other place like this in the Caribbean (Rogers 2017). Over 80 species of fish and 30 species of coral have been found there.

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1 minute, 14 seconds

This video shows the diversity of life in the mangroves of Hurricane Hole prior to Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Powerful winds and waves from Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017 uprooted many mangrove trees, scoured the fragile communities of marine organisms off of the prop roots, toppled corals, and moved and tumbled rocks, particularly in Otter Creek and Water Creek. For example, along much of the southern side of Water Creek the colorful marine life is almost completely gone (see short video 2). On the north side of Water Creek, damage was less severe, and there are still some intact, large corals, and some sponges growing on the roots. (a few digital stills and video 3). Princess Bay was less damaged than Otter and Water. In visits to Hurricane Hole after the storms, few fish were seen. For example, the typically conspicuous, brilliantly colored angelfish were not abundant, perhaps because they mostly eat the sponges which were stripped from the prop roots during the storms.
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1 minute, 54 seconds

Video of the north side of Water Creek in Hurricane Hole. Taken March 7 2018 following the hurricanes of 2017.

“How long will it take for this special place to recover?” The honest answer is , “No one knows”. It is not known if there could be full recovery to what was present before the hurricanes. This would require recovery of mangrove trees as well as marine life below the surface. No previous studies of hurricane damage to such an unusual coral/mangrove habitat have been published. Although within a few weeks of the storms there were signs of trees and other plants sprouting new shoots and leaves, nothing comparable occurs underwater because corals grow very slowly, less than 1 cm a year. Scientists from the US Geological Survey and Santa Fe College (Gainesville, Florida) will be coming to do research to document the damage and to examine the potential for recovery of the mangroves as well as the corals and other marine life below the surface. The shade previously provided by the mangrove trees seemed to be making this shallow environment less stressful for corals, including some rare species that typically grow in deeper water. The British Virgin Islands also sustained severe damage, and they would not be expected to be a good source of coral and sponge larvae to replace what was in Hurricane Hole. However, there is hope, as the marine life that remains within Hurricane Hole and on nearby reefs can be a source of new growth on and near the prop roots.

Pre and Post Hurricane Hole Coral Storm photos
Pre storm Meandrina Post storm Meandrina
Pre storm Meandrina Caroline Rogers
Post storm Meandrina Caroline Rogers