Every two years, my programs takes a weekend trip to Port Aransas, Texas, home to the University of Texas Marine Science Institute. Port A is about four hours away from Austin and is one of the longest barrier islands along the Texas coast. It’s now become a fishing, beach and resort village, and the weather is incredibly nice (though be prepared for extreme humidity and lots of sunscreens, or sunburns, in our case).
We spend two nights in Port A and stayed in the UTMSI dorms. The first night, we arrived at around eight after stopping in Goliad for dinner. (sidenote: Goliad, or more specficially the Presidio La Bahia, is where the Battle of Goliad happened back during the Texas Revolution and essentially the entire Texas Army was slaughtered in what became known as the Goliad Massacre.) Nothing was really planned for that first night, so we spent some time walking along the beach and playing games until way too early in the morning.
The next day, we got bright and early for breakfast, and immediately headed over to the docks to board the KATY, a research boat for UTMSI. We spent about three hours making a roundtrip across the estuary, where we were able to look at phytoplankton from the ocean under microscopes and sift through the silky ocean mud for small creatures. The researchers on board taught us about the various kinds of creatures that we caught (including jellyfish, blowfish, ribbon eels, mantis shrimp and catfish), and we were allowed to touch and look at them. Of course, this attracted a bunch of seagulls to fly around our a little boat the whole time (which then, of course, resulted in some people getting pooped on…). Dolphins also followed our boat around, especially after we cast a net out into the ocean (apparently they’re really smart and can untie the nets to eat the fish!)
After the boat trip, we spent the afternoon visiting the UTMSI museum and aquarium (where the skull of a whale was on display) swimming in the ocean, building sandcastles (and burying friends under sand) and flying kites (we even got to pet with two really cute dogs!) We all put on sunscreen, of course, but by the end of the night, most of us were red and sunburned pretty bad (so put on lots and lots of sunscreen and wear a hat!). It was definitely a nice and very much needed break from school. That night, we spent a solid hour looking for a place to eat — the original place we had wanted to go to was sold out, a bunch of other restaurants had waits over an hour, another place was closed, and most places didn’t have vegetarian options. We finally found a small bar & grill called Harbor Lights that sold some pretty good fried flounder & fries (which, I don’t have photos for because I was too hungry to take photos first…) Around sunset, we set up a campfire right on the beach and spent the night roasting marshmallows and singing campfire (and other) songs.
We got on the bus early this morning and arrived back in Austin around noon. The only downside was that the trip was too short, and I have too much homework due next week. But Port A will definitely be one of my most memorable moments of this semester, and I’m glad to have had the opportunity to relax and spend time with good friends! 🙂