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Island and Sound Exploration

This trip begins from Carolina Beach marina where classes board the "Winner Cruise Queen", a 65' twin deck vessel. The boat travels Myrtle Grove Sound, Snow's Cut, the Intracoastal Waterway, and Carolina Beach Inlet. During the 30-minute ride out to Masonboro Island students will learn about the ecology of the beautiful estuary we travel through.

The ride to the island also includes introducing students to one of the most fascinating inhabitants of the estuary, the Atlantic Blue Crab. Live blue crabs will be displayed as our instructors describe their life cycle, diet, and adaptations.

Upon arriving on Masonboro Island we divide into three groups. Usually the three stations include marsh, crabbing and beachfront studies. Depending upon tidal and weather conditions, we sometimes substitute other stations for these three standard stations. These other stations include a sea turtle role playing game and a study of beach sand. Sessions at each educational station are approximately 25 minutes in length.

The marsh station includes a scavenger hunt where students search for marine life with nets and rakes! Students are given a list of items to search for which includes animals, plants, and other natural features. We often include claming as part of the scavenger hunt. Claming is an excellent means to illustrate the economic value of our coastal wetlands.

At the crabbing station, students try their luck at catching blue crabs on baited lines. This is usually a thrilling activity that involves studying the behavior of the crab as it scavenges upon a chunk of fish at the end of the line. Various subjects discussed include predator/prey relationships and food chains. The "beach front" station involves a search and classification of seashells. Students can also learn about the fascinating adaptations found in the animals and plants that live in this harsh desert-like environment.

After two hours on Masonboro Island, we will reboard our vessel and return to the dock. As we travel through the estuary, the fascinating feeding behaviors of egrets, herons, cormorants, and osprey are usually observed.

About the island: Masonboro Island is a 9 mile long, completely undeveloped barrier island. Part of the North Caroline Estuarine Reserve System, it is a marine sanctuary preserved for marine research and education. During our trips to Masonboro, our groups often have the beautiful beaches and creeks all to themselves.