Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I haven’t been posting for a while due to a visit by my son Zack. We have been keeping busy literally day and night (excluding power naps in the afternoon) enjoying the sand, sea and critters. Not to mention this being the first time ever that Zack and I have had a full week to hang out together without outside distractions. He also brought some excellent videos I have been wanting to see, ie: Star Trek and Moon, plus the 5th season of Lost and the series on The American Indian, “We Shall Remain”; great way to finish the day. We have quite similar tastes and love to comment on the movies.

Most importantly for me is that he was able to join me while I ID’d some Humpbacks. Not only did we ID them (5 all together) but swam with them and at one point were in the water with 3 large Humpbacks within 40’ of us, and dozens of Bottle Nose Dolphins within 10’. It was a dream come true for me to be able to introduce Zack to my Cetacean friends. Zack did not hesitate for a minute when I suggested we get in with them, he made me very proud, especially with the three Humpbacks that had been in combat along with the dozens of dolphins around us, it was a real “party”!!

Here are some shots from the past week

My son Zack

kayaking near El Cardonal

Zack & Vicente

2 Humpbacks vying for a mate

A little aggression

Up close

Right on Zack!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Yesterday (Sunday, Mar. 14th) was a very special day. The wind lightened up so I could go out for the first time in a week. I also wanted very much to take my adopted grandsons, Antoine & Tristan, out to be with the Whale People one more time before they return to Quebec. Their mother Brigitte was ready as always to go too. The only problem was finding Vicente. Vicente parties “hardy” and Sunday morning is not his favorite time. I finally tracked him down and we got out at 10:00 am instead of the customary 7:30 am. Interesting how things work out as you will see.

After following our normal grid down to Punta Pescadero we began the return north in deeper water. Suddenly Vicente says, “what’s that?”, which is more often to get my attention than to seriously ask a technical question. It was a good-sized dorsal fin but I couldn’t make out the critter it belonged to.

Vicente then says, “Whale Shark, and a big one!”. Now I have been wanting to swim with a Whale Shark for the past 21 years. I knew they were around but had just never seen one. I got geared up (wet suit, mask, fins and snorkel) and Vicente put me in position to intercept. Funny thing was now that I think about it, as I was sitting on the gunnel waiting to bail over the side it never occurred to me to check if Vicente got his identification right!

Ready ???

Swimming out to him
The first attempt at intercept failed, he dove. In a bit he was up again and this time Vicente dropped me off right near him and I swam over to see him up close. All at once I was there, he was right under me and slowly surfacing….incredible sight! I was only a few feet from him and began swimming at a leisurely pace next to him. I dove down to check out his eye and then edged over to touch him, very much a Shark!! Skin like coarse sandpaper and a body of STEEL. What a beautiful creature, magnificent.

The mood was so mellow that as we came closer to each other I reached over and held on to his dorsal fin at the base to take a ride. What a “trip”!! He of course pulled me effortlessly; he was 98% muscle and 30’ long.

Reaching for the dorsal fin
After a little bit I think he got tired of pulling me and brought his considerably large tail around to give me a nudge but I backed off quick enough not to be hit. No aggression mind you, just a notice. I was as insignificant to him as the Remoras attached to his body.

Backing off from his tail

We swam together for a bit longer and then he causally disappeared into the depths. A thought came to my mind; if Vicente had not been late we would most likely have missed The Whale Shark altogether. The Great Mystery had once again gifted me.

Since writing this I have done some research on Whale Sharks and I believe it was not "environmentally correct" for me to have touched and then held on to this critters dorsal fin. I apologize to all of you who think that this is an OK thing for humans to do, it is not. I had no right to assume greater leeway in something like this. To swim with them is fine, to touch them is not.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

It has been another quite incredible week. By Thursday I had 54 IDs. On Thursday I took out some new friends from Vancouver and we got 5 IDs. What was particularly cool about Thursday was that there were lots of dolphins in the area and they were hanging with the whales. As we followed a couple of whales and I was sitting on the bow with my legs hanging over the dolphins would ride the bow wave directly under my feet (maybe 1’ away). They kept turning on their side and giving me the eye so I waved and called to them. They seemed to respond by becoming even more active. I have had lots of dolphin experiences but this was definitely one of the best. With the telephoto on my camera the dolphins were too close to get a shot under my feet but here they are approaching me.

Yesterday I went out with Vicente and two young folks (Tyler & Bjorn) from my neighbors, The Cooks. The day was a bit chilly and the skies dark but the Humpbacks have been so active in the area that it is hard to resist going out. We found some Humpbacks out by Punta Pescadero and after ID’ing them we were heading north because of a report from Vicente’s son that there were some HBs near El Cardonal. As we were cruising along Vicente spotted a Sea Turtle and Tyler wanted a picture so we went over. When we got there we could see that the turtle was in some trouble. It had a large plastic bag wrapped tightly around its right flipper and was unable to swim. We got next to him and while I held him by a hind flipper Vicente cut the bag off. It was OK and swam down into the depths a much happier turtle. We were all of course delighted that we had accomplished a turtle rescue (they are becoming more prevalent as more plastic accumulates in the oceans).

On top of that I got my 60th and then 61st and 62nd IDs. A very “big” record for me.

HB# 62 10.....a beauty!

Still working together after 6 years, "The Dynamic Duo" of El Cardonal.