Wednesday, May 11, 2011

HB# 44 11

Here is my last ID of the season; the picture even has the look of a goodbye doesn’t it? There are still a few whales in the area, 3 were seen (not by me) 5 days ago but not enough to spend precious funding on. Out of the 45 whales encountered by me this year while searching, I only got maybe 11 really good fluke IDs. A good half of the whales were mother/calf pairs so no fluke shots there (mothers won’t dive deep when with their calves who can’t) and as always the bright, high Baja sun often makes the exposure impossible, particularly of a black fluke. Great season nonetheless, how could it not be, with lots of close encounters, Orca swims and special treats like a “singer” under our panga. I am indeed blessed by The Great Mystery and am very appreciative of my unique place in life and Grandmother Ocean at this time.

On the 6th my good friend Jorge (George Sievers) and I actually got the reef study in gear!! It is what I had expected to be putting my research time in on until I began seeing all the whales. Well, year-by-year, a little bit more preparation was put into it and this last week Jorge and I did the first serious work. I must thank Jorge for keeping me on track with this project, if had not been for him I may never have really gotten it off the ground. I include Alan and Marilyn Pomeroy in this too because their help last year was invaluable. This study requires a great deal more finesse and includes SCUBA diving, underwater photography; transect development and at times just brute strength. I am proud to say that we “old timers” were both up to the task and had a ball doing it!

As with all field work there are unexpected glitches in the plans and that held true for us when we actually started laying out the rope line that was to run between our two anchor points at each end of the transect. Now most of you are probably not interested in such procedural technicalities but believe me they are both infuriating and exhilarating when overcome and make up 90% of the field time. In this case there was a significant current running and we could not get the bow out of the line to get it stretched between the two anchors. After adding lots of extra line, many dives by Jorge and my paddling my ass off trying to drag the line to the second anchor we actually did it!

Here’s a picture of the line that we laid or at least part of it.

Visibility has not been good at all as you can see. At least the water is warm, which it NEVER was when I worked for The UC Marine Lab in Bodega Bay, talk about bad conditions to dive in! We left the buoys out overnight, took a days break and then went out again on the 8th to do our first test pass over the transect. Jorge picked me up on the beach with all my dive gear and we motored out to the reef. Jorge set the timer on his camera to capture this all important and historic moment just before we went under.

Visibility sucked but there was little to no wind and a lot less current. While I tested my recording technique, Jorge tested his camera. He also got shots of us and I am beginning to get a sense of what the critters think when they see me. No wonder those Orca moms (see archives) came real close with their calves to check me out last month.


Me. Do I look completely demented or what?

We both learned a few things and number one was that we have to do this in July or August when the waters are clear and then again in October/November. The reef does not look particularly good and unfortunately that is the case worldwide. I won’t go into a long dissertation about this but BELIVE me, we’ve got a real bad SITUATION here folks!!!

Not a healthy looking reef!

Even worse!

NEVERTHELESS, I am by nature a positive person and we still have time…but not much. After we collected all our gear from the bottom, and did a damn fine job of it, we got back aboard for a little R & R.

End of the first transect test

It was still early in the day and Jorge wanted to hit a few special dive spots between our reef and Punta Perico so we motored to them and did some additional diving. Here along the cliffs of Bahia los Muertos Jorge did some spear fishing and I finished the air in my tank just checking out the area.

Oh, and before that we came across a bunch of Mobulas that we dove in with and had a ball checking them out. As well as some Pacific Common Dolphin that went by in a herd of about 200.

Then on to Punta Perico where Jorge finished his air and I snorkeled. By that time we were both pretty tired so decided to head for home. By the time we got back to the beach where I could be dropped off the steering on Jorge’s boat went out and he couldn’t get back to his mooring. I helped as much as I had the energy for and then Jorge had to deal with the boat. Fortunately, like myself, Jorge has endeared himself to our Mexican community and help was available.

It was one of those days that men (I know this sounds chauvinistic, so be it) dream of, testing ourselves physically, accomplishing what we set out to do and doing it with camaraderie. Thanks Jorge, it was a special day for me.