For the next two weeks he'll be sending us his "notes from the field":
We rolled into Santa Rosalia right at first light and set about drifting as the sun made it's way over the eastern horizon. Our 130 mile overnight journey to the offshore waters of the town that Eiffel built was in order to come in contact with the oceans ultimate predator...Humboldt squid.
Shortly after our arrival, California based squid researcher Scott Casselle met up with us and proceeded to give us all a valuable lesson on food web in-balance that appears to be a leading factor in the exponential Humboldt squid population explosion. "With the rapid decline in the predatory species, the voracious appetite driven rapidly reproducing squid are expanding unchecked toward a destiny that could lead to the collapse of many of the eastern Pacific Oceans species.", says Casselle. " The salmon stocks have suffered tremendously due to squid predation and rockfish species are not far behind. "
As Horizon's crew set up Scott's squid pen, local fisherman captured numerous squid and deposited them within the pen fastened to the swimstep of Horizon. Scott then donned his wetsuit and protective armor, which today consisted of a fine mesh stainless steel chain mail suit designed by San Diego based Neptonics. This armor is his "light" protection as during dives where he is to encounter large 5 - 8 foot squid, he dons full protective plates to cover the majority of his body. And even with the heavy armor he has had his shoulder dislocated and his wrist broken on several occasions by the extraordinarily strong squid. "During one dive a squid grabbed my camera from behind me, and as any crazy photographer would do, I held onto the camera at tremendous cost. The squid yanked my arm over my head and dislocated my shoulder. I then had to fend off other squid with my free hand while keeping control of the camera with my bad arm. I was not going to lose my camera!".
Mark and Stephen had a long chat with Scott as he swam with the squid within the pen. As the cameras rolled we all got the sense that even though these animals are truly amazing, a solution to take care of their sudden expansion and overpopulation needs to be devised quickly before it is too late. The lessons learned today during our short stay with Scott will stick with all of us and will sharpen the focus of our message of conservation.
Our afternoon was spent traveling south through the placid waters north of Bahia Conception. It was a quiet afternoon full of thousands of birds foraging on small schools of baitfish. Within two hours of our departure I had spotted pelicans, cormorants, gulls, loons, boobies, shearwaters, petrals and terns. At one point a masked boobie gliding just over the surface of the water suddenly gained attitude as it spotted a small meal of undetermined nature. At that point it, and mind you this bird is cruising at 25 miles per hour, gained 5 feet of altitude and then plunged like a bullet into the Sea...at 25 miles per hour! Approximately 8 feet later it sprung out of the water doing 20 mile per hour, gained enough altitude to keep from dipping its wings, shook off the water with one shake and then started flying like nothing had happened! Absolutely the most crazy thing that I have EVER seen a bird do!
The afternoon only gets better. And "No" I'm not making this stuff up. About 30 minutes after the booby did it's crazy stunt we came upon a huge pod of bottlenosed dolphin, the likes that I in 30 years on the ocean, have never seen. There must have been 400 dolphin within the pod, a number usually reserved for common dolphin not bottlenosed. Mark Carwardine and I looked at one another and stated simultaneously that from a distance we had anticipated the pod to be common dolphin. They put on an amazing show, even better than yesterdays dolphin as up to 6 at a time would launch themselves 20 feet into the air in a side by side formation that would rival the Blue Angels!
I'm truly sorry about the expansiveness of this log, but today was freaking cool. Just thought I would share!
Until Tomorrow from Isla San Jose and the ancient whalebones,