Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Ocean is a Remarkable Place

As land based humans we are often reminded of the ocean and it's wonderful abundance of sea critters only when extraordinary animals wash up on the shores.

Case in point this remarkable Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) in New Zealand this week.

Years ago we got to witness the rare and wonderful midnight Leatherback egg drop on Dog Island. Sadly this oceanic voyager died of old age and the results of a recent storm. In this day in age that's a remarkable achievement.

Full story here.

Sea of Cortez - Production Adventure 2

Good friend Captain Greg Grivetto of Horizon Charters is on another eco adventure and this time in the company of the BBC as they film their much acclaimed series, “Last Chance to See”. Biologist, naturalist, writer - Mark Carwardine and esteemed actor Stephen Fry host this series and will be aboard as we search for blue, sperm and humpback whales:

For the next two weeks he'll be sending us his "notes from the field":

Time: 0800
29 25 N
115 56 W
200 miles south of San Diego

The sun rose over a blustery sea this morning. I have to admit to being very happy that the seas are on our stern as we travel south and not on our nose.

Whaling today may be a bit tough as the wind is a brisk 20 knots. Hard to see the blows as they are blown down almost immediately but we should have some good birding as we approach the Ranger Bank just north of Islas San Benito and then as we pass between San Benito and Cedros.

Time: 1945
27 35 N
115 04 W
323 miles south of San Diego.

Today was a busy day of vessel maintenance as we make our way south. We'll be picking up the xxx team in a couple days and are finishing up multiple projects aboard ship.

The ocean was quiet today, other than the wind and swell. No whales were seen, though we were visited by several pods of Pacific white-sided dolphin as we motored down the islands western shore. Three miles southwest of Cedros was a hot bed of activity as petrels, shearwaters, gulls and albatross were about feeding on no-see-ums. It was tough to determine the food source, but the amount of life in the area was astounding.

Looks as thought the weather will be improving tomorrow as we make our way past Bahia Magdalena. We're excited about cruising this area as we should have encounters with blue and gray whales.

Time for bed, see you in the morning!

Captain Greg

Sustainable Shark Diving - Mexico

One of the primary questions for any new shark diving operator is the sustainability question. Will the program put in place today be the same program 10 years from now? With this question also comes the ultimate question of commercial shark diving safety.

As we have long maintained what happens at one dive site resonates for good or bad at others and this is a global phenomenon. In the case of Mexico a commercial shark sites success or failure in Mexican waters will help determine the fate of other sites and the longevity of the industry as a whole within Mexico.

Which leads us to Playa Del Carmen and the new bull shark site there. This site appeared on the shark diving communities radar about two years ago. It is arguably one of the newer and more exciting shark sites and will generate more interest and divers in the years to come.

From the video's on You Tube and elsewhere it's pretty evident this site needs some industry help as it features unshielded half suit divers, shark feeding staff without armor, and overall free form encounters with poor to disastrous bait controls. Exciting, but is it sustainable?

That's not to say this site is not viable, it might well be. One look at other dive ecounters with bulls show these animals deserve special consideration beyond the "man in the sand with the bait crate".

It is hoped that these lessons are learned soon for the sake of the entire nascent shark diving industry in Mexico:

The Long Hand of Dick - Conspiracy

This week a NASA satellite launch sent a 278 million dollar Carbon Observatory into the cold, dark waters of the Antarctic.

Conspiracy theorists are screaming foul claiming the "Long Hand of Dick Cheney". Their theory goes something like this:

1. Dick Cheney, minion of big energy, sought to derail the Carbon Observatory from day one. Keeping an eye on rising carbon gas levels is not good for the coal or oil guys.

2. Many of Dicks senate buddies, who believe in The Rapture were helping Dick derail this project. They (senate buddies) do not believe in global warming as a general rule and no new "wacky science" was going to change that view.

3. The satellite failure was a direct result of industrial sabotage brought about by unnamed "Friends of Dick".

So there it is. But a look through the lens of Occam's Razor suggests that this floating observatory might have actually failed with a 59 cent lowest-government-bid widget that misfired at a critical moment.

Or the Rapture Guys made it happen with the help of Big Oil and Coal.

Most disturbing in any of this, is not the loss of a 278 million dollar bird, not the fact that Dick Cheney et al hate global is that fact that members of our government who have the ability to direct and change government policy for the rest of us actually believe in The Rapture.

CBS News - Documentary Hijacking

RTSea Productions is the driving force behind the well received white shark documentary Island of the Great White Shark. Shot at Isla Guadalupe, Mexico with the crews of Shark Diver and the research team from CICIMAR over four years - the shark footage in this film is simply stunning.

Richard Theiss, owner of RTSea, and ourselves were surprised to see his documentary footage on a recent CBS 8 news piece about sharks. The pieced aired last night and featured Florida's Shark Attack Files claim that shark attacks were down in 2008 due to the recession. This claim has been roundly questioned by many within the shark community and conservation world.

A strange story from Florida becomes stranger still when a major news source hijacks a shark documentaries footage, adds 3rd party advertising to it, and proceeds to air it without asking the filmmaker first.


See Video

Frank Mundus' Shark Boat - $51,000 Final

With your "average" pro shark PSA running upwards to $250,000 - including an A list star, director, set time, CGI, we're more than disappointed to see the Cricket Two sail off into the sunset for a mere $51,000.

This vessel to the pro shark world would have been media slam dunk. To any commercial shark diving operator even more so.

Mundus, the real life character to Quint from Jaws and shark fishing advocate landed untold numbers of sharks over his 60 years of fishing, many weighing between 1,000 and 4,500 pounds, the latter a world record for a Great White.

These animals were killed for the express purpose of weigh ins and nothing more. Having the Cricket Two as pro shark media platform at $51,000 would have been nice, but it was not to be.

To quote "Quint" from Jaws as the Cricket Two moves on to a private owner in New York - "Fare well and adieu, to you fair Spanish ladies..."

Sea of Cortez - Production Adventure

Good friend Captain Greg Grivetto of Horizon Charters is on another eco adventure and this time in the company of the BBC as they film their much acclaimed series, “Last Chance to See”. Biologist, naturalist, writer - Mark Carwardine and esteemed actor Stephen Fry host this series and will be aboard as we search for blue, sperm and humpback whales:

For the next two weeks he'll be sending us his "notes from the field":

After months of preparation we've departed San Diego for what will prove to be a grand Sea of Cortez adventure!. Over the next two weeks we will traverse the entire length of the Baja peninsula twice and in between will enjoy the company of the XXX as they film a segment for their much acclaimed series, "Last Chance to See". Biologist, naturalist, writer -Mark Carwardine and esteemed actor Stephan Fry host this series and will be aboard as we search for blue, sperm and humpback whales within the Sea of Cortez.

If that doesn't prove to be exciting enough we will also go searching for the endemic Santa Catalina Island rattle-less rattlesnake and hope to have the opportunity to venture into the Sea of Cortez's briny blue to experience the magnificent Humboldt squid off Santa Rosalia with Scott Cassel. The crew and I are pumped and ready to say the least!

I will do my damnedest to provide you with colorful commentary that will pull you away from the day to day grind and into the Sea of Cortez. We'd like you all to be with us, but since that is not possible I'll take copious amounts of photos for display upon our return on our new Facebook site. As I find time I will email photos to my better half so that she may post them in advance of our return.

As I write, we are 70 miles south of San Diego, 10 miles south of Ensenada. Today's encounters have found us sharing the ocean with Pacific gray whales, blue whales, common and Pacific white-sided dolphin. As the sun set into the Pacific we passed our final cetacean of the day that fittingly fluked just off our starboard beam.

We're looking at a restful evening on following seas and will be back on tomorrow with reports from Baja California's ocean oasis!

Until manana,
Capitan Greg

Goblin girl... on the plight of sharks on film.

I really liked the movie "Sharkwater". When I saw it, it felt like "Sharkwater" with it's action packed style, would appeal to a younger audience. Even I - who have always thought that Greenpeace's methods are a bit extreme - wanted to join Sea Shepherd's Captain Watson on his quest after seeing the film! Also a contributing factor why Greenpeace wasn't my cup of tea: when I was younger they mainly focused on cute animals, like seals and whales - not sharks.

Now that I've seen Joe Romerio's film clip, I'm more convinced that his style will talk more to politicians, than maybe "Sharkwater" did. "333-death of a deity" has a more suggestive - still very clear - way of hammering in it's message. And the footage is truly excellent, the music works well with the message delivered. VERY nicely done! I hope that it gets widely spread.