ISLAND 2013 TRIP REPORT
I am always
surprised by how much the same adventure can change from one
year to the next. Last year's Socorro Expedition was packed
with manta's on virtually every dive. This year (2013)
turned out to be
all about sharks! Although we had manta encounters on
probably half of our dives, the highlight was definitely the
quantity and diversity of sharks that showed up to entertain
us at every site that we went to. From schools of
hammerheads out in the deep blue, to ledges piled high with whitetip reef sharks, to shy Galapagos
and silvertip sharks that
eventually allowed us to close the gap for some excellent
shark portraits and a school of parading silky sharks.
One night we
also did a little silky shark wrangling off the swim step of
the liveaboard. The silky sharks circled the boat every
night as we lay at anchor. As soon as we threw some scraps
into the water, they became very excited, rushing towards
our cameras as they were lowered off the
swim step. I ended up with a few scuffs on my
camera's dome port, but the unique images of silky sharks
framed against the darkness more than made up for it!
The most spectacular location was definitely
Roca Partida; a volcanic monolith that breaks the surface
miles from any significant land mass. Roca is only diveable in
calm seas because it affords no protection from the
relentless Pacific swells but when the weather cooperates it
is a spectacle you won't want to miss!
Not only did we see lots of sharks on every
dive at Roca Partida including whitetips, hammers, galapagos
sharks and silkies, there
was also a school of 30 or so gigantic yellowfin tuna that
circled the islet tirelessly darting in and out of the thick
schools of smaller fishes.
Last year the
winds were too strong for us to make it to Roca Partida.
I'm very glad that this year we were able to go there and
uncover a few of its secrets. The life around the island is
organized in layers: above water the rock is inhabited in
boobies and gulls. Just below the surface, creole fish form
large disorganized schools. Below them, tightly packed
bigeye jacks swirl around each other in an ever changing
twister of fish. Below the bigeyes, giant trevally wander
around in groups of five or ten and below those, galapagos
and silky sharks cruise slowly against the current. Deeper
still, below a subtle thermocline, scalloped hammerheads
form polarized schools except when individuals break
formation to approach cleaning stations populated by bright
orange triggerfish and clarion angelfish. What lives down at
100m where the monolith touches the sand, is anyone's guess.
Perhaps next year I'll bring some extra equipment and find
itself is thriving with life. The pounding Pacific surf has
carved deep ledges into the sheer walls of volcanic rock.
These are filled with whitetip reef sharks that are too
numerous to lay side by side so they rest on top of each
other, sometimes ten sharks across and two or three sharks
high. The ledges reminded me of private boxes in the upper
tiers of a sports stadium or an opera house with the sharks
peering out at the show.
Who knows what next year's Socorro Expedition
will deliver. Will it be mantas, sharks, whales or something
completely unexpected? Join me in March 2014 and find out!
New and old friends from this year's Socorro
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