Wednesday, 31 August 2011

A View To A Thrill

Posted originally today on my Save Our Seas Blog

Until August arrived the manta season had started fairly bleak. Mantas can be found in these waters normally from early June. For the first time since I had started my work here, I had managed to secure enough funding to be in the field from mid July, and my volunteers and I were keen to make the most of this initiative and we were set to collect data from much earlier in the season.
The mantas however had other plans. Puerto Lopez sits amongst a range of low slung mountains that rise up somewhere along the road between the large industrial port of Manta near the middle of the country’s coastline and Ecuador’s second city Guayaquil some three hours to the south. This atypical topography attracts a thick blanket of cloud to the area during the winter months of June though October, a result of warm humid air mixing with the cold air generated by the Humboldt current running up from the south. One precursor for the arrival of the manta population is a band of cool water that hangs in this coastal zone for those months, sitting a comfortable but hardly tropical 21 to 24 degrees Celsius. This year though, by some quirk of Oceanographic trend, the skies were blue, and the water temps were up a massive 4 to 5 degrees. This was a disaster for our early start and the mantas stayed well away. We saw one solitary manta in the middle of July on one of our remote cameras placed on a cleaning station, and nothing more.
It was not until the 4th of August when mantas started to show regularly, and even then they frustrated our ID efforts by staying well away from divers. Fleeting glimpses seemed to be the order of the day before we eventually got our first ID shot on the 16th of August, more than a month after we began our field work. I felt particularly sad for my first dedicated volunteers Juliet Lennon and Natasha Snowden who put in hours of hard graft and only Juliet got some fleeting glimpses of our distant giants before she left. It is at times like these when you realise how fortunate we are when the mantas do eventually come. It is not by pure luck that this migration event happens, but an apparent melding of oceanographic elements that combine to set up perfect conditions for their presence, and it is the study of these elements that this project aims to identify.

I am overjoyed to report that now the mantas have arrived sporting full colours. Over the last week we have had some incredible encounters and our surface observations have seen numbers of mantas on the surface way off into the distance, as well as excellent activity on the cleaning stations.
We have recorded some 67 identifications over the last couple of weeks, many of those in the last few days, and we are currently processing those through our database to see how many of them are brand new individuals. With only one repeat sighting recorded since we started our database, we expect this number to be high. The next couple of weeks seem very promising for new ID’s
In my next blog I will be able to publish up to date ID figures, and perhaps allude to further fascinating information on this exciting population.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011


It is not diving with sharks per se that inspires me about the human/shark relationship. It is the men and women who have developed their bond with the ocean to such an extent that they can happily become a part of it. Only from the viewpoint of within can you truly understand any kind of environment or situation. Walk a mile in [my] shoes...

Not for these free spirits the tumultuous clank and spume of scuba equipment, as divers using such machinery, we do not so much enter the marine world, as try clumsily to take our world down with us...and is a rebreather really a step away from that notion, or closer to it?

This article in the LA Times explains...