Isla Socorro – Day 4…..

Dear F&F,
January 17, 2009

Today\’s diving was not so much about what we saw as what we HEARD. On yesterday\’s dive, twice we heard a whap whap whap noise. Like someone was pounding against something hard on the ocean floor. That was new. Scott emailed Terry & the whale researcher that Terry had put us in contact with, Jeff, who both confirmed that was likely a whale song noise. Today we heard the more familiar whale songs that we first experienced while diving in Hawaii. It was not super loud, so likely they are quite a distance. We have been told the song can carry 1-2 miles underwater. Super duper cool.

Otherwise we saw the usual suspects: lobsters, octopus, many colorful fish. Chuck & Linda enjoyed the snorkeling spot in the shallow area near our first dive at Punta Tosca. Scott & I had some strong current, hand over hand on the rocky wall again at times. Only one timid white tip shark, nothing exciting in the shark department. All the more dangerous aggressive sharks live mostly in cold water areas. We are NOT going to encounter great whites or makos & unlikely to encounter tiger sharks (but they are a small possibility in warm seas). However, we keep the shark shields on all the time so will not be caught unawares. The only time we turn them off here is if we want to get close to a shark & it\’s shallow & we are close to the bottom or if we see a manta ray (They are supposedly more sensitive to them than the sharks as they too have ampuli of lorenzini). When we can see well & we have a rocky wall to our backs, we aren\’t particularly concerned. Sharks generally attack from directions where they are difficult to see. That is why surfers & snorkelers are more at risk. Even kayakers. Also most attacks on humans are when the human is dragging bloody fish. We, nor Chuck & Linda, spearfish so will not be attracting them to us as a food source. Sharks are opportunistic hunters. They are in a constant battle to maintain their protein supply. Our shark shields are to insure we aren\’t part of it.

Since the dive site Punta Tosca is about a 15 min dinghy ride each way, we pumped 4 tanks, brought Gatorade & granola bars for the break between. Both dinghies moved to a calmer area, away from the current for our surface interval. Lo & behold we spot mantas on the surface! At least 2. One black-back and one with white shouldered chevron patches. Linda jumped in & they did not run away. They were feeding though. Terry had told us that the Socorro mantas are generally not as approachable as San Benedicto so we did not have high hopes. Sure enough, by the time we switched our gear to the fresh tanks & rolled in they were out of sight. But Scott did get about 15 seconds of video of a very large wahoo! Of course when we took off the tanks, climbed back in the dinghy & drove a short distance we saw the mantas again. But after our experiences at San Benedicto, there is no need to go chasing skittish mantas here.

We chose another rocky pinnacle for our 2nd dive which was halfway back to the big boats. We had seen mantas & dolphins in this area yesterday, but today it was a pretty sleepy dive. Just the usual suspects. It is always lovely to blow bubbles & explore. The underwater terrain that we\’ve seen so far is interesting. Huge slabs of rock & tumbling boulders, like underwater ancient temple ruins. Many of the rocks are quite light grey or white so really stand out. Not the usual black volcanic color, although there are those too. Back here at the anchorage there are jagged cascades of lava rocks that remind us of places we\’ve seen in Hawaii.

It has been overcast most of the day, contributing to a lazy afternoon. I made another batch of pressure cooker popcorn. Funny, I used to limit myself on eating popcorn at the movies because it almost always gave me a stomach ache afterwards. I\’m not sure if I\’ve developed a more cast iron stomach or if it was some additive that they put on movie popcorn. My stomach is quite pleased with just about anything I put in it here! Prepare to roll your eyes…dinner will be lobster tacos. I am a bit reassured on our food situation after doing a thorough investigation of what is remaining in the freezer. I have a nice supply of raw chicken, mostly boneless thighs & a few packs of corn tortillas. We can eat that for breakfast if we run out of cold cereal! We are definitely not starving (yet).

Scott is hollering for me gotta run. Whales Ho!

What Scott was hollering about was a Mama & Baby humpback just about 250 yds outside the anchorage. Fortunately we still had the dinghy in the water, tied off at the back. Scott grabbed the small digital camera & video thrown into waterproof bags. I grabbed mask, snorkel, fins, my easiest to pull on wetsuit, booties & weight belt. It was a miracle I had the presence of mind to take all that. Ever since we were onboard the Solmar V boat for dinner January 1st & saw the beautiful video footage of a Mama & Baby humpback allowing divers & snorkelers near, I have fantasized about swimming with a whale. They are the largest creatures on the planet & I was determined if I had the opportunity I would seize upon it.

Our Mama & Baby were just hovering on the surface, not swimming in any particular direction. Just there. We motored very slowly & quietly until about 200 feet close. Then Scott cut the engine & rowed closer. (Good thing we put those rib bruising paddles back onboard!) At about 100 feet I quietly slipped in the water. I tried to swim as quietly as possible. The sky was still cloudy & it was about 5 pm so not good visibility. I could not see them underwater & kept kicking closer. Suddenly I saw the white belly & underside flukes of the juvenile. It was vertical in the water & obviously going for a jump. I raised my head briefly to see it jump, (body half out of the water) then quickly looked underwater through my mask again to see the freight train swim by. Mama was a big girl! At least 40-50 feet long & she was in a hurry. What a thrill! I was in the water with whales!!! Since they were not so keen with my presence on first glance I climbed back in the dinghy & we just hung back & watched them from a distance. Wow! Such a high!!! I have pet a baby whale & now I have swam, however brief, with a Baby & Mama. We continued to see them on the surface, spouting & the occasional tail until the sunset & it was too dark to see. We are hoping they adopt this cove as home so we may have another chance to get more acquainted.

You know the expression \”Now I can die happy\”? I want to first reassure you that I have no intention of dying out here & fully plan on living to be a ripe old age & be able to have tea parties back on land. Besides, I promised Skye that I would not die on the boat & would be an active Grandma to her future children. But I have such a sense of fulfillment, satisfaction, peace, even elevation – high on nature & all the wonders that it is bestowing upon us. I am humbled, awed, filled with joy, gratitude & amazement. What a privilege to be here. Yes, this year in Mexico had its hard times, but we are being amply rewarded by these islands – the Mexican Galapagos. I cannot imagine that the real Galapagos can give us this many fantastic encounters with marine life or other animals. We do not take any of it for granted. We are thrilled beyond belief & let out whoops & hollers when we reviewed the 5 second video that Scott captured of me in the water with the Baby jumping just in front of me. That will make the website, I am sorry you have to wait for it.

Scott & Cindy