Hōkūleʻa Update| February 1, 2017

Naalehu AnthonyBy Naʻalehu Anthony

Our exploration of the Galapagos continues as leg 27 and  leg 28 crewmembers took to the water to see what treasures the Galapagos has to offer. Three teams went out to different sites to explore and learn about this very special place. The team I was on drive across the island to the pier near Baltra Island where most of the dive boats launch from.

As we spent 30 minutes bussing it across the island we found that our guide David was very knowledgeable about the history of this place and how it came to be that we see giant tortoises roaming around farm land and iguanas both IMG_0228nearshore and in mountainous regions. David explained that humans are guests here and that the animals have the right to travel wherever they want. Apparently if there are animals in the road, cars must yield and there have been many noted traffic jams caused by basking tortoises. By the time we reached the pier to load onto the boat it was clear that we were heading for a place where the wildlife not only has the priority but also has the upper hand.

It’s somewhat unnerving to see that ominous shark fin sticking up in the water as you prepare to get in, but that’s what were here for right? That is to see some of the things you might not be able to see at home. Our guides were reassuring that the wildlife was friendly and that if we didn’t chase any of the sharks around we would be fine. Regardless, we let our hosts go in first, and, after donning on our suits, fins and tanks, we leaned backwards into the soup.


The underwater world here enveloped our senses; the salty ocean water came as a bit of a shock as it was more frigid than I expected. Peering down I could barely make out the murky seafloor that would lead us to a dark shelf in the distance. I had expected the type of clarity we have experienced in the South Pacific and in Papahānaumokuākea where visibility can go for hundreds of feet. But the guides would explain that the Galapagos has turbid water because of the intense currents that bring up the deep ocean nutrients from thousands of miles away.


As we took our time getting used to the pressured descent, the underwater world here began to reveal itself. The sheer

abundance of life just a few feet down is nothing short of amazing. Huge schools of small reef fish clean the rocks and play in unison with parrot fish larger than I have ever seen in my life. The sharks worked the perimeter of our dive group as we let the current slowly carry us across the shelf. Hammerheads drifted above and as we rose back to the surface – after a little under an hour, reality had shifted for many of us.

While it may not have been the clearest that we have seen in other locations it was certainly a reminder how far we have to come back at home in the main Hawaiian Islands. I got to dive Maunalua Bay just a little over a week ago and while there were fish in 40 feet of water, the diversity and volume paled in comparison to what we saw today. We took the boat back to the pier, a little tired and hungry but certainly excited at what we saw.

Getting back to our accommodations on these trips is always an exciting time: it provides our media crew time to review and compare the day’s catch in the way of photos and video. It’s not a competition per se but certainly we try to get the best images that we can based on the conditions. Bryson, who was with a separate group, got back to the room with a charred smile after being on the water and hiking today. We talked about what the conditions were and what we saw. He talked about the land and saltwater iguanas that dominated the landscape in some places. And that the sea lions he saw today were curious and friendly. He too commented on how many fish there were in this place as compared to back home. Bryson was happy with his shooting but agreed that the visibility was tough.

Jason returned last from his group outing and looked the most burnt. He spent the entire day on the water with other crewmembers. We asked him about his shoot and he simply replied “ah, it was OK.” The sheer amount of media from the day had us backlogged in processing photos and video and so Jason’s media would have have to wait to be reviewed. On top if it all, we had to curate content for a community presentation so we were pretty busy and didn’t think anything more Jason’s shoot.


Our initial take on the murky water shifted soon after leaving the hotel. We began to talk more about playful sea lions, schools of fish bigger than anyone had seen before and then a crewmember made a joke about an orca whale? What was this!? Jason gave only raised shoulders and a sheepish look of someone who probably had the best shoot day of his life.

While writing this post tonight, Bryson had reviewed the remaining material and was stunned by the results of Jason’s shoot. Arguably some of the best wildlife material we have seen in the lens over the last 33 months and 32,000 nautical miles. Iguanas basking by the sea, sea lions laughing with the crew, and orcas? Yes, orcas. Well you’ll just have to wait for the video. One more dive day to go and we are certain that what people say about this place is true, the Galapagos does not disappoint. Enjoy the pictures everyone.


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