Wednesday, September 17, 2008

First Submarine Dive to the El Bajo Seamount

I had my first dive at El Bajo yesterday in DEEPSEE and what a dive it was. Brian Skerry, Avi Klapfer (the pilot) and I drifted down the south side of the seamount at 4:00 p.m., my favorite time of day in the ocean. Ocean life tends to come alive late in the day as the sun goes down. And DEEPSEE gives you a totally immersive view of the ocean through the plexiglas bubble.

Preparing for a submarine dive

First we drifted down to the summit of the seamount while filmmaker Adam Geiger SCUBA dived around the sub and filmed us. Then we headed into deeper water and saw schools of red fish, amber jacks, garden eels poking their serpent like necks from the sand and peering at us and finally we came upon a sad surprise. It was a giant "ghost net" wrapped around a rock, an old seine net. This was a reminder to us of why this seamount, while beautiful in its own way now, does not have the abundance of marine life that it once had.

Back in the 1980s, there was a time when hundreds of hammerhead sharks, dozens of manta rays and other large fishes swam and circled El Bajo. We spent a long time filming the net and Brian made photographs for our National Geographic magazine article. Avi expertly maneuvered the sub in away that amazed me. A six ton vehicle and he could slide it sideways, up and down to a tolerance of a 1/4 inch.

After leaving the net we continued on and were soon surrounded by spawning fish. Male and female fish swimming in tight circles and ejecting sperm and egg into the water column, hopefully a sign that this area is recovery from overfishing.

Brian Skerry, Avi Klapfer and Greg Stone

As we neared the end of our dive we saw one more encouraging sign that was a 12 foot hammerhead shark that swam by the bubble of our sub and off into the abyss.

This, for me, was a perfect, day.

-Gregory Stone

Facebook Comments


Post a Comment