Monday, September 15, 2008

Wendy Benchley Returns to the Sea of Cortez

This post was written by expedition team member Wendy Benchley, wife of the ocean conservationist and author Peter Benchley.

Wendy Benchley on board the ARGOS with the expedition crew

Greg Stone and Wendy Benchley with the DEEPSEE submarine

How thrilling it is to be back on the Sea of Cortez--it was a special place for Peter and me. When we were here on the El Bajo seamount in the '80s it was teeming with life and, although the congregation of thousands of hammerhead sharks was billed as the main attraction, it was a magnificent giant manta ray that stole the show, and Peter's heart.

For three remarkable days a willing manta gave Peter and others soaring flights through the depths of the blue ocean. It always returned them to the dive boat and, at the risk of anthropomorphizing, it seemed to relish the human interaction. Peter was so awed by the experience that he returned home and wrote The Girl of the Sea of Cortez in about four passionate months. Of all his novels, it's my favorite. It's a "great read," but it also shows Peter's deep understanding of the complexity and fragility of the ocean and its creatures.

We'll be diving El Bajo sea mount in a couple days and, sadly, I hear it has been decimated by overfishing. But today was a wonderful day to celebrate the beauty of the ocean! We thrilled to open water snorkeling with pods of pilot whales. Some were curious enough to come within arms length and I was cheered and awed by their power, speed and grace.

-Wendy Benchley

Wendy and Peter Benchley photographed on Capitol Hill during a meeting concerning anti-shark finning legislation

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