Yearly Archives: 2009

Cuba: Jardines de la Reina Marine Nature Park

Jardines de la Reina, or the Queen’s Gardens, is the biggest Marine Nature Park in the Caribbean. It was named by Christopher Columbus for Queen Isabel of Spain and is located about 50 miles south of the mainland of Cuba; 80 miles north of Cayman Brace, in the middle of a 150 mile long mangrove and coral island system. This system forms what some people say is the third largest barrier reef in the world. Jardines de la Reina covers about 2,200 sq kilometers of ocean habitat, which means there is no commercial fishing in this area and the number of inhabitants is zero. One of the most amazing things about this park is that it sees no more than 400 divers a year!…
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Cuba: Gran Parque Natural Peninsula de Zapata

The Peninsula de Zapata is a remote, sparsely populated area of Cuba with a varied landscape. This image is of the road leading into the reserve. Much of the region is a large low lying swampy area not suitable for human habitation called the Cienaga de Zapata; but, it is a great habitat for wildlife. It’s one of the largest reserves in Cuba and an important area for migrating birds. We saw egrets, flamingos, herons, spoonbills and dozens of smaller bird species.This image is of one of the many smaller bird species at the reserve. The Cienega de Zapata, or the Zapata Swamp as it is affectionately known, is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, home to approximately 150 different species of birds, including rare baldicoots, waterhens, parrots, and heron.…
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Cuba: Havana – Colac Mar Cuba 2009

The National Oceanographic Committee (CON) from Cuba and Asociación Latinoamericana de Ciencias del Mar (ALICMAR), have jointly organized the Eighth Congress of Marine Sciences and XIII Congreso Latinoamericano de Ciencias del Mar, called ColacMar Cuba 2009. Members of The Deep Search Foundation Exploration team will be attending portions of this conference at the Conventions Palace in Havana. ColacMarCuba’2009 bring together scientists and other professionals related to science, technology and services coastal and marine educators, sociologists, economists, businessmen and policymakers, among others. Invitations have been extended to several well known people in the field, governmental and nongovernmental organizations, and other relevant national and international groups in order to give greater clarity to the event. This is the front entrance to the University of Havana.…
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Cuba: Protecting a Priceless Ecological Resource

Dr. Sylvia Earle’s second Deep Search Foundation expedition will take us to the coral reefs of Cuba. Join us from October 30th – November 5th as we explore what remains of a priceless ecological resource; largely unspoilt coral reefs that support a wide array of rare plant and animal species. The expedition aims to document Cuba’s marine life and the biodiversity that thrives on Cuba’s coral reefs in order to aid future conservation efforts. Cuba is located at the convergence of the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea; it provides a vital refuge for fish, amphibians, birds, and other creatures that have been forced to flee nearby local habitats. For example, Cuba is the exclusive sanctuary for the Cuban crocodile which once thrived in an area that extended from the Cayman Islands to the Bahamas.…
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La Vida Rica (“the good life”)…for Humans and Sharks

Day Four of our Deep Search Whale Shark expedition (our final day on the water) brought us into contact with a treasure trove of the Yucatan’s ocean denizens, including Manta Rays, Cow-nose Rays, Spotted Eagle Rays, dolphins, schools of jacks, and our now-familiar friends, the Whale Sharks. Before the end of our day, we also had a rare chance to check in on an entirely different habitat:a mangrove forest. Today’s primary mission was to observe and document the tagging of the Manta Rays by Dr. Graham’s team and Marissa Nuttall, Research Specialist at Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Sea conditions could not have been better: no wind whatsoever (for the first time in the expedition) and flat calm seas. We began in the green, nutrient-rich waters of the nearshore observation site (about 15 miles from Holbox), where one could swim through patches of water so full of life that all the activity actually warms the water.…
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Day Two in the Big Blue

Today was all about the science of the Whale Sharks. We accompanied Dr. Rachel Graham and her husband/scientific partner Dan Castellanos back to the Agua Azul (“blue water”) 8-10 nautical miles off the Yucatan Peninsula. Dr. Graham’s fascinating research is sponsored by Wildlife Conservation Society and its Ocean Giants program. She’s been working with Whale Sharks since 1998, and for the past nine years has been tagging the giants with cigar-sized, acoustic transmitters. These send a signal which is then received by listening stations located throughout the Western Caribbean Sea. As the sharks pass the receivers, their location is relayed via satellite to the researchers, giving them a near-real-time data on the sharks’ locations. Dr. Graham and her team then plot each shark’s track on Google Earth using a tool called STAT, which was developed by Michael Coyne at www.seaturtle.org .…
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Blue Water, Big Sharks!!!

We found the Whale Sharks! Not ten, not 20, not 50…more than 150! After hearing rumors yesterday of several hundred sharks out in the Agua Azúl (“blue water”), we decided to make the long ride out to the deep water well north of the Yucatán Peninsula. That meant departing at 6:30 am to make the three-hour trek of almost 60 miles. Though nowhere near as rough as yesterday’s ride, we did some bouncing around the boat before our deckhand Abrám shouted from the flying bridge that there were “muchos tiburones ballenas” ahead. Our crew today included our Deep Search threesome (Kip, Shari, and John), plus photographer Brian Skerry and his assistant Hela Shamash. Between Kip and Brian, we had some serious photo/video horsepower on board.…
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We have met the Whale Sharks of Holbox!

We’ve made some impressive new friends today–about six of them, all giant, serene and strikingly beautiful. First, the backstory….Having arrived on Isla Holbox (pronounced “hol-bosh”) very late last night, we weren’t able to mobilize for our departure from this charming island village until 10:30 this morning. And this meant we had to fight a stiff tropical wind for two hours, followed by a wicked squall, before we reached the rich feeding grounds of the Whale Sharks, six miles off Cabo Catoche on the far northeastern tip of the Yucatán Peninsula. Our Deep Search Team includes board member Shari Sant Plummer and team members Kip Evans and John Racanelli. Our fearless leader Sylvia Earle is currently in the Florida Keys on another expedition.…
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Holbox Whale Shark Expedition

Join us as we visit one of the most important whale shark feeding areas in the world. During July 11th – 15th, Dr. Sylvia Earle’s Deep Search Foundation will be on the island of Holbox as part of a research expedition to better understand the largest fish on earth. Whale sharks are widely distributed in all tropical and warm temperate seas throughout the world. Their distribution in these warm tropical waters is linked to the high productivity of these areas, i.e. dense concentrations of plankton. One particular island off the coast of Mexico boasts a large population of migratory whale sharks. Isla Holbox (pronounced “hole-bosh”) was a well-kept secret until 6 years ago when whale sharks were discovered right off its coast.…
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