Monthly Archives: July 2009

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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