After discussions with the soldiers stationed on the island, the expedition leaders decided to divide and conquer. A small contingent would hike the island to explore what terrestrial species might be encountered while the reef and shark teams would continue to follow their dive itinerary. For the hikers there were reports of a small mammal called the “Aguti” or “Watusa” and an opportunity to see native iguanas as well as both the brown and yellow footed boobies.
|Aerial View of the Swan Islands, (c) Kip Evans Photography|
We joined with the soldiers that had generously offered to guide us to the “Channel” for an early start and embarked on our journey. Hiking along the island’s air strip gave us perspective on the islands history, as we could see the foundations of cement buildings and the extended runway gave us visions of an island bustling with activity during World War II and for a brief time with the CIA’s Radio Free America broadcasts. But now most of the island has fallen into disrepair and decay, with only seven soldiers assigned to the island.
Nesting booby, (c) Kip Evans Photography
As we continued on, the history of the island was swallowed by the encroaching natural vegetation on a mission to recapture the island from its human custodians. Surrounded by the verdant growth and enveloped by the equatorial heat, we marched on. As we walked we kept our eyes peeled for the native animals and birds. We could hear the calls away in the overgrowth, but the Aguti remained as elusive as their description of half squirrel, half rat would suggest. However we were fortunate enough to find nesting booby.
|A Honduran soldier inspects a net washed-up up on the beach,|
(c) Kip Evans Photography
Distracted from our initial goal, and disheartened by the spectacle of refuse littering the beach, we realized that we would need to return back to welcome Dr Earle to Swan Island. Our spirits raised with the new goal and we trudged our way back to the landing strip.
With only a short wait and very little fanfare, Dr Earle and David Shaw, the last members to join the expedition, bumped and thumped their way down the airstrip to our welcoming committee. Introductions were made as Dr. Earle, ever gracious, visited with our hosts and explored their base. Given the grand tour by the soldiers, and even joining the them in a mock workout session, Dr Earle made friends as she does where ever she goes. Finally departure time arrived and and our group moved on to the Aggressor II to prepare for the final dives of the day.
Text by Dustin Boeger