Darwin Island (Dives), Nov 10-11, 2003

November 10, 2003 - Darwin Island (Dives 7-10)

Dive 9
Max Depth: 97'
Dive Time: 45 min
Temperature: 72 °F
Nitrox PO2: 21%

Dive 10 
Max Depth: 63'
Dive Time: 52 min
Temperature: 73 °F
Nitrox PO2: 21%

Dive 7
Max Depth: 113'
Dive Time: 49 min
Temperature: 73 °F
Nitrox PO2: 21%

Dive 8
Max Depth: 84'
Dive Time: 47 min
Temperature: 72 °F
Nitrox PO2: 21%

Camera: Seacam/Canon 1Ds, Canon 20mm/2.8 lens, 2 x Ikelite DS-125

Dive 7, 8, 9: Darwin rules! Because the current was running to the SE (which is extremely rare), we droppe in over the sand between the arch and the island. When I was here in August, our group never even saw the sandy bottom because we did the same thing every dive (unfortunately, the dive master I was assigned to on that trip was not very creative). A forest of Galapagos garden eels (which are larger than the kind we normally see in the ocean) bobbed up and down on the sandy slope, just below a large school of bright yellow butterflyfish. Hammerheads cruised around us, and while I was off alone, one of them displayed its trademark hammer-shaking display, whipping its hammer back and forth aggressively before bolting off into the blue. Three large amberjacks swam to me and started to circle (this has been happening more and more frequently. I love it! :). After exploring the sand for awhile, we drifted off into the blue (through a huge wall of creole fish) and fought the current trying to get onto the ledge, where we spent the rest of the dive. The current was so strong that it was all we could do to just hold on and watch what swam by: turtles, hammerheads, eagle rays, Galapagos sharks, etc. For the first time, I heard a school of fish move in unison. These things actually made a sound, like a whooshing sound, but from every direction. Dolphins were cruising around, and occasionally, that big wall of creole fish I mentioned before would dart away at full speed, a wall of gray moving impossibly fast. Whenever this happened, the amberjacks around me would swim off (toward the school) at full speed, and then come cruising back after that instant of panic.

Dive 10: Only six of us made dive #4 for the day. We dropped in on the sandy bottom again and made our way slowly around the shallow area between the arch and the island. Many hammerheads were around, and we also saw two flounder, a scorpionfish, turtles, and the usual moray eels. Most of the dive was spent moving very slowly -- a great way to end a day of diving. There is so much little life around Darwin that often is neglected because of the big animals in the area; it was nice to have a chance to observe them as well.

In between dives, we spent some time snorkeling. At first, we drove off into the open sea towards a flock of feeding boobies, hoping for a large bait ball. Hundreds of them were feeding, diving down one after another, but by the time we arrived to the area, the birds had dispersed, and it was hard to tell where the little fish might be. So we drove back to Darwin to snorkel with a local sea lion colony. The big male was patrolling the shoreline, but he didn't seem to have a problem with our presence. The females and little pups came out to play as soon as our panga pulled up. So cute!

November 11, 2003 - Darwin Island (Dives 11-13)

Dive 13
Max Depth: 88'
Dive Time: 58 min
Temperature: 74 °F
Nitrox PO2: 21%

Dive 11
Max Depth: 88'
Dive Time: 60 min
Temperature: 72 °F
Nitrox PO2: 21%

Dive 12
Max Depth: 105'
Dive Time: 54 min
Temperature: 72 °F
Nitrox PO2: 21%

Camera: Seacam/Canon 1Ds, Canon 15mm/2.8 full-frame fisheye lens, 2 x Ikelite DS-125

Dives 11-13: Another boat in the area reported a whale shark sighting this morning, so we spent our three dives hoping to see her (in vain). But the dives were wonderful, as usual. "Scar," a local dolphin, came by me multiple times on each dive, passing within just a few feet of me. A few hammerheads and a Galapagos reef shark came in fairly close as well, but darted off violently -- and suddenly. I sometimes forget that sharks can move so fast! On one of the dives, I drifted ahead of the group along the platform to find four turtles swimming around. One of them swam lazily straight for me, circled a few times, settled down next to me, and went to sleep. It's nice to be alone because I don't have to chase animals. In groups, I have to chase animals to get photographs because if I don't get there first, someone else will! But when I'm alone, I can let the animals approach me. Yeah, I know. I shouldn't ever chase animals, especially in a marine preserve. You can slap my hand the next time you see me.