As some may know, I love SCUBA diving (open- and closed-circuit) and have been fortunate enough to have done it in a number of beautiful places around the world. Today, however, was something different, as I was diving in the Galápagos, one of the world’s most treasured eco-systems. The dive was offered by a local dive company that, to be honest, I would never recommend to anyone and will therefore refrain from naming here. Just let me warn those of you who may want to dive the Galápagos that you had better know what you’re doing because you’re not going to get any instruction—or any real risk management—from some of the dive shops there. Yikes.
Rather than schlep my equipment on the multiple planes, boats, and buses along my journey, I decided to rent. This part of the operation was actually pretty good, as they had items in my size and the equipment was decent. My brothers ended up with the same ScubaPro wetsuit that I own and normally dive in (while I, of course, was given a ratty, torn thing of questionable benefit). Once in the water and ready to dive, we descended to 20 or so feet and I immediately noticed a sound both familiar and unusual—the high-pitched squeal of dolphins. Shocked, I looked at my brother and signaled my excitement, making the sign for ears and dolphin. He responded that he could also hear them, so we kept our eyes peeled, fighting the limited (25 feet) murky visibility.
At 65 feet, we reached the edge of a wall and knew that our dive plan was to swim along this edge, making our way toward some breakers near the shore (approx 1/8 mile away). As our group of 5 began swimming, the sound grew louder and louder until finally a pod of perhaps 40 dolphins swam past! Dolphins!! The sounds they were making were so beautiful, I couldn’t help but smile and pray for some sort of instant telepathic / emotional connection with them. “Swim over here! Swim over here! I’m a friend!” Dozens and dozens of them swam across our field of vision—perhaps 60 or 80 in all. It was a truly uplifting and inspiring moment, watching one of the planet’s most playful and intelligent mammals moving in the wild. (Dolphins!!)
As the dolphins and their sounds faded into the murky blueness and my spirits returned to some level of normalcy, we approached the shoreline and hovered around 40 feet. It was here where we watched a sea lion playing in the surf, followed by about 6 whitetip sharks making circles under a large coral overhang. I had seen a whitetip a few days earlier while snorkeling, but being down in the water and watching them circle around, one can’t help but think “Damn, that’s a lot of sharks… will they attack me?” Not common with whitetips, but not impossible, either. Thankfully, nothing happened.
From there, we descended back to 65 or so feet, following the dive plan away from shore for a bit. It was at this point that I saw something coming at me from the edge of visibility. It was about 30 feet away, moving parallel to my group, and it had the most unmistakable profile… a hammerhead!! Ecstatic, I desperately tried to signal our dive leader, who was directly below me, but he couldn’t feel or hear my taps on his tank. Finally, I grabbed his arm with a vice-like grip, signaled “hammerhead” (put your fists on either side of your head) and pointed. By the time he looked, though, only the tail was visible, swimming away into the murkiness. Aaaarrrggghh! Okay, so my advice to other divers based on this is… if you see a hammerhead shark, don’t waste time signaling to others if it means you might not get to stare at it and appreciate it in all its fast-moving glory. That thing was moving! Later, on the boat, the guide said he never saw any of it, nor did the others in my group who were behind us a bit. Me, oh I know I saw what I saw. I just wish I had kept my eyes on it longer. (Insert expletive here.)
Moving on from the shark, we meandered along some more coral reefs, watching a variety of fish which, while nice, weren’t sharks or dolphins. I was spoiled and jaded at this point. Some of the schools of fish moved in the most beautiful ways, and the light was spectacular, but I was replaying the image of the hammerhead in my head, trying to make those few seconds feel a bit more satisfying.
The rest of the dive, including our safety stop, was uneventful, but after all the fun we’d had, I was VERY pleased with my dive in the Galápagos. I’m definitely going back, and next time, I’m bringing a camera.
It’s been a fun 10 or so days since Thanksgiving and the weather in New York has been particularly beautiful. Until today, that is. It’s now a cold, rainy, somewhat dreary day outside. Good day to stay in by a fire, read a book or watch movies… However, since I don’t have a fireplace here, I decided to go to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian to see the annual NMAI Art Market. Each year, a few dozen truly gifted artists make the journey from all across the Americas to sell their pieces in NY. Really amazing stuff—will put some photos on Twitpic for people to enjoy. JB
Just got to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where I’ll be attending the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival. This is the community of filmmakers that makes all those amazing documentaries, features, etc about animals, environmental issues, and all things Earth-friendly (and unfriendly). I’m hoping to be inspired, by the films, the people, and the spectacular landscape that is the Tetons.
Just returned from Old Blighty, where I was enjoying a few days of England’s fine summer weather (aka clouds and rain). As followers on Twitter know, I had a fun time watching sheep races and visiting National Geographic’s store on Regent Street, in addition to other things. In any case, the following video just went live on CNNMoney.com’s site: GHF Video Link. It’s a candid interview with Jeff Morgan, the executive director of Global Heritage Fund, in which he discusses the goals and challenges GHF faces. On October 27th, there will be a one-hour special about GHF on CNN’s Impact Your World. More to come as I hear it.
I saw the most inspiring film last night at a special screening in New York. It’s called The Cove and I think you should do everything you can to see it and support the people who made it. Watch the trailer http://www.thecovemovie.com/ and then make sure you see the film in theaters when it goes nationwide in a few weeks. Seriously, it’s one of the most professionally-produced, effectively-told “activist” stories I’ve seen, and I told dolphin-champion Ric O’Barry and Oceanic Preservation Society Exec. Director Louie Psihoyos that I’ll do all I can to help his cause.
Of the modern living explorers I’ve been lucky enough to meet, few can compete with the embodiment of mathematical brilliance, scientific ambition, and awe-inspiring bravado that is astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin.
I first met Buzz and his wife Lois at an event for Discovery in 2007 and last night I was thrilled to go to an event for Louis Vuitton where Buzz and Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell were the guests of honor. See http://www.louisvuittonjourneys.com to learn more about that partnership, but the event – held at the American Museum of Natural History’s planetarium – was a blast (sorry, couldn’t resist). Afterward, the Aldrins, the Lovells, a few people from Louis Vuitton and a handful of other guests including myself went to a private dinner together. Buzz was as indefatigable as ever, and it was an honor for me to meet Captain Lovell, whose heroic performance many younger people know from the film Apollo 13, in which Tom Hanks played him. The 40th Anniversary of our landing on the moon is just around the corner, and Buzz’s memoirs have been published to coincide with that anniversary. I’ll let you know more as I start reading it.
Categories: Hero of the Month
Monterey, CA (USA) – I’m in Monterey, California on a special assignment for the Today show – very exciting! Not just because I’m filming what I hope will be the first of many exploration-oriented segments for Today and NBC, but because this assignment is just so cool. Internationally renowned ocean engineer/inventor and fellow Explorers Club member Graham Hawkes has just finished building a new toy: a $1.5 million state-of-the-art submersible called The Deep Flight Super Falcon.
Graham has offered to give me a chance to test-fly the Super Falcon and see what underwater “flying” is really like.