The Galapagos… the word itself is enough to inspire awe and make you think of an iguana. Far from the agitations of society, smack on the equator, these islands have always hosted incredibly rich and diverse marine life. It’s also home to the only penguins of the northern hemisphere. It’s awesome.
People come from all over the world to visit its islands and see its birds, to feel its terrestrial wilderness and contemplate its history. Little do they know… the incredibly lush and diverse marine life that lies just beneath the surface of its waters. People who don’t dive are missing out on 75% of the planet! Do it.
I tied up the loose ends at my job as marine program officer at IUCN and set up the out-of-office reply with a smile… I love my work there, it’s stimulating and useful. But sometimes it’s good to be reminded of why you do what you do. Equipment is tested, bags are packed. Soon I’ll be flying across the world to one of this planet’s last sanctuaries of marine life, and birthplace of evolutionary biology. The Galapagos… I’ll be there for three full weeks, two of which will be at sea.
This is my second trip to the Galapagos with Waterproof Expeditions. During the first expedition, in 2012, I was shooting pics and video for Cousteau Divers and engaging the divers on-board to collect their observations with our citizen-science divelogs, developed with the help of Dr. Rebecca Klaus. This time, I will be adding the protocols of Project Hermes, a new feature of Cousteau Divers I launched in 2015, with the help of over a hundred donors, to reveal the temperature of the ocean using dive computers.
This year though, it’s El-Niño… and that usually spells trouble for the marine life of these islands. This cyclical weather event happens every several years and is characterised by an increase in sea temperatures and reduction of marine currents that bring nutrients to the surface, impairing the primary production of algae. But scientists are saying this one could be the strongest ever seen. Previous such events have been known to devastate marine life and the animals that depend on it like penguins and iguanas.
Will we witness the difference between 2012 and today’s El-Niño-menaced Galapagos? Will the citizen-science protocols deployed at the time and during this trip by Cousteau Divers help better understand the phenomenon? Will hungry sharks be more curious than usual? I can’t wait to find out. In the context of climate change and generally warming ocean temperatures, something as normal as El-Niño could take unprecedented proportion.
My father and his teams filmed the marine life of the Galapagos in 1971. A few days ago, I dove into the Cousteau archives in search for photos of the expedition to help reveal the difference, the impact that the powerful El-Niño events of 1982 and 1997 had on the marine life. I did not find anything conclusive, but I will resume my research when I return, armed with new images from the trip.
My friend Steve Romano is joining the first week. He does amazing super high-speed video and hopes to catch some diving birds in action. He said something about bringing along a Virtual Reality camera too… more on that in the next post. I’ve also heard that the president of Ecuador is planning to declare a new status for the Galapagos marine sanctuary… which could be signed next week? I’ve learned quite a bit about the challenges of setting these up from my job at IUCN and my work in Santorini, Greece. Let’s see.
I know we’re in for a treat. And I count on the uncertainty that characterises exploration to amaze us and reveal new mysteries of the sea. In the heart of the ocean I find new energy, new hope, new awe. I feel at home beneath the surface, more than anywhere, and I look forward to taking you on a guided tour.
For more blogs from Pierre-Yves Cousteau, visit cousteaudivers.wordpress.com.
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Jump into… A career in diving
A career in doing something that you love… I have heard so many times that diving is just a hobby and not a career. A career by definition is ‘an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress.’
I started diving at the age of 17. I became a PADI Divemaster and from this point progressed to an Open Water instructor, to Staff Instructor, to Master Instructor, to Course Director. Surely by definition this is a career path? The only difference (in some cases) that would dispute this matter… the controversial subject of pay!
I am 100% not going to say that no dive centres in the world pay. I myself do, and I know others that do, too. It does however seem to have become very much the norm, that the ‘because I enjoy it’ philosophy has eradicated the UK diving career path for years. Divers volunteering their help for little or no reward (again… not everyone before you stop reading). To eventually realising, that they are doing hard work, for not much to gain… even paying to carry on doing courses, and to become an instructor to work for that centre. What is all that about?!
If you are the type of person to be happy with that, that is completely fine, so long as you are happy. I was at one point… and then realised that I had invested a lot of my time and money, and when this realisation hit, started to feel undervalued. The instructor I was ‘working for’, for a free hot chocolate at the end of the day, would sit in the cafe whilst I taught in the 3 degree waters in the middle of winter. Obviously the paying customer had booked his course through this person and not me… I was happy with a hot chocolate and having fun… but aren’t all of the best careers the ones that we do not see as work. They aren’t all volunteer roles.
Those of you looking for a career in diving, don’t be put off. There are places that you can work, and a career in diving can literally take you all across the world. Those saying that there is no money in diving… ignore those guys too. There is. Obviously working for free is never going to get you there, but if you want to do it, then do it. There are plenty of places not only looking to employ scuba instructors, there are other jobs at aquariums, conservation roles, the Navy and many others for you to take a look at.
There are also grants to look at for education, the open water instructor course, or anything else after that is not exactly cheap… but still nonetheless worthwhile.
So, please do not take away the fact of diving being a career. It is. The only thing that I will leave you with (dropping a bombshell), is that if we accept the fact of ‘working for free’ then it will never change and still be hard to make a career in diving… I mean, of course there is limited need when there is still the alternate option for a business to have free labour.
Clare began Duttons Divers at just 19 years old and a short while later became one of the world’s youngest PADI Course Directors. Find out more at www.duttonsdivers.com
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