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Pierre-Yves Cousteau’s Galapagos: Dive into the Wild

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Read Part 1 of Pierre-Yves’ Galapagos blog here.

Ocean, how I missed you.

Wild and free, alive. Still full of promise, mystery and surprise.

A blood moon rises as the Galapagos Sky sets sail to explore the coastal waters of the Galapagos Islands. A variety of passengers, both in nationality and profession, further adds to the rich diversity of the trip. A New-Zealand farmer, a British administrative employee, a Dutch software designer and tester couple, an Indian real-estate developer, a Swiss family, Steve and I… The crew, with their dedication and skill, are the essential ingredient that makes the trip successful. I notice with pleasure that the Galapagos Sky has been “tagged” by my friend Wyland with a beautiful hammerhead mural.

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The M/V Galapagos Sky

The diving conditions are exceptional. As in exception. Our guides have never had waters so warm, or currents so strong. In principle, neither is a good sign for observing marine life. As the water warms and the thermocline dives deeper, fish who prefer cooler waters stay out of sight. Strong currents mean we had to shoot images using one hand, the other one being busy holding on for dear life to a rock.

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“All you need is gloves” ~ Steve Romano

As we dive into another world, we become the invisible witnesses of millions of lives. We enter a universe we still know very little about. We fly among creatures without being able to hear their language. Territory, predation, cooperation, social behavior… We see only what is manifest, when countless unseen codes and gambits are played out in silence. Confused by our bubbly presence, the animals chose to ignore us. They are entirely absorbed in the necessities of every moment, and curiosity is a luxury that few can afford.

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Hundreds of dolphins at the safety stop.
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Mamma sea lion is not happy about our presence.

Coming up from one dive Steve and I find ourselves a bit far from the rest of the group, after filming sharks. The sun is setting and the dingy is quite far away, collecting other divers. I am suddenly reminded of our status as strangers in this wilderness. Dangling at the surface above hundreds of sharks I think: we’re perfect prey! I immediately put on my mask and peer down into the thick, dark waters. Just at that moment, a silky shark bolts up from the deep to examine us. After a rapid assessment, it dives back down into the dark blue. Steve and I take turns looking down and hailing the dingy until they pick us up.

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1 , 2 , 3… Go!

Returning to the Galapagos Sky I am struck by the presence of a dozen dead birds floating around us, their corpses apparently intact. Of the thousands of birds who constantly circle the Island of Darwin, I wonder if this is a natural “skimming” of the weak by competition or by disease. Our guide Jeff explains that these birds have starved or drowned because the thermocline is too deep, and the surface waters are too warm, meaning that the natural prey of these birds have dived deeper than they can reach. (Those familiar with my father’s movies will notice a certain physical resemblance between Jeff and Falco).

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Deep thermocline = dead birds

As part of Project Hermes, I’ve been diving with the Sensus Ultra, whose accuracy was tested in the Australian waters of Heron Island by the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute team. Dive profiles were also recorded from our dive computers. The surface temperatures were a most comfortable and exceptionally warm, 30 degrees Celsius on most dive sites, with often no thermocline down to 30 meters depth. Speaking with Jeff and Max our dive guides of the Galapagos Sky, they’ve never had surface waters so warm.

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Collecting historical temperature data from the captain’s log.

In 2016, you have to travel far in order to witness the miracles of nature in its untamed wilderness. As far as possible from the mega-cities and industrial sprawls. Far from the madness of men and women who constantly obsess about growth, greed and domination. How the underwater world has degraded since the days my father revealed it with his movies… Clearly the situation would be worse if he hadn’t, but also clearly his efforts were insufficient to prevent the decline entirely. Raising awareness can only go so far. For the next expedition to Tahiti with Waterproof Expeditions, in July 2017, I will spend more time searching the Cousteau archives in an attempt to produce before / after visuals as a testimony.

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When my father visited the Galapagos with the Calypso in the 1970’s they focussed on studying the marine iguana’s unique ability to enter a state of transe and stop their heartbeat during their dives, something free divers are familiar with.

Climate change, habitat degradation, overfishing, plastic pollution… the list of our inconsiderate squandering of the ocean is long, and the Galapagos seem to have been successfully sheltered from these plagues so far. In fact I was delighted to note that I did not encounter a single piece of trash of any size during the week at sea: something I cannot say of any other place I have been in the world. Our guides explain that the National Park has very strict rules for disposal of trash in general and plastic in particular, with efficient collection mechanisms. However, I was saddened to learn that most of the plastic ends up in a landfill, here in the Galapagos. At least the collection is good. Recycling and disposal would be better. An absolute ban on single-use plastics, worldwide, but here in particular, seems necessary.

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Nobody wants to see the turtles of the Galapagos chocking on plastic bags.

I’ve always wondered if there was a common cause for all this blind destruction. It seems to me that the reason is embedded in our minds: a lack of foresight and understanding of the real costs of our actions. What is referred to in business as “externalities”. I am convinced that sustainable development is possible, but it requires far more brainpower than is currently being used. More innovation, more research, and a shift in subsidies. So why don’t we turn our mind’s eye towards achieving it?

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In a recent piece of work I did for IUCN, people were consulted across Europe to identify the main barriers to achieving sustainable development for the sea. Awareness and education came out on top as the most powerful ways to overcome those barriers. However, the social ecosystem itself appeared to be the main blockage in converting that awareness into action. The cultural values and cognitive frameworks that infuse our contemporary societies are diametrically opposite to the ones that would foster environmental stewardship. The obsessions with financial success and personal image prevent us from making the sustainable decision when given equivalent choices.

But how can you appeal to moral duty and self-transcendence when people are struggling to make ends meet, and constantly terrorized by the media into avid conformity? Social sciences are the missing piece of the puzzle for conservation and sustainable development to steer the Titanic of our civilization, and as the environment degrades, so do the options for living outside of the “rat race”. A vicious cycle. We must bring people into the equation of conserving natural resources by appealing to intrinsic values and calling for a transparent examination of the values that we are constantly being bombarded with, mostly by mainstream media and advertisement.

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Wolf and Darwin were declared no-take sanctuaries last week.

The information I had received prior to my previous blog post was true: the islands of Wolf and Darwin have been given no-take status by the president of Ecuador. This is fantastic news for marine life in these exceptional sites. But it seems the people, the few local fishermen who have always practiced small-scale traditional fishing in that area, were not considered in this process. They demand some kind of compensation, or right to fish in a reduced area between the two islands. In such a remote place, where daily enforcement is practically impossible, it would seem wise to at least consult, if not actively engage the fishermen in the establishment of the protected area. Once again, social sciences have been left aside, and the consequences for the success of the protection remain to be seen. I have interviewed the mayor of San Cristobal and the local fishermen during my time here and will give more detail on this in the next post.

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Steve and I scheming to get great footage.

All the images you see here are screenshots from the videos I have been filming. The Big Blue lights have proven to be amazing and incredibly durable. I have not yet managed to cycle through the battery entirely, even by leaving them turned on for two consecutive dives. Next week I will try to shoot some good stills, but I’ve been having some technical problems with my strobes. They fire optically and the housing I have for the camera has an in-built electrical system, which I had no time to replace before the trip. So I use an electrical to optical converter, and that has proven to be a nightmare… firing rather randomly. I plan on piecing together the videos into a mini-documentary for the web, featuring some of Steve’s exceptional high-speed footage. Stay tuned.

~ Pierre-Yves Cousteau

www.cousteaudivers.org

www.waterproof-expeditions.com

For more blogs from Pierre-Yves Cousteau, visit cousteaudivers.wordpress.com.

Competitions

WIN a Bigblue Expandable Tray!!!

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For this week’s competition, we’ve teamed up with our good friends at Liquid Sports to give away a Bigblue Expandable Tray as a prize!!!

The Bigblue expandable tray (176mm-287mm) has fittings and screws to attach action and compact cameras. The base and handles are made from high grade aluminium with the handles having a neoprene grip. The package also includes clamps and adaptors for 1” ball and YS light fittings.

To be in with a chance of winning this awesome prize, all you have to do is answer the following question:

In a recent post on Scubaverse.com (which you can read here), we reported that the Handicapped Scuba Association South Africa has announced plans to host their 6th Annual fundraising event “HSASA 50hr Dive–A-Thon 2021” this year. But on what dates will the event take place?

Is it:

  • A) 15th – 17th October
  • B) 22nd – 24th October
  • C) 29th – 31st October

Answer, A, B or C to the question above:

Liquid Sports Bigblue Extendable Tray March 2021

Competition
  • Enter the country you live in
  • Terms and Conditions: This competition is open to all visitors to www.scubaverse.com except for members of the Scubaverse team and their families, or employees of Liquid Sports and their families. A valid answer to the competition’s question must be entered. If no valid answer to the competition’s question is entered, your entry will be invalid. Only one competition entry per entrant permitted (multiple entries will lead to disqualification). Only one prize per winner. All prizes are non-transferable, and no cash alternative will be offered. In the event that the prize cannot be supplied, no liability will be attached to www.scubaverse.com. When prizes are supplied by third parties, www.scubaverse.com is acting as their agents and as such we exclude all liability for loss or damage you may suffer as a result of this competition. This competition closes on 14/04/2021. The winner will be notified by email. The Editor-in-Chief’s decision is final.

  • The following fields are optional, however if you fill them in it will help us to determine what prizes to source in the future.

  • Date Format: MM slash DD slash YYYY
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Dive Training Blogs

Jeff chats to… Jim Elliott and Tinamarie Hernandez of Diveheart (Watch Video)

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In this exclusive Zoom interview, Jeff Goodman, Scubaverse Editor-at-Large, chats to Jim Elliott, Founder and President of Diveheart, and Tinamarie Hernandez who is the organization’s Executive Director.

Diveheart is a US-based, nonprofit tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization which aims to provide and support educational scuba diving programs that are open to any child, adult or veteran with a disability, with the hope of providing both physical and psychological therapeutic value to that person.

In their own words:

We’ve discovered the forgiving, weightless wonder of the water column provides the perfect gravity-free environment for those who might otherwise struggle on land. Underwater, we’re all equal.

Diveheart works with individuals who have a variety of disabilities, including physical and developmental disabilities, vision and hearing impairments, amputations, traumatic brain injuries, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and more. Diveheart seeks to help its participants “Imagine the Possibilities” in their lives.

 

Find out more about Diveheart and their valuable work at www.diveheart.org.


Rather listen to a podcast? Listen to the audio HERE on the new Scubaverse podcast channel at Anchor FM.

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Competitions

Explore the amazing triangle of Red Sea Reefs - The Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone on board the brand new liveaboard Big Blue.  With an option to add on a week at Roots Red Sea before or after. 

Strong currents and deep blue water are the catalysts that bring the pelagic species flocking to these reefs. The reefs themselves provide exquisite homes for a multitude of marine life.  The wafting soft corals are adorned with thousands of colourful fish. The gorgonian fans and hard corals provide magnificent back drops, all being patrolled by the reef’s predatory species.

£1475 per person based on double occupancy.  Soft all inclusive board basis, buffet meals with snacks, tea and coffee always available.  Add a week on at Roots Red Sea Resort before or after the liveaboard for just £725pp.  Flights and transfers are included.  See our brochure linked above for the full itinerary.

This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!

Call 020 3515 9955 or email john@thescubaplace.co.uk

www.thescubaplace.co.uk

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