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September 24, 2009

El Hierro, 24 September 2009

BY: Carlos Suárez


©OCEANA/ Carlos Suárez


It’s our last day in El Hierro. Today, we set sail from La Estaca port with Patricia Arranz, a biologist specialised in cetaceans who lives in the beautiful town of El Pinar. I had the pleasure of meeting Patricia a few years ago during one of my annual visits to this amazing island.

I know she is currently dedicated almost exclusively to observing beaked whales in collaboration with the University of La Laguna. Beaked whales are one of the least-known families of mammals and are quite allusive, but sightings are common in some parts of the islands. I asked her about her work as soon as I saw her and we chatted about our projects.

After sailing for a few miles, we reached the spot where we wanted to submerge “Cervantes,” the ROV. We are in front of La Bonanza and begin to prepare for the dive. Patricia keenly observes everything we do and is surprised how each one of us knows exactly what to do at each moment. She asks about each operation and is interested in all the details. Later, she told us that one day, she hopes to see where the animals she is studying go in search of food and is very interested in learning how to use this technology for the future.

It is known that beaked whales began submerging themselves to great depths in search of food and this is a wonderful opportunity to see those ecosystems. Much of the information that Patricia and the University of La Laguna has about these animals is obtained through direct observation during sightings and with electronic monitoring systems. These systems allow individuals to be marked with a small black box that is later recovered when it falls off the animal. These black boxes register information including depth, temperature, sound, etc. Soon, tiny cameras will also probably be installed in these boxes, like the crittercam, in order to offer us images that have never been seen before.

After diving with the Cervantes, the divers will also dive, but in shallower waters. The spot is El Roque de Bonanza. This is a beautiful place where you can go down a vertical wall full of black coral and multicolour sponges. But the best part of the dive is swimming alongside the shadows of this beautiful natural basalt sculpture. I take advantage to take some pictures and return to the Oceana Ranger with only one thing on my mind: returning to El Hierro.