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July 21, 2007

We’re still in Islas Hormigas

BY: Ricardo Aguilar


© OCEANA / Juan Cuetos


We’re now back in Cabo de Palos and we’re going to continue our dives in Islas Hormigas.

Within the Reserve, the divers are finding a large variety of fish, including barracuda (Sphyraena viridensis) and the three species of grouper (Epinephelus marginatus, Epinephelus costae and Mycteroperca rubra). Today, some of the divers told us they saw manta rays (Mobula mobular) in this area.

There is scant presence of gorgonians, except starting at 40 meters depth where the red gorgonians occur (Paramuricea clavata). The white gorgonian occurs more frequently in shallower areas (Eunicella singularis).

We’re sampling the borders of the reserve with the ROV. The area is mainly comprised of detritic sand, with some small rocks. There are many ascidians of all types here. There are also many sponges, some of which are quite spectacular, including the Hemimycale columella as well as polychaete worms, especially Filograna implexa.

While we’re working on this, we also spend some time reviewing past tapes to identify the species we’ve seen.

On Saturday, there were noticeably more divers in the area, from the diving clubs. In order to avoid too many fins and bubbles appearing on film, today we decided to work with the macro and try to get details about the species we found underwater.

Luckily, in the deeper areas where we’re carrying out part of the work, there are considerably less divers and we can film and take photographs more calmly. With the ROV, we’ve been able to verify that places that looked like seamounts are actually wrecks. This doesn’t surprise us because there are many shipwrecks in this area.

The wind picked up in the afternoon making our work with the ROV difficult. So we decided to finish for today. As a last minute surprise, when we anchor just north of the lighthouse to take a swim, José Manuel and Juan spot a shovelnose shark or guitarfish (Rhinobatos sp.) underneath the Ranger When we reached for our cameras to film it, the fish had already disappeared. I have to check with the people from around here, but as far as I know, it’s been a long time since anyone has seen a guitarfish in this area.

We’re almost done here, so tomorrow we’ll try to finish our sampling south of Cartagena then we’ll rest for a couple of days to wash clothes, clean up, buy supplies and other necessities without which the living conditions on board would be a little more uncomfortable.