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Blog Posts by: Paloma Larena

Divers

We are in hurricane area and the residents of Green Turtle Cay are still getting over the devastation left by the last one. The first officer onboard, Carlos Pérez says he has seen many moorings torn apart in Marsh Harbour. He went there with David and Indi, to purchase oil and motor parts. They took a ferry that transported them for three nautical miles. From there, they had to rent a car and drive nearly 40 kilometers, until they reached a small town in the island of Abaco. Indi took the opportunity to purchase yogurt and bananas, two items that disappear very fast at the Oceana Ranger. I can attest to the fact that the Ranger crew is very health conscious.

Today we gave Houssine, the photographer, the day off; he got up this morning feeling terrible muscle spasms. Although we gave him anti-inflammatory pills and a massage, he still did not feel better. It must be a cramp. In addition to being a photographer, he assists Mar, the Oceana filmmaker, by holding a heavy light beam while underwater and even holding Mar…to keep her from sudden movements that could frighten the species that is being filmed. The effort pays, in the long run. Houssine prefers to stay back on the Ranger, Bibi will replace him. He knows we will try to film sharks tomorrow, and that will not be an easy task.

The Oceana Ranger will be anchored for the next five days off the island of Abaco, in a place called Green Turtle Cay. Early in the morning we meet with Brendal, a Bahamian who has been an institution in this area for more than twenty years because he knows these waters like the palm of his hand, and who will help us to find the best dive sites. The plan from now until Friday is to search for sea turtles, above all the loggerhead (Caretta caretta).

1:00 a.m. Although we spent the night anchored at Great Salt Cay, for security we continue the night watches. The weather forecasts continue to be good, but an intense wind has picked up. The plan for the Oceana Ranger is still to set sail again at dawn.

1:30 a.m. Someone broadcasts a radio message asking for help, but it's impossible to understand. It repeats once, and then there is absolute silence.

About an hour ago we anchored off Great Salt Cay, halfway to Abaco Island, to spend the night. Nuño decides that we cannot keep sailing without light because from here it is dangerous to sail at night. The waters in this part of the Bahamas are shallow and although the Oceana Ranger, like almost all catamarans, hardly sinks in the water (a meter and a half), there are stretches where the depth doesn't reach one meter. Apart from the risk to the Ranger, another important consideration is potential damage to the corals and sponges so abundant in these waters.

The Ranger has arrived at Bimini (in the Bahamas) ahead of schedule, at 6:15 a.m. We couldn't anchor until the first light of dawn. The wait was justified: it was important to be able to see the sandy seafloor before letting down the anchor because in this area, Ricardo explains, there are many sea grasses, and we have to take extreme precautions not to damage them.

Epinephelus striatus

I am writing these lines at the end of the day, because Friday the 22nd has been very intense. While Ricardo, Annie, David and I went on a reconnaissance mission in the dingy, the diving team was preparing two long dives, from which they returned brimming with excitement. Now we are recounting all of the day's work. From the dives, we can remember some 40 species at the least and two dozen invertebrates, as well as a dozen types of algae and plants.

 

 

 

8:00 a.m. The crew is ready to begin the day. We have to move the Oceana Ranger to the site where the press conference will be held, at Bayside Miamarina (right in the center of Miami, the immense Latin metropolis of the United States where if you don't speak Castilian it almost seems strange). The port captain, Juan Ginarte, comes by to guide us there. With us is Doralisa Pilarte, Director of Communications for Oceana North America, who has organized this meeting with the press.

Yesterday a new sailor, José Carlos Corral, came aboard. He is also a diver, has been since he was 15. "You must have 3,000 dives logged," Mar says to him. "Well, the truth is I haven't counted..." José Carlos has been working as a dive master in Zanzibar for the past three months. For non-diving-experts, the title of dive master allows him to serve as a guide for groups of divers. Our new Expedition colleague is also a guitarist. "I was trained in classical but I play jazz." If the trend continues we'll be able to start the "Ranger band".

"Indi, run, come on, come on, drop everything!" shouts Nuno, the captain, from the cockpit. You should have seen how Jose Pañalver (that is, Indi) left the Ranger kitchen. Well, Indi and myself, of course. He was chopping vegetables to freeze in bags. I, across the room, was watching him while writing this journal, of which he will be the protagonist today. Airborne is an understatement. We didn't know it, but outside a splendid osprey (Pandion haliaetus) was waiting for us, performing spectacular plunges in search of a tasty fish.

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