Blog Authors | Oceana Europe
Would you like to view our US Site?

Blog Posts by: Paloma Larena

Nuño Ramos is the captain of the Oceana Ranger. His connection with Oceana is the result of years of engagement in environmental causes and, more specifically, with the marine environment. Also, of course, because of his friendship with Xavier Pastor. A few years ago Nuño was one of his collaborators in the founding of MarViva, the organization of civil park rangers that cooperates with the governments of Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras and other Central American countries to protect the waters of the

The Ranger has been docked for the past few weeks at Harbour Towne Marina, in Florida, and the crew, captained by Nuno Ramos, is toiling to bring the work to a close. Everything must be in perfect condition before the Atlantic crossing, headed to the European coast.

Bermuda

Amidst everything, Ricardo Aguilar, Director of Research and Projects for Oceana in Europe, has returned to the transoceanic expedition in order to lead the upcoming activities aboard the Ranger. Ricardo has already traveled with the Ranger between the Panama Canal and Cayos Cochinos (Honduras), along with Xavier Pastor, Director of Oceana in Europe.

For my own part this will be my first real experience on board a boat. Generally I conduct my work as Director of Communications for Oceana Europe from a chair at the center of the Oceana office in Madrid. It consists of disseminating information about our campaigns and research projects through various communications media, and of attending to the requests of journalists, with the greatest possible speed. Now I've come to Florida with Ricardo to relieve my colleague Maribel Lopez of the writing of this journal. While I write these lines it is raining torrentially outside.

Today, finally, the mizzen we've been waiting for arrived (for the non-initiated, the mizzen is the stern sail, which helps to stabilize the boat while sailing). Bibi, our Cambados sailor, comments, "my back is ruined from carrying sails, but it was worth it, I'm very happy, finally everything is in place." We have also received the new dingy, which is 4.5 meters and has a 30 horsepower engine. With the dingy, our dive team (videographer Mar Mas, photographer Houssine Kaddachi and ZOEA biologist Sole Esnaola) will be able to work much more comfortably. Also today, Sole slid into her neoprene suit to inspect the hull, clean off the algae and leave it clean for the beginning of a new journey. We are also installing a new life raft.

Maribel López

At dawn we can see in the distance a line that sketches, through the morning fog, Cuba's silhouette. The night has been calm and the morning begins the same. This allows us to observe from the Ranger's deck that between the floating sargassum we can see the small fish that take refuge underneath. Others blend in, like the Sargassum pipefish (Syngnathus pelagicus).

Finally we are able to leave Isla Mujeres. We head to Florida with the hope of stopping along the way at least once to dive.

One of the things that has surprised me the most on this trip is that, contrary to what I had thought, in this area of the planet the ocean is like an enormous blue desert.

Maribel López

On the longest crossings we barely see any birds or fish, only cruise ships and container ships. Probably the great depths in this area, and the oceanographic conditions, do not allow for rich marine life near the surface in the Honduran, Belizean and Mexican Caribbean.

A small tern accompanies us, winging across our wake; little by little it reaches our prow where it pauses for a few minutes to rest. It takes off and disappears into the horizon.

In the afternoon we have the good luck to catch a common bonito (Sarda sarda). We are glad to know that tonight we'll be eating fresh fish. We clean it and prepare it with onions. At this point, we may have filled our large fish quota for the next two weeks. Because of the high levels of mercury in tuna and similar species all over the world, health authorities advise against consuming these fish more than once or twice a month. Oceana has launched a campaign to raise awareness of this problem, to call for mandatory labeling of these fish as dangerous, and to put an end to mercury releases by chlorine plants (details about the campaign are on our website).

Still we cannot leave Isla Mujeres. We use the time to buy groceries and prepare tortillas de patatas (potato quiche). During the meal we laugh, remembering a few choice moments of the days past at Cayos Cochinos. For example, when we had completed the study of salinity, etc., and were returning to the base, all of a sudden David looked back and saw that, while our dingy was happily secured to the Ranger's stern, surprise! - the dingy's motor had decided to do its own dive and was completely submerged, fastened to the boat only by the security cord.

Ranger

The alarm was given; the captain stopped the motors. We launched Operation-Rescue-Overboard-Motor, this motor having a particular determination to see the bottom of the ocean, for something similar had happened in Panama. Finally, we managed between us to get our little motor floating again: Houssine (our photographer on board) dove in to coax it firmly back to the surface. Over our  fright and happy - since the motor, once cleaned with fresh water, had started working again - we caught our breath and continued on our way.

Now that we have time to look back on our expedition we realize how fortunate we are to be part of this extraordinary adventure -- extraordinary not only because of what we are doing but because of the people working so hard each day to make all of it possible. I don't want to try to list names because I'm sure I would forget someone, but I also don't want to end this section of the journal without mentioning the exceptional crew of which I've had the luck to be a part.

We are taking refuge from the storm in Isla Mujeres, Mexico. It is only 10 kilometers from the coast of Cancun. The island is 7.5 kilometers long and 500 meters wide. Yesterday the port was closed to maritime traffic because of the bad weather.

In March of 1517 the Spanish expedition of Francisco de Córdova described the island, which was then  a sanctuary for the figure of the goddess Ixchel and her entourage, small figures of women, on the island's beaches. For this reason, the island was known from then on as Isla Mujeres (Island of the Women).

Sadly, we leave the Honduran Keys without having had the chance to visit the local Garifuna communities. The ambitiousness of our work agenda and the bad weather has prevented it.  

The Garifuna are descendents of the African slaves who, across the vicissitudes of history, established themselves in this area of Honduras but maintained their ethnic and cultural heritage.

Pages