Sunday, February 13, 2011

Santa Cruz/Seymour Norte Field Trip

 On Friday we ventured to Santa Cruz and Seymour Norte for a field trip. I woke up at 4:45 AM to get to IOI at 5:15 where the class, professors, Lauren, and the English teachers got on the chiva and went down to the port. It took us 1.5 hours to get to Santa Cruz and we checked into Hotel Verde Azul, put our stuff down, ate breakfast and departed for Seymour Norte. Seymour Norte is the island north of Baltra which is north of Santa Cruz. We rode a bus across Santa Cruz where we got on a beautiful boat that took us to Seymour Norte. We laid on the front "basking deck" and sang "I'm on a Boat". That is how amazing this boat was. I forgot my camera for the Seymour Norte part of the trip, but we saw so many amazing things. Frigate birds EVERYWHERE with babies, blue footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls with eggs, colorful land iguanas, sea lions. If you have an image of what you think the Galapagos looks like (I did before I came here), this island looks exactly like what you think it will. Cacti, rolling waves, baby sea lions playing, thousands of birds nesting.
After our tour of Seymour Norte, our yacht took us to a snorkeling site which was rather lame. We saw the same kind of fish that we normally see in places like Concha de Perla or Tintoreras. The dingy associated with the yacht picked us up and we fit all 17 people in a very small inflatable boat including many many fins. It was a little crowded and Marina has some awesome pictures of us all. The dingy took us to the edge of Seymour Norte and that site was so much better. We found a school of around 10 white tip sharks and we watched them for a while swimming all around each other. It was pretty awesome. Back on the yacht, they served us lunch on real china with real silverware as we motored back to Santa Cruz. We rode the bus back to Puerto Ayora (the town on Santa Cruz) and Marina, Hilary, and I went shopping. (Mom, I didn't buy anything, but I saw some stuff I liked. We will have to go shopping when you are here.) Rene, our guide from when we were with Sarah, stopped by to pick the 5 divers up from the hotel and we went to his shop to get briefed on the dive for the next day. We met the dive master, who thankfully spoke English, got all the equipment set, and then headed off to dinner. We met up with the rest of the group at the only good pizza place in all of the Galapagos.
Next morning was dive day. Only 5 of us chose to go since it was so expensive ($165), but those who went definitely enjoyed it. We had to wake up for the second early morning in a row at 5:15. We got breakfast and made it to the port by 6 for boat boarding and a beautiful sunrise.
 We motored over to Gordon Rocks, which is a pretty advanced dive site. We actually snorkeled at this location. I talk about it here! There is a ton of current and I found the dive pretty challenging. I got low on air pretty quick since I was nervous and moving around more than I needed to so Marina let me use some of her air so we could extend the dive for a while. What I learned is I need to dive some more shallow dives (<50ft) and become a better diver before I try more advanced dives again. Thank you Marina for being patient with me. We saw hammerheads!!!! and a lot of other pretty fish.
We went down to around 75-80 ft. That was my first deep dive, and although I survived, I have to say I didn't like deepish diving that much. When we came up from that dive my ears started killing me and I had a bloody nose when I reached the surface. No fun. The ear pain gave me a headache which in turn made me nauseous from being on the boat. All of these made me want to cry and I decided to skip the tank in fear of worse pain or actually damaging my ears. I handed off my camera to Ryan and he recorded the following pictures from the second tank dive:

We made it back in time to go to lunch with the rest of the group who had stayed in Puerto Ayora for the day, but I was in no mood to eat. I've never experienced such bad ear pain. The strange thing was that I was fine during the dive, my ears cleared well going down and coming up, but as soon as I hit the surface there was massive amounts of pain and of course the bloody nose, so something in my sinuses was not right. At 3 we took the ferry back to Puerto Villamil (the only town and our home on Isabela) and for some reason the captain decided to drive like a tortoise. It took us 3 hours and I attempted to sleep for most of it since I had two very early mornings and didn't sleep well either of those nights. Something very, very sad happened during the trip. The boat hit a manta ray. It woke me and everyone else up because it sounded like the boat had run aground or hit an iceberg. That bad. The boat immediately stopped and Johann pointed out the flapping and dying manta ray behind the boat. So sad. Now there is one less beautiful ocean creature out there to observe.
So now we are back in Villamil and my ear is feeling a lot better. Not 100% yet, but I don't need to go to a doctor which is a very good thing. I take back what I said about wanting to punch a baby sea lion that was barking on shore while I was laying on the dive boat feeling awful. We have to write our final bird paper and that will sum up the entirety of terrestrial biology. Marine ecology starts tomorrow and it will be the hardest class while we are here. We are snorkeling all day everyday with lectures and projects mixed in. Hopefully we will get a chance to eat/sleep once in a while. Also, my parents will be here in less than 2 weeks for spring break! I am super excited to see them and get a chance to relax and be a bit of a tourist.

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