Oh Baja, how I love you



I’ve been back at sea on the Sea Bird for one day now, and already we’ve seen a blue whale, a fin whale, bow-riding dolphins (more than I’ve ever seen at the bow), and several sea lions. That was just the morning. In the afternoon we went ashore at a place called Danzante for snorkeling, hiking and kayaking. I wimped out on the snorkeling (the water was 59 degrees!), but I did scramble up the rocky, cacti studded slope to the highest point for a grand view over the island and surrounding vista. It was magnificent. I looked down behind me and saw the Sea Bird anchored in a protective cove and ahead of me was a several hundred foot drop to the ocean. The water here is so clear that I could see the rocks and sandy bottom from above. I was sincerely wishing that I had brought my camera. Next week I guess.
Even though I only tested my toes in the water, our undersea specialist – Carlos Navarro – shot some great footage with his underwater camera and we got to watch it just before dinner. Carlos saw about five types of starfish, including the Crown-of-thorns, which is a nocturnal sea star that preys upon coral polyps. The Crown-of-thorns is the second largest sea star, smaller only to the sunflower starfish. Its body and multiple arms are covered in venomous thorns that release a neurotoxin that can produce a sharp stinging pain for hours as well as nausea and vomiting. A voracious eater, one Crown-of-thorns can consume up to 65 square feet of living coral reef per year and overpopulation of these sea stars, due to a decline in predator populations, has been a concern to environmentalists and ecologists. Their natural predators include the giant Triton (a mollusk) and harlequin shrimp, as well as some larger reef fish. The Crown-of-thorns feed by climbing onto reef structures and then extruding their stomachs onto the coral. Digestive enzymes are then released, which liquefy the coral and allow them to absorb the nutrients. They also prey upon brittle sea stars in the same fashion. They are beautiful and captivating to see, but dangerous to touch and sometimes too efficient in their search for food. Biologists point out that once they had an important role in maintaining biodiversity on the reefs by not allowing any one species to thrive, but now they, as a species, are too abundant.
During his dive Carlos also captured footage of sea cucumbers, tiny gobi fish, anemones, sea worms that reach out little feathered feet in hopes of catching dinner, bright blue fish with yellow faces, a balloon fish (not ballooned out), and several other species of exotic marine wildlife. At the end of the video I was wishing that I had braved the cold, but again, there’s always next week.
We also have a National Geographic expert onboard named Birgit Buhleier. Her work is with the CritterCam, a device they attach to the backs of animals to get video of their invisible lives deep beneath the waves. I actually met Birgit in Alaska last year and saw some of her footage with humpbacks and seals. Here, though, she showed us a short clip of a blue whale feeding on a ball of krill. Very cool. It also reminds us of how little we know about the ocean and its inhabitants.

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One Response

  1. Maybe I should go there next!! Sounds Awesome!
    PS- Post your pictures form our trip. I will do the same soon….and will write soon too. Miss you

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