Mission Blue Hope Spot Special Expedition to the Galapagos
Argo at twilight at Punta Vicente
mola mola seen on the DeepSee sub
If you’re wondering why we've been quiet the past 3 weeks, it’s because the Argo & DeepSee were exploring the Galapagos Islands on a Mission Blue Hope Spot expedition. We had the honor, once again, of having this project led by “her deepness,” Dr. Sylvia Earle.
Dr. Alex Hearn, a Hope Spot champion, also led on behalf of the Universidad San Francisco de Quito and Migramar, with Salome Buglass from the Charles Darwin Foundation and the University of British Columbia. The group included scientists from the Galapagos Conservation Trust, the Ocean Society, Galapagos National Park and Science Center as well as filmmakers from Deep-Sea Productions.
The objective of this expedition was to survey the Galapagos for any evidence of kelp, particularly in areas of the Galapagos where kelp hasn’t been recorded before. We were also trying to find seahorses, bullhead sharks, rosy-lipped batfish, and slippery lobsters.
Tagging tiger sharks at Darwin Island was also on the agenda. The purpose of this is to monitor their migrating behavior, given the fact they have been relatively reintroduced to that island after a long absence. The DeepSee’s unique task was to explore never-been sighted before deepwater habitats and kelp. All this with the ultimate goal of bettering the conservation and protection of these species.
The DeepSee also had the honor of hosting the Ecuadorian minister of environment, Mr. Gustavo Manrique, on a dive with Dr. Sylvia Earle. It gave them the opportunity to “talk shop” and for him to see first-hand the Galapagos’ impressive deep waters.
The island hopping was as magical at the surface as it was underwater, with very good conditions throughout the whole expedition. We started at Isla Marchena, moved up to Wolf & Darwin and later worked our way down to Fernandina and Isabela.
Our dives showcased almost all of the biodiversity that the Galapagos has to offer. Whale sharks, Galapagos sharks, mola mola and bullhead sharks, sea lions, penguins, cormorants, sea iguanas, amazingly beautiful corals and sponges, batfish, lobsters and – at the surface – blue whales, humpbacks and orcas.
While exploring the deeper waters on our expedition, we had exciting encounters on the submersible with sharks, mantas, mobulas, torpedo rays and skates. Many batfish were swimming up the water column (which was a surprise to the scientists), as well as sea lions, octopuses, crabs of all kinds, and sea beds full of urchins, starfish and sea robins.
The highlights of the trip was when we found kelp in a couple of new locations, as well as when a mola mola parked itself right next to the minister’s face. A school of unknown fish came shooting towards the sub’s acrylic window, and the cloud of krill attracted to the sub’s lights became so plentiful that they blocked our view.
We will return again to Cocos on the August 5th trip, and would love to see you all on board the DeepSee to tell you about some of these amazing experiences from this trip – and to share new ones. Until next time,