The Argo just completed another successful Pristine Seas voyage with National Geographic – this time to the Revillagigedo Archipelago in Mexico! Here is the trip report straight from the log of our lead dive officer, Federico Pochet.
April 18th, 2016 – This trip the Argo continued to explore the most pristine islands in the Mexican Pacific – one of the world’s holy grails when it comes to diving. The leader of the expedition was Dr. Enric Sala, who had a select group of scientists by his side. Enric’s goal is to turn this marvellous marine sanctuary into a protected area, using the Argo and the Deepsee submersible as research platforms.
Once we left the port of Manzanillo we headed toward Mexico’s Revillagigedo Archipelago, with our sights set on Isla Socorro – a barren, isolated isle with a name that translates to “HELP!” in English.
There, the scientists started the immense task of gathering data, while the film crew attempted to capture every last detail of this beautiful place. On each dive we saw mantas, silky sharks, angelfish and corals. We also saw lots of Clarion angelfish, a species that is endemic to the Revillagigedo Archipelago and the southern tip of Baja California. These gorgeous little fish like to gather in schools over the rocks, as they wait to clean parasites from pelagic creatures like hammerhead sharks and manta rays.
After several days at Socorro we then directed our attention to Roca Partida, about 70 miles westward. There, we were treated to the most vibrant sunrises we ever could have imagined. Despite the fact that the weather conditions turned rather sour at this point, the professionalism demonstrated by the Argo’s crew made everything continue to proceed smoothly and without a hitch.
To calculate biomass and other data, the Pristine Seas team used the same underwater equipment as they did on past Nat Geo expeditions. They dropped stereoscopic pelagic camera systems, devices made up of twin GoPros on a flat bar suspended by a line about 12m deep and placed about 700m apart at the surface. These ran for several hours each day. The team also deployed 360° cameras that were made up of 12 GoPros stuck together in a multi-armed fashion. To document extreme depths, 6 ultra-high res cameras were attached to the DeepSee sub so that they filmed in all directions at once. Last but not least, there were drop cams which basically operated on autopilot. These giant glass bubbles are loaded with lights and mirrors, and they can be submerged to depths up to 11 kilometers! They are circuit-programmed to release a weight at a certain time, at which point they simply float to the surface where we easily retrieve them.
The great quantities of hammerhead sharks, Galapagos sharks, mantas and whitetip reef sharks we observed irrefutably demonstrates that this seamount in the middle of nowhere is a critical oasis for marine life.
Continuing along our exploration of the archipelago, our last stop was 85 miles out at San Benedicto Island. There, we found another paradise for giant mantas. They abounded at each site we explored. Around every corner we encountered mantas, dolphins, silky sharks – often right from the skiffs, without even having to get wet! Underwater we saw majestic giants dancing in front of our eyes, and we thought to ourselves “now this is the reason why we’re here.” This biodiversity shows how it’s so important to protect these pristine, isolated areas and why Dr. Enric Sala and his team work so tirelessly to accomplish that goal. So far, his Pristine Seas iniative has worked in Chile, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Gabon – just to name a few. Let’s hope that Mexico’s Revillagigedo Archipelago is the next success story on Enric Sala’s list of accomplishments!