Friday, December 19, 2008

Cocos Island Expedition Journal - Dec 17 2008

It’s hard to believe that today is the half-way point of the wholeexpedition. We’ve only learned this evening that the communications thatwere sent over the past few days have not been received. We hope thatthis can be resolved quickly so that the messages don’t have to wait untilour return. Even with today’s modern conveniences and satellite systems,where we are is so remote that many of the daily things that we take forgranted are difficult. To make matters even more difficult almost halfof the expedition crew has become sick with a cold or flu.
The relative trend in large animal activity from yesterday hasunfortunately not continued at the southern and eastern dive sites visitedtoday. In almost all cases, the sightings have been very brief and theanimals have been near the far edges of visibility.
Thankfully, still no signs of fishing boats in the area. However, at“Shark Fin Rock,” the most southern divesite at the island, a largeportion of the dive was spent untangling and removing longline fishingline. Even with sharp knives, it is very difficult to cut through it. In many areas it becomes so wrapped around coral heads that it takes quitea bit of coordination and patience to remove the line without furtherdamage… especially in areas of surge or current. In some cases, the lineshave completely broken off sections of coral. It’s a clear example of howthe lines continue to injure the ecosystem long after they’ve stoppedattracting fish to baited hooks. Even with several teams working togather the lines we know that we left quite a bit behind. We’ll continueto work at removing the lines if the dive conditions there are calm enoughover the next few days.
As mentioned in a previous posting, Ginger Garrison, author of IslaDel Cocos Fishes has been a great resource and inspiration to have peoplefind and photograph as many different fish species as possible on thedives. It’s quite likely that several photos from this expedition will beused to update the new edition of the book and educate and train legionsof visitors to the area. A couple of the more uncommon species sightedincluded both tiger snake eels and freckled snake eels as well as a loneCocos batfish. We also managed to get video of a no-holds-barredterritorial fight over an empty barnacle shell between two Cocos barnacle blennies!

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