Galápagos Islands

diving Galápagos Islands, Galápagos sea lion, Zalophus wollebaeki, Solomon Baksh, Blue magazine

Story and Photos by Solomon Baksh
The Galápagos Islands is at the top of every diver’s bucket list. It has been on my list ever since I read Charles Darwin’s book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. As an avid naturalist, I enjoy exploring topside, as much as the delight of being underwater, and the Galápagos Islands offered both.

The Galápagos Islands lies on the confluence of several deep-ocean currents and that create a bizarre mixture of marine habitats. There is the Peru Coastal Current, also called the Humboldt Current, which flows up along the South American coast, from Antarctica. This current is considered to be the largest upwelling in the world and also the most productive marine ecosystem.

From the northeast, flows the warm Panama Current, fed by the Northern Equatorial Countercurrent, and it provides the environment for the development of tropical marine ecosystems. Finally, there is the Cromwell Current or South Equatorial Current. This is a bottom-flowing, equatorial undercurrent from the central Pacific, which upwells on the west side of the Galápagos archipelago.

I am in the Galápagos Islands aboard the 100-foot Galápagos Aggressor III at the invitation of Wayne B. Brown, CEO and Owner of the Aggressor Fleet. He will be my buddy for the week of exhilarating dives, along with other guests. My first dive in the Galápagos Islands was at Itabaca Channel. Off the back of the yacht for the checkout dive, and into the wonderful tropical water that was instead, a nippy 65°F! The presence of warm-water corals in the Galápagos, is somewhat of a surprise because penguins that need cold water, live here too. How then, can tropical corals and penguins coexist in the same area? Well, it has a lot to do with the currents that flow around the archipelago.
Galápagos marine iguana, Amblyrhynchus cristatus, Fernandina Island, Isabela Island, marine algae, Hincksia mitchellae, Solomon Baksh, Blue magazine

After 95 miles of travel, we finally arrived at Cabo Douglas on Fernandina, early the next morning. After breakfast, we boarded the pangas and headed toward the mainland, in search of the numerous penguins and the flightless cormorants there. There were hundreds of those famous marine iguanas, lying docile on the black rocks, warming up in the early morning sun, before diving underwater to forage for marine algae (Hincksia mitchellae). This is the only place in the world, where marine iguanas are found!

The Red Sea

Story and Photos by Wayne B. Brown
Red Sea diving, Jordan, giant anemones, clownfish, orange anthias, Red Sea Aggressor

A short flight on Egypt Air from Cairo to Hurghada, gets us closer but we still had a 3-hour van ride to the yacht. Port Ghalib is a purpose-built, small, gated city on the southern coast of the Red Sea. Multiple hotels, restaurants and of course, a marina, are all part of this unique development. Once in Port Ghalib, we are greeted by the friendly Red Sea Aggressor staff and shown to our cabins. After a long trip, it’s time to drop our bags and start setting up our scuba gear and cameras, and get ready for the Captain’s safety briefing. The Red Sea Aggressor staff completes all the necessary Egyptian Port Authority paperwork, in preparation for departure at first light. We motor out to our first site, for the standard checkout dive. There, everyone can feel comfortable with getting back into the water, check their equipment, ensure the right amount of weights and ease into the live-aboard lifestyle.

Dive site, Marsa Shoona is only 30 minutes from our departure and everyone is ready to get wet! A pinnacle of corals, filled with glassfish (pygmy sweeper), numerous species of Red Sea butterflyfish, angelfish and lionfish await us. The water is a nice 83 °F and with the Red Sea salinity of 4% higher than most oceans, everyone realizes
that they need a few extra pounds in their weight pockets, for proper buoyancy. After two dives and scrumptious lunch, we move to our second dive site of the day, Shaab Abu Dabab. We enter the water and immediately see large gardens of dome corals and spectacular swim-throughs, where the rays of the setting sun, play through the openings. A night dive at the same site ends the day—the only one you have on this northern itinerary. Once in the famous Daedalus and Brother Islands, the Egyptian authorities do not permit night dives.

Day 2 starts in Daedalus Reef. We motor all night, to reach this large, round reef, with the lighthouse built in the middle. The morning dives are dedicated to diving the north walls of the island. On descent, along the wall, looking out into the blue, a school of fifteen hammerhead sharks are swimming. What a great introduction to this amazing dive site!

Photo School—

Concept Shooting

by Steve Miller

Yap, Micronesia, Steve Miller, Concept Shooting, Blue magazine, Photo School

The sharks we have coaxed up to the surface around the boat, pass from every direction, even from below as they swipe at the bait and occasionally make contact with part of the camera housings. With every pass or splash, the camera flashes go off like it’s a press conference, briefly lighting up the water and revealing how many sharks are circling the boat—numerous! The sky is just starting to color up as the sun sets in front of us. We point our cameras right at the setting sun, with our domes half submerged and wait for the perfect pass. This is a Concept Shoot. Everyone on the boat is set up essentially the same way (a super-wide lens, a big dome port and two flashes) and we are all looking to make the same type of capture—the coveted Sunset Split-Shot, with sharks as the primary subject. Some of us did the same thing the night before and have made small adjustments after reviewing the images on the laptop.

A Concept Shoot means that earlier, a classroom workshop was conducted to discuss the specifics of how to get a particular type of image. Often, the more complex images like over/unders are fun for this. The process allows every participant to “see” in their mind’s eye, the image they want to create, and to work out the settings and technique beforehand. In the case of “sunset splits,” there are a lot of details to consider. Exposure tops the list since we are pointing our cameras right into the setting sun.

Read more in Vol 8, ISSUE 1 of Blue

 

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