Tag

Guadalupe Island

Vicki’s Secret — Amazing Underwater Cave New To Science

Guadalupe Island, Mexico

Of the few people who actually dive at Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe) (sorry, cage dives don’t count!) only a fraction will dive on the rugged, exposed, weather side of the island. There, not far from the “west anchorage”, lies a secret complex of arches and large underwater caves. The arches we have named Los Arcos del Diablo although the Mexicans at the island probably have another name for them. Rising 40′ or more out of the water, they are formed on the leading edge of a long extinct lava flow that juts out from the island and abruptly drops into the ocean. The underwater terrain below the arches is even more dramatic with at least one large cavern having a 40′ vertical opening and extending several times that laterally into the heart of the lava flow. We named our find El Secreto Del Vicki in honor of a member of our discovery team and the only known distaff diver intrepid enough to brave the white sharks and crazy water of Guadalupe to explore this particular underwater marvel. Here is a shot of Vicki hovering in the entrance to her namesake cave:

El Secreto del Vicki cavern, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

El Secreto del Vicki cavern.
Image ID: 06191
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

Guadalupe Island White Shark ID Project

Great White Shark, Guadalupe Island, Mexico, Sharks, Wildlife

I had an interesting conversation with Nicole Nasby Lucas of the Pfleger Institute of Environmental Research yesterday. Ms. Lucas and PIER co-founder Michael Domeier PhD have been conducting a capture/recapture study on great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) at Guadalupe Island, Mexico, building a database of identification photos and video of white sharks that inhabit the island. To date PIER has 73 individual sharks in their database, and the count increases each season. PIER also places a small number of satellite tags on Guadalupe white sharks to learn where they are going once they leave the island. Interestingly, some of the sharks tagged at Guadalupe Island swim all the way to the Hawaiian islands, including two of the sharks tagged during the most recent season. By observing the white sharks in this way, the PIER researchers are able to collect evidence about how the sharks utilize the island habitat and their migrations to and from the island.

I have had the good fortune of naming five of the PIER sharks by virtue of being the first photographer to capture each of them on film. The three females are named after my two daughters and my mother (you don’t think I am stupid enough to name one after my wife do you?). The two males are named after the notorious bachelors on Sex in the City: Big and The Russian.

In this case Ms. Lucas was able to link the right side and left side photographs by finding a common element between them: a notched tip on the left side ventral fin. Here she is, Guadalupe Island great white shark #57, “Leslie”:

For more information about PIER’s white shark research at Guadalupe Island, how the identification process works and what scientific publications have resulted from the study, visit the PIER website and see the online catalog.

Keywords: great white shark photos, Carcharodon carcharias photos, Pfleger Institute of Environmental Research

Isla Guadalupe :: Restauracion Y Conservacion

Guadalupe Island, Mexico

Finally, an authoritative book has been published about Guadalupe Island, our favorite eastern Pacific island and one of Mexico’s finest ecological wonders. Published in December 2005 by Instituto Nacional de Ecologia (INE-SEMARNAT) and compiled by editors Karina Santos del Prado and Eduardo Peters, Isla Guadalupe, Restauracion Y Conservacion describes the geology, flora and fauna of this unique island. Particular attention is paid to the spectacular geology with satellite photos and topographic maps, descriptions of the bird species with photographs from atop Afuera and Adentro islands, and coverage of the Guadalupe fur seals, elephant seals and great white sharks. I am proud to have provided many of the images appearing in the book including the cover. An English-language edition is planned for later this year.

Isla Guadalupe, Restauracion Y Conservacion

Wildlife of Guadalupe Island
Underwater Guadalupe Island
Above water coastline and geology of Guadalupe Island
Guadalupe Island great white sharks and Carcharodon carcharias
Guadalupe fur seals and Arctocephalus townsendi
Our complete collection of still photographs at Guadalupe Island

Butterfly Cove at Sunrise, Guadalupe Island

Guadalupe Island, Mexico

The evening anchorage at the south end of Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe) is Melpomene Bay. Early in the morning we raise anchor and move to take a look at the water conditions at nearby Isla Adentro, Isla Afuera and Church Rock. On this morning, none of those spots offered us what we were looking for, so we motored around the southeastern corner of the island to dive at Abalone Point. As we passed by the morro and cliffs above Butterfly Cove, the sun cleared the horizon and hit the island with a rich golden light.

East face and shoreline of southernmost morro, daybreak, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

East face and shoreline of southernmost morro, daybreak.
Image ID: 06152
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

Keywords: Isla Guadalupe, Guadalupe Island, Mexico, photo, photograph, sunrise, Butterfly Cove, Westies.

Smiling Great White Shark

Great White Shark, Guadalupe Island, Mexico, Sharks

One great white shark photo on our website that is viewed more than almost all others is this one:

A great white shark underwater.  A large great white shark cruises the clear oceanic waters of Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Carcharodon carcharias

A great white shark underwater. A large great white shark cruises the clear oceanic waters of Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe).
Image ID: 10119
Species: Great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

It appears that the great white shark in this photo is smiling at the cameraman, or is perhaps preparing to chomp the guy. In fact, this great white shark had just taken a mouthful of bait and was opening and closing its mouth in order to free bits of the bait from its teeth or gill slits. The exposure was made just as the shark happened to have both an open mouth and a gaze directed at the divers in the cage. Isla Guadalupe, Mexico.

Keywords: great white shark photo, Carcharodon carcharias, Guadalupe Island.

Nature Cover

Guadalupe Island, Mexico

This photo of schooling jack mackerel, shot at Guadalupe Island, Mexico in 2004, graced the cover of Nature, one of the premiere scientific journals in the world, on February 3, 2005 to accompany Effective leadership and decision-making in animal groups on the move (Couzin, Krause, Franks and Levin):

Jack mackerel schooling.  Summer, Trachurus symmetricus, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

Jack mackerel schooling. Summer.
Image ID: 09634
Species: Pacific jack mackerel, Trachurus symmetricus
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

Guadalupe Island Spearfishing World Record

Guadalupe Island, Mexico, Underwater Life

The fellows who freedive at Isla Guadalupe (Mexico) in search of giant fish are some of the most skilled and intrepid hunters in the world. They literally enter the food chain in a way that terrestrial hunters do not. This notion is especially true at Guadalupe Island, a haven to great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) at which several divers have been attacked, some fatally, in the past. Furthermore, freediving spearfishermen have the opportunity to fire only a single shot at a passing fish, using a band-powered speargun that they must reload with their own strength if they miss. They have only as much time to stalk a school of fish as they can sustain on a single breath of air, for this is breathhold diving and not supported by SCUBA, which is too cumbersome, noisy and is illegal for spearfishing in Mexican waters, not to mention unsporting. Once they strike their prey, they must haul the huge thrashing fish in on a thick cord and somehow dispatch the fish by hand before sharks sense the struggle and investigate. These guys are real watermen, very fit and tuned in to the waters that surround them. Since 1992 we have dived Guadalupe Island each summer with a group of spearfishering and diving friends, touring the island on the liveaboard dive vessel Horizon. It is a real pleasure to watch the freedivers at work in the water and hear their stories when they return to the boat. An added plus is the fresh fish we eat each night, barbequed perfectly and served with Jerry’s famous brew.

Craig OConnor and his pending spearfishing world record North Pacific yellowtail (77.4 pounds), taken on a breathold dive with a band-power speargun near Abalone Point.  Guadalupe Island is home to enormous yellowtail.  The three most recent spearfishing world records for Northern yellowtail have been taken at Guadalupe. July 2004, Seriola lalandi, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

Craig OConnor and his pending spearfishing world record North Pacific yellowtail (77.4 pounds), taken on a breathold dive with a band-power speargun near Abalone Point. Guadalupe Island is home to enormous yellowtail. The three most recent spearfishing world records for Northern yellowtail have been taken at Guadalupe. July 2004.
Image ID: 09590
Species: North Pacific Yellowtail, Seriola lalandi
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

The 2004 trip was marked by Craig O’Connor’s good fortune at spearing a new world record for North Pacific Yellowtail (Seriola lalandi). Nowhere in the North Pacific do these fish get as large as they do at Guadalupe Island. They are brutes. The 1999 trip yielded two back-to-back world records for this species, first to Joe Tobin and then three days later to Doug Kuczkowski. But Craig’s fish topped them both, barely. In addition, a lot of sizable yellowfin tuna were also shot on the trip (as they have in the past), including these two by Joe Tobin and James Tate of Australia.

Joe Tobin (left) and James Tate (right) with yellowfin tuna (approx 60 pounds each), taken by breathold diving with band-power spearguns near Abalone Point.  Guadalupe Island, like other Eastern Pacific islands, is a fine place in the world to spear large yellowfin tuna.  July 2004, Thunnus albacares, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

Joe Tobin (left) and James Tate (right) with yellowfin tuna (approx 60 pounds each), taken by breathold diving with band-power spearguns near Abalone Point. Guadalupe Island, like other Eastern Pacific islands, is a fine place in the world to spear large yellowfin tuna. July 2004.
Image ID: 09593
Species: Yellowfin tuna, Thunnus albacares
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

James Tate with yellowfin tuna (approx 60 pounds) taken by breathold diving with a band-power speargun near Abalone Point.  July 2004, Thunnus albacares, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

James Tate with yellowfin tuna (approx 60 pounds) taken by breathold diving with a band-power speargun near Abalone Point. July 2004.
Image ID: 09600
Species: Yellowfin tuna, Thunnus albacares
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

Craig’s fish was written up in the San Diego Union Tribune and the IBSRC’s website of spearfishing world records.

Joe Tobin (left), Doug Kuczkowski (center) and Craig OConnor (right).  In July 2004 OConnor shot a pending spearfishing world record North Pacific yellowtail (77.4 pounds), taken on a breathold dive with a band-power speargun near Battleship Point, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Mexico, July 2004.  Kuczkowski is the current record holder (77.0 pounds, July 1999) and Tobin is former record holder (74 pounds, July 1999), H&M Landing, San Diego, California

Joe Tobin (left), Doug Kuczkowski (center) and Craig OConnor (right). In July 2004 OConnor shot a pending spearfishing world record North Pacific yellowtail (77.4 pounds), taken on a breathold dive with a band-power speargun near Battleship Point, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Mexico, July 2004. Kuczkowski is the current record holder (77.0 pounds, July 1999) and Tobin is former record holder (74 pounds, July 1999).
Image ID: 09747
Location: H&M Landing, San Diego, California, USA

Keywords: Guadalupe Island, freediving, spearfishing, yellowtail, world record, underwater photo, Seriola lalandi, Isla Guadalupe

Sex and the Single Shark

Great White Shark, Guadalupe Island, Mexico, Sharks, Underwater Life, Wildlife

In the world of wildlife study, in which efforts are made to identify and track individual animals over time, researchers can fall prey to the temptation to name their subjects. There is considerable debate about the merits of this, as some scientists feel that assigning names to the animal subjects of a study causes the researchers to lose a certain amount of objectivity in the course of their observations. We have had the good luck of working with humpback whale researcher Dan R. Salden for a number of years, and observed that he made sure to always identify “his” humpbacks with an ID number rather than a descriptive name in an effort to avoid developing an attachment to them. However, it is unavoidable that over many years of work some individual animals receive a nickname in addition to their simple ID number. In the case of Dr. Salden’s whales, one such animal was “Mr. November” who had 30 days of fame when a photograph of his fluke appeared on the November page of a wall calendar.

We have been allowed to name five research subjects. It turns out that in some research efforts, the “right” to name an animal subject is given to the first person to photograph or videotape the animal. In this case, the animals happen to be great white sharks which I photographed and videotaped at Guadalupe Island. Three of them are females, big and beautiful sharks two of which are now named for my daughters who are happy to have the distinction of being the only students at school after whom killers have been named (the other female is named for my mother!). The remaining two are males, real brutes and good looking to boot, whom we decided to name for two notable lotharios of Sex in the City fame: Big and The Russian.

A great white shark underwater.  A large great white shark cruises the clear oceanic waters of Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Carcharodon carcharias

A great white shark underwater. A large great white shark cruises the clear oceanic waters of Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe).
Image ID: 10111
Species: Great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico