Tuesday, January 29, 2008

From our Favorite troublemaker

"I was reading about how countless species are being pushed towards extinction by man's destruction of forests.
Sometimes i think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere is that none of it has tried to contact us. "


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Maybe I don't know what I'm talking about...

...Infact, it's quite likely. I do feel the need however to make a comment regarding all those little plastic bracelets that everybody is wearing into Whole Foods and REI. The goal here is to save the planet, it's people, cancer, whatever color you chose. Would it not be better then, to stop producing things like little plastic bracelets that end up in landfills, oceans, gutters, and in every case will be either removed or lost at some point? It's a waste, and although they probably only cost a few cents to make, that is still a few cents that could be given to a cause. The problem is not with the companies that produce these little amulets though, it is with us. We need to be able to give money or time to a cause without having to advertise what we did to others, and until we make that fundamental change, the bracelets will be necessary. Let me offer an alternative. If you want to stop poverty, or hunger, have those you are trying to help weave or create the bracelets out of local organic materials. It's the give a man a fish vs. teach him to fish illustration all over again. If you want to save the rainforrest, definitely don't buy one. Even if it's made out of natural rubber, that rubber comes from a tree, one that had to have land cleared so that it could grow. But, maybe I don't know what I'm talking about, infact, it's quite likely.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Kicking slowly through a great blue void, to deep to see the surface, and hundreds of feet above the ocean floor, I allow the current to carry me so that I can conserve the priceless breath of air I'm holding in. I can hear a pod of spinner dolphin approaching, though I can’t see them yet. First a few flashes of light off of the sides of tuna, then the torpedo shaped fish begin to dash by on all sides. Following close behind, five hundred porpoise effortlessly glide by in formation. Some circle just beyond arms reach and others herd the young away from me. As quickly as the ocean revealed them, they are gone, their whistles still audible.

Video from Corcovado

Can you spot the Croc?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Turtle Rescue

Up and down the coast fishermen have been working the sea heavily for days now. It's not often that the ocean seems to boil over with life, what with all the overfishing that takes place off these shores. When, pods of spinner, stinky, and spotted dolphin where seen only 15 miles from shore, and stretching far out into the horizon, the fishermen knew that the tuna would be with them. Our first day in the water we hit it big. We go great shots of the schooling spinner dolphin, but we wanted the rarer, and more difficult spotted dolphin. These more elusive dolphin carry with them the big tuna, and are one of the species that is constantly under attack by the tuna fisheries... If you find the dolphin, you find the tuna, and the dolphin are what people search for.

We returned the the ocean yesterday with all of our gear, new knowledge, and refined techniques ready to "get the shot" but it seemed like a whole new ocean. The dolphin where not just to far out, they where gone. Yet, while we where in the ocean, we found a long line in the water about 20 miles out. It's not illegal to use long lines out here, but while we followed the line of bouys, we found a sea turtle in distress. It had swallowed the bait, and had been fighting for hours, it's fatigue apparent as it didn't even try to escape the boat. And so, we entered the water, and freed the turtle. In Costa Rica, even the endangered species are used for food, as any meat is generally a delicacy for the locals. All turtles are protected, and it was a privilege to help this one along on its never ending ocean voyage.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Osa Expedition

Finally the boats arrived and we managed to get on the road. With about 8 and a half hours of driving and 9 rivers to cross before we get there, it still doesn't quite feel like we've started, but at least now we know that the expedition will happen. We only have to do our time in the truck and we will soon be on Playa Carate pushing out into the waves. Before we arrive however, we will drive through much of the inner coastline of the Osa Peninsula, and through the cloud forests that don't just catch the moisture in the clouds but produce it. As we drive we can see puffs of cloud rising off of the trees, it's as if it's the breath of the forest. The land here is becoming alive!

Part I

We spent a night on the beach at Playa Carate, and set about getting geared up for the trip. All the while, the waves break heavily on the shore like the teeth of the ocean gnawing away at the land. Scarlet Macaw, Howler Monkeys, and Poison Dart frogs
keep us entertained, and we get to test our system as the tropical rain pours down almost dousing our camp fire, and threatening to drown us in our hammocks.

Finally, after dozens of unexpected set backs, our boats are packed, our hearts are racing, and the waves aren't letting up. We decide it's time to make a break for blue water, and one at a time, peel out into the rip tide, hoping against all hope that we will be swept into the blue and not catapulted back onto the beach in boats weighing upwards of 200 pounds full of gear.

I pull Jesse through the head high shore break to give him a head start and as he gets up to speed, he begins to break through the white wash from waves the just broke a few meters in front of his boat. My stomach begins to drop when I see what in surfing we call a "cleanup set"
forming in the distance. The set rises above the rest of the waves and charges the shoreline, it's obvious Jesse sees the set coming, because his arms have started pumping like cylinders in an engine to get him through the coming battle between man, boat, and the pacific. Two more meters and he would have risen gracefully over the wave, and he would have had a magnificent vantage point to look out to sea for more waves, but instead, the wave broke just in front of his boat, and the whitewash blew the sprayskirt right off of his boat. In a moment, his boat was full of water. When they get this way, they are almost impossible to control, like paddling a telephone pole through the water, there is no chance of turning. Perhaps, that is why Jesse didn't turn around and try to make it back to shore. With his boat now going through the waves instead of over them, Jesse managed to get into the blue water and begin to bail his boat. I'm obviously relieved, but I turn around and find that Izzi doesn't look so good. She is fair skinned, but she is now as white as a pearl. She doesn't hesitate, and gets in the boat, weakly commanding me to help pull her into the water.

In only a few meters, Izzi hits her first wave, her first wave ever actually. As it turns out, she's only sea kayaked once before, and that was in a harbor. I push her forward, hoping to save her some energy for when the big waves come. The rip tide as stopped going out, now it's coming in, the waves are steadily marching forward, and Izzi looks like she is towing an anchor. After a few minutes, she is still pushing forward only to be pushed back nearly to shore, and she's obviously getting tired. With the coming set, she gets turned sideways, and then inevitably, upside down.

I prepare myself for an angry or demoralized team mate, but as soon as the boat is empty of its water, Izzi is back in it. This time I tow her out until I can no longer stand and we wait there with me holding her boat for a break in the waves. In a mad dash, Izzi makes for the blue water, and cresting the peak of the last threatening wave, she now only has to worry about coming back in further up the beach.

Part II

We arrive at the first ranger station, only about 3 miles up the coast, and we have to check in with the rangers and pay the park fees. Coming to shore was easier than going out, and Izzi amazes us with a natural ability to side surf a kayak, never having done it before, still though in a comical collision, she and Jesse get tangled up in the shore break and both end up in the water trying drag their boats to shore. At the station, we hear that since nobody has ever done a trip like this in the Osa Peninsula, that it must not be allowed. So the ranger says that he is going to have to call the "director" to see if Sea Kayaks are allowed in the park. I doubt he ever called, but the word was that we would have to hike it. No boats. As he said this, we could see fishing boats motoring up the coast without so much as a glance from the rangers. We could get in the boats and paddle forward, and they would have most likely been unable to have done anything, but we decided that we would do our best to work with the park instead of against it. The only problem being that we are in no way set up for the 16 click hike that we have in front of us. Jesse has a drybag with shoulder straps, and a pair of shoes. Izzi and I are equipped only with our Hammocks and soft bottomed neoprene surf booties. The trips status as an expedition is waning the only thing we have left to call it that is our firm resolve to work through all of the obstacles that stand before us. So, we throw our gear in Hammocks, put our heads down and start walking.

Part III

There was once a time, when the sharks came up the Rio Sierpe in such great numbers, the locals say that you could have practically run across the river on their backs. Now, with sport fishing boats and longliners just past the breakers, it's no wonder we saw a mere 3 sharks the entire time we where at the river. I don't know much about the range of these sharks, but they are known to stay near this river mouth, and with no protection whatsoever, their numbers have dropped drastically. There is no enforcing of the law in Corcovado when it comes to fishing in the park, and the park only extends 500 meters out into the ocean. One of the locals of Playa Carate just told me about a battle that she and a few locals had against the powers that be who had planned to put a tuna farm at the mouth of the sierpe river where the ocean floor drops off to as deep as 2oo meters. I am not a biologist and I don't know the impact of putting a tuna farm in the area, but I do know that any time I've seen nature messed with, the only things that happen are bad.

Part IV
While sitting on shore and waiting for the bull sharks one evening, we saw a the back of a crocodile with all its serrated ridges moving up the coastline through the waves. It disappeared rather quickly, and our interest returned to looking for sharks. The river water was clear, and so as we stared into the depths, with my underwater camera at the ready, we felt confidant that we could not be snuck up on. With the light failing, I moved up river to photograph a few smaller crocodiles (2-3 meters) that where lounging in the shallows. Just upstream of Jesse and Izzi, a fully grown crocodile popped it's eyes through the surface of the water, obviously the one we had seen in the waves, and quite undetected by our vigilant eyes. Crocodiles most often attach from downstream is what we were told by Dr. Brady Barr, and this one had just swum up from downstream and passed within a few meters of us without ever even causing a ripple of concern from our team.