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Revillagigedo Islands – Clipperton Atoll – March 29, 2014 – April 14, 2014 

And so it begins again.  My son, Drew, stayed overnight in order to drive me out to the airport in the morning so that I could escape the confines of the grip of winter in the Great White North.  The skies were cloudless, the temperature hovered around the freezing mark and the roads were clear.  After a Spartan breakfast of tea and toast we loaded the car and set off for the airport shortly after 11:00 a.m.  There was quite a bit of traffic on the highway but there were no delays and we made good time, arriving at the airport just about noon.  Drew dropped me off and I made my way to the check-in kiosk.  There were absolutely no other people in line.  One of the attendants noticed that I was having some difficulty with the automated boarding pass process and came over to help.  She got me checked in, recommended an upgrade to business class for the Fort Worth to Cabos leg of the trip thus eliminating the overweight and extra baggage fees as well as providing priority boarding and luggage handling.  Hopefully this will ensure that my bags make it all the way to Cabos with me.  Then it was off to customs where, once again, there was nobody in line ahead of me.  After passing through customs it was off to the security screening area where there was a bit of a delay since two pilots had been informed that they could not take their coffees through the screening area and had to finish them beforehand.  After completing the security check I was on my way to the boarding area, arriving by 12:30 p.m.  This was easily the smoothest and quickest transition from entering the terminal to the boarding area that I have ever experienced.  If the process was always like this it would make travelling so much more enjoyable, almost enough to make me want to do it over and over again.  I grabbed a coffee and sandwich from the Starbucks and settled in to wait for the boarding announcement. 

We left on time and enjoyed a pleasant flight, arriving about ten minutes early.  Since I was seated near the rear of the airplane I waited for everyone else to disembark and then made my way to the departure gate for the next leg of the trip.  Although it was quite a long walk I arrived in plenty of time to relax for a bit before they started boarding.  Another advantage of business class is that you board before everyone else so I was already comfortably settled before the other passengers started to board.  There was a bit of a delay due to a backlog but before too long we were on our way.  The hostesses took good care of us and plied me with several glasses of wine before, during and after dinner.  As soon as we had finished our meal it was time to get ready for the landing.  Again we arrived early but I had to wait quite a while before the housing was loaded onto the luggage conveyor belt.  A quick search at customs and then I was on my way.  Unfortunately the taxi driver thought that he was supposed to pick two people up so we waited until everyone had left the airport before he realized that I was his only passenger.  It is a long drive from the airport to Cabo San Lucas and it was after midnight before I checked into the hotel.  My allocated room is at the top of a flight of stairs making it rather difficult to get my luggage up to the room.  Once settled in it was time for bed. 

I awoke about 05:30 Mexico time, made coffee, showered and dressed and just as I finished the phone rang for my wake-up call.  I requested a bell boy to help me with my luggage and went down to the lobby to check out.  Breakfast was included in the price of the room so I went out onto the patio to enjoy the early morning sunshine.  The sky was a deep, clear blue and completely cloudless.  Fionn and John, a couple of National Geographic documentary film makers from England, joined me and we enjoyed a buffet breakfast with scrambled eggs, bacon and copious quantities of coffee.   Miguel had said that he would pick us up at 07:45 to take us to the boat so we made our way to the courtyard where Bill and Jan were already waiting.  But Miguel did not show up.  We later learned that he had been there at 07:30 but neglected to even look for us. After waiting for almost an hour we decided to walk around to the boat which was on the other side of the harbour.  Even with wheels on our luggage it was still an arduous task and by now the boardwalk was smothered with tourists and locals trying to sell their silver wares.  Eventually we reached the dock and the dive masters and deck hands relieved us of our gear.   Jukka, Tim and Andrew were already aboard and it was good to see them all again.  Although we had already eaten, another full breakfast was served on board and introductions were made all around.  There are divers from all over the world on this boat with us.  We set sail with everybody on the starboard side of the boat to take pictures of the coastline and the famous Cabo arch.  Shortly afterwards it was time for lunch but, not having gained my sea legs yet I just opted for a salad and then it was off to the suite for a bit of rest.  The initial safety briefing was held and we all had to don our life jackets and assemble at the stern.  Then it was back to the berth for more rest.  Fortunately the seas are very calm but it still took me the best part of the day before I started to feel comfortable on board.  After a much needed rest I assembled the camera and housing in preparation for the following morning.  The crossing to San Benedicto takes all day and all night so we have a ways to go yet.  Dinner of roast beef and butterfly shrimp was served and, by now, I am starting to feel better so tucked in to a hearty dinner.  After dinner there was a presentation on the TV as to what we can expect to experience on the trip and then it was off to bed.  Even though I had spent a good portion of the day laying down I immediately fell asleep and even though I awoke a couple of times during the night, managed a good night’s sleep.  A continental breakfast is served at 07:00 a.m. followed by a full breakfast at 09:00 a.m.  After breakfast we arrived at San Benedicto, a volcano that was last active in 1954.  It is literally an island of volcanic ash with no vegetation whatsoever.  Humpback whales were spotted a few hundred meters from the boat and they entertained us for a bit.  Then it was time to get ready for our check out dive.  The boat was anchored in a small, sheltered cove and we were split into two groups.  After establishing how much weight we required we descended into a rather strong current.  I opted to dive with a steel tank and initially found the additional size and weight a bit cumbersome.  While waiting for the rest of the group to get sorted out I filmed a turtle and a small stingray.  Apart from that there were just a lot of small fish and some rocks.  And then they came.  At first there were just two giant mantas, one with a wingspan of about 12 feet, the other much larger at about fifteen feet.  They circled us over and over again, staying very shallow and passing quite closely obviously enjoying the bubbles on their bellies.  Then another one joined in and we were treated to a continuous parade of spectacular proportions.  Later a fourth manta joined the fray but by this time air supplies were getting low and it was time to ascend.  Magnificent!  The general consensus aboard the boat was identical, “Best check-out diver ever!”  The panga picked us up and we returned to the boat to divest ourselves of our gear and change into dry clothes for lunch.  The boat was moved around the island to another location known as The Boiler.  We enjoyed a lunch of cold cuts, tuna salad and egg salad and then it was time to get back into the water.  The Boiler is a pinnacle that rises to within about ten feet of the surface and is known for manta interactions.  On this dive we did not even have to wait.  Four mantas were circling us as we descended and continued to do so throughout the dive.  It is obvious that they like the feeling of bubbles on their belly since they will hover above you while you exhale.  Time and time again they made passes within inches and one was so close that it actually knocked me out of the way.  All the time that we were enjoying these interactions with the mantas you could hear the humpback whales singing in the distance. Their songs lasted throughout our dive adding another dimension to an already spectacular experience.  We pushed our remaining air to the limits and, even as we ascended to complete our safety stops, the mantas continued to circle around us.  Unfortunately Jan had difficulty breathing during the dive and aborted after only a few minutes.  She was weak and helped aboard by the dive master and placed on oxygen.  One of the guests is a doctor and another is an EMT specialist so they monitored her recovery.  Since the nearest evacuation point is Socorro the captain made the decision to set sail immediately just in case evacuation was required.  So, we get the rest of the afternoon off to siesta.  I did not hear the dinner bell and by the time I reached the dining lounge most people had already finished their meals.  There was still plenty of food left and I enjoyed both the chicken and fish offerings.   Afterwards the crew turned on the lights at the stern of the boat to attract the flying fish which in turn attracted the silky sharks and dolphins.  A few of the more intrepid divers slipped into the water to observe the feeding spectacle but I was not among them.  The bar was opened and beverage entertainment became the order of the day.  Then it was time for bed. 

I awoke around 07:00 a.m. had a coffee and a muffin top and then it was time for the first dive briefing.  We will be diving a site called Cabo Pearce which has a monitoring device for the sharks.  We descended down a line since the current is quite strong.  However, apart from a small Galapagos shark, a peacock flounder and a lobster, there was little else to see.  However, we were entertained throughout the dive with a continuous song from the whales.  Upon reaching 500 psi I initiated my ascent to the safety stop, was picked up by the panga and returned to the boat.  After changing into dry clothes it was soon time for breakfast of home fries, bacon and eggs benedict.  I quickly learned that it is best to face the windows during meals since we were entertained by breaching humpback whales while we ate.  After breakfast another siesta and then it was time to dive again.  We went back to Cabo Pierce and descended the line but while white balancing the camera and getting things set up I lost sight of the group.  Andrew and I contented ourselves with shooting a lot of the small stuff, puffer fish, scorpionfish, peacock flounder, the ubiquitous angelfish and a solitary whitetip shark but it was not until the end of the dive when we had returned to the line that we saw a lone manta.  I was able to shoot a few seconds of the manta but it was nothing like the interactions that we had enjoyed the day before.  Once again the whales kept up their songs throughout the dive.  After stripping off our wet gear it was time for a quick dip in the hot tub and then change into dry clothes for lunch.  A quick siesta after lunch and then it was time to get back into the water.  Once again we set off for Cabo Pierce but this time we did not have a dive master aboard the panga with us.  The protocol was to drop into the water together, gather our cameras and make it to the down line.  Unfortunately I did not make it to the down line and consumed more than 600 psi descending against the current.  Once we reached the bottom the current was not doing us any favours and we were whisked about like so much flotsam.  It was really difficult to be steady enough to shoot any video.  I saw a manta but it was too far away to film and did not stay around.  After a relatively short dive I made my way back to the line and began my ascent.  Boarding the panga again was another exercise in frustration.  The current was absolutely ripping at the surface making it very difficult to get clear of our gear and get on board.  Once back on the Nautilus Explorer we settled into the hot tub and ordered a round of beer.  While we consumed our beverages a mother and calf humpback whale entertained us with a continuous succession of breaches.  The little one also kept slapping its tail on the surface. When the pangas were loaded onto the boat the captain maneuvered the boat closer to the whales but then they just dove to avoid us.  After all the excitement it was time to shower and change.  Since we will not be diving for a couple of days some members of our group decided it was time to entertain beverages in earnest.  By the time that we sat down to a dinner of salmon, potatoes au gratin, asparagus and green beans they were well on their way to a state of inebriation.  The beverage entertainment continued well after I went to bed at 10:30. 

We awoke to clear skies and, with a following swell, were making good time.  The seas are probably about as calm as one would expect for the middle of the ocean.  After coffee I noticed a couple of dolphins swimming alongside us.  Retreating to the stern deck we watched as a pod of dolphins scurried to the bow to ride the bow wave.  We are travelling at a speed of about nine knots and yet they are easily able to overtake us.  One swam beside us for a while alternately jumping, turning away and then swimming up to the bow again.  They are incredibly efficient in the water.  Breakfast was served and afterwards people sat in the salon sharing pictures and videos from previous adventures.  Then it was time for a nap.  We watched a documentary on the history of Clipperton Island and the controversy associated with its ownership and then it was time for lunch.  After lunch another siesta was in order and, when I awoke, Marcos was showing some of his videos.  Clear skies had given way to complete cloud cover and it looks as though a storm may be on the horizon.  The dinner bell sounded and we enjoyed beef ribs and pilapia with mashed potatoes and cauliflower.  Jukka had challenged me to a video competition the night before so I brought my laptop down to the lounge.   However, my old format Windows laptop with DivX coded videos would not play on their more modern system so we just watched Jukka’s Seven Seas video.  Afterwards, one by one we said our good nights and headed to bed. 

The wind had picked up during the night so things got a bit bumpy but by morning the skies were mostly clear again.  We had breakfast and then the captain stopped the boat so that anyone who was interested could go for a swim off the stern deck.  Several people seized the opportunity and enjoyed themselves splashing about in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  After two nights and one full day we are now more than halfway to Clipperton Atoll.  Some of us spent an hour or so watching the movie, “Oceans” and then it was time for a lunch of Panini sandwiches, French fries and salad.  After lunch I was long overdue for my first siesta.  Having slept through the afternoon movie I made my way down to the salon in time for dinner.  However, not feeling completely well I excused myself after salad and regained my bunk.  Although I had slept through most of the day I still managed to sleep, albeit fitfully, throughout the night. 

I was awoken by the sound of the anchor chain making its way to the sea floor indicating that we have arrived at our destination.  We are now officially in the middle of the middle of nowhere at Clipperton Atoll.  Our first dive of the day is right now so there was not even time for coffee before suiting up.  There is a slight current along the atoll so we dropped into about 80 feet of water and let the current slowly move us over the reef.  This reef is unlike any other that I have ever seen.  Comprised entirely of hard corals and even though it is completely remote there is evidence of fishing in the area with lines caught on the bottom.  The reef inhabitants are mostly small reef fish with spotted morays swimming about and sometimes behaving aggressively.  The last group into the water saw a pod of dolphins but, although we could hear them, we were not as fortunate.  One lone, small shark passed by but was way too deep to attempt a shot.  After the dive we were escorted back to the boat in time for breakfast.  We had about a one hour surface interval before it was time to get ready again for our second dive.  This time there was a bit more action with a small shark circling in and around us for a while and several moray eels were also darting about.  There are fish here that I have never seen before and, once again, we allowed the current to gently move us over the reef.  We could plainly hear the dolphins again but there were no sightings until we were aboard the panga for the return trip to the boat and a pair of dolphins crested our bow wave.  We chased them for a bit in the panga and then turned away to get ready for lunch.  After hanging my gear to dry Jukka and I rinsed off in the hot tub and then it was time for food.  Since we are making four dives today there was only a short 40 minute window after lunch so I took the opportunity to apply silicone grease to the O-rings of the lights and mounted the lights to the housing.  Our last dive is at 17:15 so it is possible that we will be losing the light during the dive.  This dive saw a lot of moray eels swimming out in the open and a couple of silky sharks including one little one that was only about 18 inches long.  All of the dives have been really easy with a slight current that slowly moves you along the reef.  Our last dive put us on the reef in about 40 feet of water.  The surge was quite strong making it very difficult to hold the camera steady but there was not really anything worthwhile to shoot.  A couple of moray eels provided some entertainment but even when we gained deeper water on the edge of the reef opportunities to film were few and far between.  Tim, Jukka, Andrew and I drifted along consuming our air until it was time for the safety stop and subsequent trip back to the boat.  Three nights and two days of sailing had not produced the outcome that any of us had hoped for.  We rinsed our gear and then made good use of the hot tub until it was time for a dinner of barbecued chicken and fish.  Afterwards we watched a documentary of the Somalia pirates and their effect on the islands of the Seychelles that was filmed, narrated and produced by John and Fionn.  Then it was time for bed. 

It was suggested that we see where the birds are diving and go out into the blue in search of a bait ball.  Dolphins followed us out to the buoy but were gone before we entered the water.  We descended to about 80 feet but all we saw was blue water and a few jellyfish.  After about 50 minutes it was time for a safety stop and back to the boat for breakfast.  The boat was moved back to the leeward side of the atoll for our next dive which will be back on the reef.  After breakfast and a reasonable surface interval we were back into our gear for the second dive.  This time the pangas took us closer to the point of the atoll and we descended into deep water.  Several divers observed three hammerheads at about 140 feet but I was not among them.  The intent was to allow the current to move us along the reef but partway through the dive the current was facing us.  It was a real struggle to make any head way and eventually Nelson, the dive master, indicated we should turn around and head back the way we had come.  It took about 300 psi to cover the same distance as we had traversed against the current using about 2500 psi.  We broke down our gear, changed and then it was time for lunch.  After lunch there was barely enough time for a short siesta and then we struggled to get back into our wetsuits.  This dive we dropped even closer to the point and although dolphins followed us out nobody saw any once we entered the water.  The first part of this dive was deep, 100 feet plus, and we saw numerous moray eels out swimming in the open.  On one occasion Tim counted six in the same location.  We allowed the current to drift us along until we reached the end of our dive, regained the panga and returned to the boat.  By this time I was quite ready for a siesta.  Andrew woke me when it was time for the next dive but I felt as though I had only lain down for a minute instead of a couple of hours.  I got into my gear and we set off for the reef.  At first the visibility was quite good and there were schools of fish foraging amongst the corals which afforded some photo opportunities.  I saw a large moray curled up in an enclosure and dropped in for a shot.  The surge pulled me around and so I retreated to await another opportunity.  Jukka dove into the spot but in his excitement to get a picture of the moray inadvertently placed his hand on top of a spiny urchin.  Several needles were stuck in his hand and fingers.  He carefully pulled them out, retrieved his camera and then proceeded to get a couple of shots of the moray.  By this time visibility had become seriously impacted so we decided to call it a dive and ascend for our safety stop.  Once back on board the boat they soaked Jukka’s hand with vinegar and he soaked his insides with cognac to ease the discomfort.  Then we retreated to the hot tub to await the dinner bell.  Tonight we enjoyed chicken and lamb shish kebobs with rice and roasted peppers followed by a crème caramel.  After dinner Mike showed us his video of the macro creatures from diving in Bali but I could not stay awake and retired early. 

The movement of the boat awakened me in the morning and we are now positioned on the windward side of the island in the hopes of seeing some larger pelagics.  We entered the water from the stern of the boat, descended, and once again allowed the current to move us along the reef.  Unfortunately the reef is pretty much the same as on the other side but, if anything, the visibility was worse.  A couple of divers ventured deep on air and found some large hammerheads but, for the most part, the sharks were content to stay on the bottom at about 200 feet.  In the last five dives I have only managed to shoot 35 minutes of video.  We regained the boat, stripped out of our wet gear and sat down to breakfast.  After breakfast there was a rather detailed briefing for those wanting to go ashore.  Conditions have to be nearly perfect in order to even attempt a shore entry so they sent Amanda, a strong swimmer, ashore with a rope to secure easier access for everyone else.  As it turned out, although Amanda made it ashore, she very nearly drowned in the process.  I had already decided that the risks outweighed the rewards and opted to do another dive instead.  It was more of the same as far as shooting opportunities were concerned although I did locate and film an anchor from some previous marine expedition.  Regaining the boat after the dive was a bit of a challenge since the swells are several feet high.  At one point you are even with the deck and the next instance the deck is looming above you.  It is necessary to grab the rope to get close enough to the deck to hand your camera up and then swim back out to remove your fins and then pull yourself back in again.  Those of us that were relegated with this task all made it safely though.  We removed our gear, changed into dry clothes and made our way to the dining room for a lunch of chicken curry after which a short siesta was in order.  For the next dive some people opted to go out into the blue in the hopes of seeing something different but I opted for another reef dive on the off chance that this one may provide something interesting.  However, apart from being attacked by a moray eel, there was nothing to set this dive apart from the rest.  After changing into dry clothes I was now in desperate need of another siesta.  Long before I would consider myself well rested it was time to go diving again.  This time I joined Andrew and a group of others and we ventured out into the blue.  Although nothing came close enough to get good footage we saw several silky sharks, a hammerhead, a pair of mobula rays and a pair of porpoises. It is difficult to film out there since approaching the animals just causes them to swim away.  The dive was relatively short since we were quite deep for a portion of it and then it was up to 15 feet for our safety stop and back to the boat.  Once onboard a quick rinse of wet gear and then into the hot tub with a cold beer.  A second round of beer was ordered and then it was time for a dinner of burgers and fries.  I changed the battery and film in the camera and, once everything was in good working order it was time for bed. 

Andrew woke me just in time for the dive briefing and then, without even the benefit of a cup of coffee to get the day started, it was into our gear for the first dive of the day.  We are diving on the leeward side of the island and the visibility is quite good.  Early in the morning the fish are quite active and there were plenty of photo opportunities.  Schools of yellow snappers in an almost never ending stream swam towards us against the current adding a colorful spectacle to the scene.  Several morays were spotted but, for the most part, they remained secure in their coral crevices.  After the dive we had breakfast and then Gordon gave a briefing on the second attempt to go ashore.  Those who wanted to participate gathered their belongings into dry bags and set off in search of adventure in the surf.  They managed to get two boatloads of people ashore and then cancelled the operation as too dangerous.  Those of us that did not go ashore readied for another dive.  We were dropped onto the reef and began our dive with the current.  At this time of day the morays are out in earnest and dozens of them are swimming along the reef.  At the midpoint of our dive a school of hundreds of jacks came out of the blue and encircled us.  It was an amazing site and the highlight of our dives so far at Clipperton Atoll.  I continued drifting along the reef until reaching a point where the current changes direction.  A pair of silky sharks swam around in circles in this area and I managed to get some footage of them.  Then I spied the school of jacks above me and began my ascent for the safety stop.  At 20 feet I was completely absorbed by the school and spent the next few minutes just letting the camera run.  It was one of my best safety stops ever.  By the time the panga picked us up and brought us back to the boat the last of the shore party had also been safely brought back to the boat.  Gordon, the captain, admitted that they had probably completely destroyed an outboard trying to get the people off the island.  Over a lunch of vegetable, chicken or beef wraps we exchanged stories.  Most people who went ashore were disappointed at the amount of rubbish they found there and admitted that there was very little of interest.  Those of us who made the dive were ecstatic about the encounter with the jacks.  The boat was moved to the north point of the atoll and we made our next entry from the stern dropping on to a coral garden at a depth of 40 feet.  I was the last diver to enter the water and found myself all alone in this pristine environment.  After filming for awhile I made my way to the wall and glided along in the mild current.  A school of six juvenile silvertip sharks joined me but they would not come close enough to get good footage.  At the end of the safety stop I ascended to the surface and even though I was a couple of hundred meters away from the boat the distinct aroma of cookies baking aboard met my nostrils.  It really doesn’t get much better than this.  It was decided to make our last dive at Clipperton Atoll out into the blue.  Twelve of us set out but all we observed was a solitary silky shark until a school of rainbow runners came in and hung around at about 30 feet.  Fortunately they timed their arrival with our safety stop so I was able to get some footage.  Then it was back to the boat to break down and stow our gear for the return trip.  We noticed that a tuna boat had arrived and set anchor which may explain why there is not as much sea life as we had anticipated.  As soon as the pangas were loaded onto the boat it was into the hot tub with cold beverage in hand.  The dinner bell sounded and we were treated to chicken, mashed potatoes, carrots and a wahoo that Mark had caught earlier in the day.  We now have lots of time to recoup on the way to Roca Partido.   Shortly after dinner I retired for the evening but slept fitfully through the night since the seas were a bit higher than we had previously encountered. 

By morning we awoke to cloudy skies but the seas were still relatively calm.  We had breakfast and then sat around the table entertaining each other with stories and jokes until Amanda appeared with the vacuum cleaner, a clear indication that it was time to head to the salon.  John showed us another video that he and Fionn had made of the strange inhabitants of the Lembeh Strait.  Afterwards I went back to the suite to continue work on the trip report.  Becoming so engrossed with this activity I completely missed the call to lunch, only going downstairs when my stomach started to growl.  All that was left was some lentil soup so I helped myself to a couple of bowls.  Then it was back to work on the trip report.  However, Jukka informed me of a private party in his cabin that included another 18 or so of the guests.  Copious quantities of wine and beer were being served and several wine glasses paid the ultimate price for their involvement.  Eventually things got so heated in their cabin that it was necessary to take the festivities onto the back deck.  We continued with our libations until Amanda informed us that dinner was served so we made our way to the dining room in our drunken stupor.  We enjoyed a diner of tuna and chicken and afterwards watched “Sharkwater” on the television.  Then it was time for bed. 

Another late rise to a beautiful morning and breakfast had already been served.  I went down to the galley, had something to eat and then we once again sat around the table and swapped stories.  Bruce announced that he was showing a slide show in the salon of some of his pictures from this trip so we all gathered around the TV.  He also presented a slide show from a trip last year to Roca Partida to prepare us for what we may encounter.  We should be so lucky.  His photos included several shots of a humpback whale and her calf that he was able to take while on scuba.  I continued working on the trip report until it was time for lunch.  After lunch the captain stopped the boat so that those who were so inclined could go for a swim.  Once we were underway again John showed us another film that he and Fionn had shot about whalesharks.  The pair of them really put together fine documentaries.  There was a bit of a lull until dinner time so I opted for a mid afternoon siesta.  The dinner bell sounded and I joined the rest of the group for another feast of barbecued chicken breast and salmon steak.  Afterwards a group assembled in the salon and drinking began in earnest.  About 10:30 I opted for the quiet comfort of the cabin while others continued until about 02:00 a.m.  By morning we had reached San Benedicto.  It was decided to come here since there were already three boats moored at Roca Partido.  We had our early morning coffee; some of the revelers shook the cobwebs out while others remained in bed.  We donned our gear and descended onto the sea mount.  A school of jacks were circling at the surface so I filmed them and then saw a solitary manta approaching.  Since I was the only diver still in shallow water I was able to get several minutes of unobstructed footage.  A lone whitetip shark caught my attention so I dropped down to get some footage of it and then it was back to the manta.  Even though there was only one it continued to circle the group over and over again so that everyone was able to get as many shots as they wanted.  Upon reaching the turnaround air pressure I ascended for the safety stop while the manta made another pass at about twenty feet.  Then it was back to the boat for breakfast.  After breakfast a couple of groups set off in the hopes of snorkeling with the whales but they kept going to where the whales had been, not to where the whales were going.  As it turned out we had better sightings aboard the boat as several whales passed within 100 meters of the boat and entertained us with breaches as well.  By the time that we got into the water for our next dive the current had picked up and it was a lot of work trying to swim around the pinnacle.  The manta had already left but there was a school of bigeye trevally and another school of whitetongue jacks that made for some good video.  A lone whitetip shark swam along the rock wall and I managed a few seconds of video.  Due to the effort expended swimming against the current the return air mark was reached rather quickly and then it was back to the boat for lunch.  After lunch I enjoyed the obligatory siesta until it was time to dive again.  Our third dive had two mantas that circled us throughout and I was able to get some good close-up footage.  Once everyone had returned to the boat five of us set off in one of the pangas to swim with the whales.  We cruised along the inshore bays hoping to find a mother and calf resting but when we did spot whales and slipped into the water to film them they just dove and disappeared.  We were in the water for only a few minutes but the next time that they surfaced they were more than a mile away.  We headed back to the boat to get ready for our last dive at the boiler.  The jacks and trevallys and the sharks were still there and a lone manta put in an appearance.  I also was able to film a moray eel curled up in one of the crevices.  After the dive it was time to break down and stow the gear in preparation for our transit to Roca Partida where we will spend our last two days of diving.  Our dinner tonight consisted of chicken and lamb, roast potatoes and mixed vegetables.  Afterwards Nelson conducted a dive briefing about what to expect and how to manage diving at Roca Partida.  Then the bar was opened and the festivities recommenced.  I went to bed. 

The noise of the pangas being lowered woke me in the morning and we have arrived at Roca Partida.  Once again the seas are flat calm.  The rock juts out of the ocean to a height of 50 feet or so but is only about 150 feet long.  However, congregations of sharks are known to hang out here.  There is another boat already in the area so we adjust our dive schedule to comply with theirs.  Our first group dives at 08:45 and we follow at 09:00.  We drop into the water and immediately notice groups of whitetip sharks laying together on shelves in the rock.  We are able to approach quite closely to film them.  JJ, one of the divemasters, notices a school of hammerhead sharks and we swim out to engage them.  However, the flurry of divers and all their bubbles causes the hammerheads to swim away so we spent the largest part of the dive following JJ swimming against the current at a depth of 90 feet.  Eventually we regain the shelter of the rock and are able to complete our safety stops out of the current.  Then it is back to the boat for breakfast.  Once the divers from the other boat were out of the water we got ready for our next dive.  We were dropped right at the north edge of Roca Partida into a ripping current.  JJ, once again, seemed intent on swimming against the current but we were making no headway at all.  Bill grabbed onto the rock so that at least he could maintain his position.  Noticing that he had a handle on his BCD around the tank valve I just grabbed it and hung on for dear life.  Eventually JJ tweaked to the idea that perhaps we should just go with the flow and allow the current to sweep us away.  Once on the other side of the rock it was a lot better although we were still swimming against the current.  Having consumed so much air at the start of the dive I called it after only 20 minutes and ascended for the safety stop.  On the whole dive I shot less than 2 minutes of video.  This was easily the most challenging dive that we have made all trip.  We had our lunch and since there was a 40 minute window until the next dive I luxuriated in the sun for a bit.  Feeling a bit worn out I opted to skip the next dive and lay down in the bunk for a siesta.  I awoke just as they were getting ready for the last dive of the day.  The current had subsided somewhat but the action had intensified immensely.  Whitetip and Galapagos sharks were on the prowl, a pod of dolphins swam in and entertained us by repeatedly jumping out of the water.  Trevallys and jacks and wahoo mixed into the fray.  All too soon it was time to ascend for the safety stop.  Upon reaching the surface the winds had really picked up and boarding the panga was quite a challenge.  Once back on the boat there was plenty of time for cold beverage entertainment in the hot tub.  After a quick shower the dinner bell sounded and we sat down to chicken cordon bleu and a fish specialty.  After dinner, Mark and Scott presented John with the Best Camera Assistant Award since he had been able to change batteries in the camera without having to ask Fionn for assistance or the need for someone to check his work.  Well done John!  Keep up the good work.  Then it was back to the salon for more beverage entertainment until it was time for bed. 

I was rather rudely awakened by the call, “25 minutes to dive”.  By the time that I had put my wetsuit on the rest of my group had already departed.  I was given a private ride out to the dive site and dropped into the cove on the backside of the rock.  I could see the rest of the group way down deep below but contented myself shooting the sleeping whitetips in the hollows.  Following the current around I filmed trevallys and then caught up with Andrew just as we rounded the corner.  Huge schools of jacks hovered just off the reef and several whitetip sharks patrolled the edges.  As I rounded the far corner a school of Galapagos sharks approached.  Reaching a depth of 117 feet while filming them I decided that it was time to ascend to shallower water and begin my safety stop. The panga picked me up and then it was back to the boat for coffee.  Great start to the day.  We had breakfast and then by 10:30 it was time for our second dive.   Again we dropped into the sheltered cove and the whitetip sharks were still resting on their respective ledges.  We allowed the current to move us around the rock and encountered several Galapagos sharks at the point.  There are cold water currents that move around the rock and the larger sharks prefer the colder water.  The challenge is that while filming them they can draw you down into much deeper water. We completed our dive and headed back to the boat for lunch.   We had lunch and at 01:30 it was time for our last dive.  We entered the water to see schools of jacks and tuna and trevallys with whitetip sharks swimming about.  There is a lot more action on the afternoon dives than earlier in the day.  Aurea and I cruised around the rock avoiding the current as much as possible.  On several occasions we dropped down deep to observe the Galapagos sharks but all too soon it was time to ascend to the safety stop.  Once back on board the boat there was a flurry of activity to break down and rinse and hang all of our gear to dry.  Once this task was completed there was time to entertain a cold beverage in the hot tub before the crew pulled the anchor.  We all assembled on the top deck for photographs with Roca Partida in the background.  Then it was time to set sail for Cabo San Lucas.  We enjoyed a dinner of barbecue chicken breast and barbecue New York strip steaks with baked potatoes and cauliflower followed by chocolate cake.  After dinner we sat in the salon and watched “Master and Commander”.  Then it was off to bed. 

The winds had picked up and the ride during the night was certainly bumpier than it had been previously.  Still, I took advantage of the fact that we did not have to get ready for an early morning dive and slept in.  By the time that I got up breakfast was very nearly ready.  The rocking motion of the boat has me a bit unsettled so after eating I opted to spend the morning just lying in my bunk.  When they slowed the boat down for lunch I took the opportunity to get my housing disassembled and packed away for the return flight.  I skipped lunch.  After packing the rest of my gear it was back to the bunk.  Later in the afternoon the winds died down, the seas became flatter and I was able to get up and go down to the salon.  A dinner of several types of pasta was served shortly thereafter and then Jukka held a second showing of his seven seas video.  Afterwards it was time for bed.  We anchored in the harbour sometime during the night and were awakened when the engines started in the morning.  After showering and getting dressed we enjoyed one last breakfast together and then it was time to say goodbyes as the first group left for the airport.  Since the boat had to be cleaned and readied for the next group we were asked to go ashore and were told where they would deliver our luggage.  We walked around the harbour,  visiting many of the stores and eventually stopped at the Wyndham Resort for a cold, refreshing drink.  We met the driver and somehow managed to force all of our gear into his truck with enough room left over for all the passengers. We made it to the airport and then my distaste for travel surfaced once again.  Since I had two bags to check-in there was an extra charge for the second bag but my credit card was declined.  So they tried the card again and it was declined again.  I handed the agent another card but it was also declined twice.  So the agent went to the office to figure out what to do.  Fifteen minutes later he resurfaced and asked for both credit cards and then went back to the office.  I waited and waited and waited for his return.  Eventually a senior agent stopped by and informed me that they were trying to process the charge over the internet.  Bungling bureaucracy at its best and yet apparently it happens all the time.  Finally the ticket agent returned after about one hour beaming with the satisfaction of a job well done; all for a $43 charge.  I rushed to my gate and arrived with only minutes to spare.  Having purchased priority boarding I got onto the plane and settled into my seat.  That is when I discovered that our three hour flight was to be devoid of any entertainment whatsoever.  We arrived in Chicago on time but it was snowing and the frustration with airline security came to the forefront once again.  At Chicago O’Hare International Airport you have to claim your luggage and transfer it to your next flight.  The hostess on the plane told us that our luggage would be coming out on conveyor belt 6. I waited and waited and waited but my luggage did not show up.  Not being able to recognize any of the passengers waiting for their luggage I went to check the board and found that my flight, AA1077, was shown as having flown from Cancun instead of Cabos and the luggage was unloaded on conveyor belt number 3.  Lo and behold, there were my two pieces of checked baggage slowly going round and round in circles all by themselves.  By now the lineup to get out of the baggage collection area went all around the building and I was right at the back.  After what seemed like ages, an agent eventually took my customs declaration card and I was able to check my luggage in again at the American Airlines area.  Now I had to get from terminal 5 to terminal 3.  Once in terminal 3 I joined another line for the security screening.  Oh to be 12 years old again and not have to remove my shoes.  After emptying all my carry-on paraphernalia into baskets I entered the X-ray machine and was then stopped for further scrutiny since I had omitted to take my headphones out of my pocket.  Once cleared and having gathered up all of my belongings I made my way to the gate.  However, gate H2 where the flight is supposed to be departing from is not shown on any of the directional boards.  After making enquiries I was off in the right direction but when I arrived at the gate the board showed a flight to Kitchener.  I enquired of the agent as to whether I was in the right place and he indicated that I was but all flights have been delayed due to the storm.  Mind you, at its zenith the storm may have deposited a half inch of snow and by now it was not even raining.  There is not even any clear indication when my flight will leave.  As it is, the flight to Kitchener which was scheduled to leave three hours ago is still attached to the boarding tunnel.   Not having eaten anything since breakfast I made my way to one of the kiosks to get a sandwich.  Eventually, after de-icing the wings three times, the Kitchener plane was pushed back and able to make its way out to the runway.  Shortly thereafter another plane took its place which we all assumed would be the flight to Flint since that was the next one on the schedule.  Imagine my surprise when they announced that this plane would be heading to Toronto.  We boarded the plane and settled into our seats about 2 hours later than scheduled.  The flight attendants went through the safety briefing and we prepared for take-off.  But nothing happened.  The pilot announced over the intercom that we were waiting to have the wings de-iced.  After about half an hour the de-icing machine arrived and sprayed solution all over the plane.  But still we did not move.  The captain then announced that they still needed to load the luggage onto the plane.  About an hour later one of the baggage handlers came aboard to notify the crew that the luggage had been loaded.  So now we were set for departure.  Well, actually not quite.  We still sat waiting since they did not have anybody to operate the cart that pushes the planes away from the boarding gate.  Forty-five minutes later a crew showed up, hooked us up to the cart and pushed the plane back so that we could approach the runway and take-off.  We were now more than 4 hours late.  If this had been November and the first snowfall of the season I could understand the delays but it is April and hopefully the last snowfall of the season at one of America’s largest and busiest airports and these people certainly do not have their act together.  Once again I had been reminded as to why I do not enjoy travelling. 

One of the good things about arriving at Toronto International airport at 03:00 a.m. is that there is nobody else there.  There were no line-ups to get through customs, a very short wait for our luggage and nobody else jockeying for position in front of you to grab their bags ahead of yours and no line-ups for the limousines either. Although the roads were wet from a mix of snow and rain there was very little traffic and we made good time getting home to Brooklin.  It was after 04:00 a.m. when I arrived at my front door, thoroughly exhausted from the ordeal but thankful that a good night’s sleep in my own bed awaited me.        

The Good:
The weather was fantastic.  We enjoyed hot sunny days and very calm waters in both directions.  The crew does a good job.  They attend to all aspects of their duties with enthusiasm and precision, ensuring the safety and enjoyment of all the passengers and really went out of their way to meet some of the passenger’s requests.  The divers are a great group.  It is not always possible to put together a number of people from such diverse backgrounds and experiences and have all of them get along well together.  We have had a blast and I have made some new friends. 

The Bad:
Maybe this is a bit nitpicky but my only complaint is that the pillows are not very comfortable. 

The Ugly:
Perhaps my expectations were too high for the diving at Clipperton Atoll.  It takes a long time to get there and back again and I had hoped for more.  The reef is not particularly spectacular, comprised entirely of hard corals and, apart from the numerous moray eels swimming about and the one school of jacks that we encountered, there is little to recommend it as a diving destination.    

 

 

Katyk Briceño
"Amazing!!! Beautiful!!" 
 
Daniel LaFrance  
"Beautiful, akin to an underwater spiritual experience of sorts."
 
Walter Marshall   
"Whenever I watch your videos I am just taken away." 
 
Shaun Diaz   
"Well done, very well done. Mysterious, gorgeous and deeply inspiring... The best part is I am not naming any of it. It is nature in its most perfect and beautiful form." 
 
Christie Lopez  
"David...the video is beautiful and so is the music!! I love the music!!!!" 
 
Brian Dodd
"I just wanted to thank you for the moments of peace and beauty these clips brought to my hectic life."