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Mediterranean 2006 Expedition

The main approaches of Oceana for the 2006 Oceana Ranger Expedition were the international illegal fishing in the Mediterranean and the documentation of specific marine ecosystems in need of protection by the European Union.

Diaries

At last, we reach this immense canyon south of Menorca. The first dive takes us to a depth of 235 meters, a record for us. As soon as we reach the bottom, we see an anglerfish (Lophius sp.) camouflaged amongst the fine sediment. Soon, the walls of the canyon begin to rise quickly and we come across different sea floors; some covered with large quantities of detritus and others with rocks. Some of these rocks are quite large and are spotted with sponges and some gorgonias.

We will make our last stop in port to load supplies and rest a little, before finishing this year's campaign. At night, we have been carrying out bathymetric measurements of the Cañon de Menorca canyon, where we will be working during the next few days. The profile given by the computer looks very promising. From a platform of 80-90 meters, a pronounced drop begins and reaches over 1,000 meters depth. If the currents and the sea remain calm, the dives here will prove to be very interesting.

The area of the canal of Menorca has a platform of at least 100 meters depth that joins the islands of Mallorca and Menorca, but in the southern section of its slope, it falls to great depths, habouring many extremely interesting ecosystems.

We are going take samples in different areas and depths here in order to find out which species inhabit these ecosystems. We will begin in front of Cala Ratjada cove and Cap de Pera and will slowly head toward the east.

Today, we will take samples with the ROV in two areas within the park. One in the southeast and another in the north. The sea floors are sandy with large concentrations of sand urchins, especially Spatangus purpureus.

Today, we will enter the Cabrera National Park. We have a meeting early this morning with the park rangers in order to exchange information and decide in which areas we are going to work. They were extremely helpful. Many of them have spent various years here and they are very fond of this area. Those of us who have been able to see Cabrera's evolution during the last 25 years feel very happy.

In the end, we had to take shelter for the night in Porto Petro. In the morning, the storm had subsided and we set sail toward Cabrera.

We did 2 transections with the robot in the limits of the Cabrera National Park in order to find out the state of the sea floors in the areas that are not included within the protected area: one in front of Cap Picamoscas and the other southeast of Punta Ancino.

The day does not start off well. The weather forecast is calling for force 3 and 4 winds from the southeast and southwest, but we also have a force 7 and 8 windstorm coming from the northeast. Obviously, we cannot continue our work and we must leave the area in search of shelter. We set sail toward Cabrera, but the direction of the wind indicates that the port there will not be comfortable either. So, we continue sailing in search of a sheltered cove on the southern coast of Mallorca.

After verifying the bathymetry of the area at night, we are ready to submerge the robot early the next morning. This area has a depth of 110 meters and, although the weather is still not as good as we would like, the conditions are not all that bad to begin working.

The weather has not improved but we will continue our efforts. We will attempt to descend along the side of the submarine mountain, Auxias Marc. The work is not easy to carry out due to the strong currents, the swells and the wind, but after much hard work, we can finally discern the sea bottom. Again, we thought the day would be wasted, but as the hours go by, the weather conditions improve and the sea becomes calm; so we are able to continue our work more comfortably. Again we spot an extensive maerl bed.

We are between the islands of Conejeras and Bledas. We would like to take samples here while the weather gets better in the east. Just when we are about to begin to submerge the ROV, the wind suddenly changes and begins to blow from the west, making our shelter useless, so we must leave this area. Once again, we set sail toward the east coast of Formentera, where it seems the weather is rapidly improving.


Although the weather is not favourable, we decided to head toward Formentera in order to get a little closer to the marine mountains we want to document. The wind picks up and we must change our course and take refuge on the west coast of Ibiza. It is a rough night until we are able to find shelter.

We spent the day at port loading supplies on board and waiting for new crew members who will join us on this last part of the journey. We heard that the people from CRAM had also arrived in Palma with their sailboat, the "Vell Mari," so we went over to say hello and ended up have dinner with them, exchanging points of view and telling each other about the work we are carrying out in the Mediterranean. We were happy to spend some time with other colleagues.

We wake up early to find the impressive cliffs of Cap Blanc in front of us. There are vestiges of a large fossil coral reef here that existed in this area of the Mediterranean during the Miocene. More than 5 million years after, we are here to see how these sea floors have evolved. We will use the transection method in order to learn the distributions of the different ecosystems and species between the cliff and the depths of 100 meters. For this, we will work with both the divers in the shallower areas and the robot in the deeper areas.

Taking advantage of the fact that we are close to Mondragó Cove, the divers are going to film the sea bottom and, more importantly, the caves and rock walls. An unfamiliar yet highly important habitat for the coastal area can be found here, it is a "troittoir" or "ledge," known in the Balearic Islands as "tenasses." It is a mass of calcareous red algae (normally of the Litophyllum species, but sometimes also Neogoniolithon) which forms a small ledge just where the waves break, making an immensely interesting biological community.

At night, the wind picks up and, although we could have kept sailing until we reached our destination, the rough seas would have prevented us from carrying out our work anyway. So, in order to take advantage, we have decided to change our plans a little and do some diving in the south-eastern part of Mallorca, where we will be sheltered from the north-easterly winds that are powerfully blowing and we will have more of a chance of success.

After arriving at Palma de Mallorca to load supplies and make some changes in the crew, we being to prepare ourselves to receive the submarine robot (ROV) that we will use during the next few weeks. The day has been quite hectic; it is very difficult to find a slot in Palma these days and we need one that will permit the use of the crane to load the ROV and all the necessary material. In order to achieve this, we have had to tie up and untie the boat five times, occupying different slots as they became available thanks to the cooperation of their owners.

Off the east coast of Formentera there are areas where we can find a combination of walls full of sponges, rocky zones and sandy areas with Posidonia oceanica. Here we can see bigscale scorpionfish (Scorpaena scrofa), cardinal fish (Apogon imberbis), peacock wrasse (Symphodus tinca) and red mullet (Mullus barbatus). There is also a wide range of sponges, with species from the genera of Tenacior, Crambe, Sarcotragus, Cacospongia, Chondrosia, Oscarella, etc.

The day starts off a little cloudy, but the sea is fairly calm. We head towards the south-west of Ibiza to document some coralligenous and rocky sea beds in this area. At Es Vedra we want to take a look at the state of the red gorgonians (Paramuricea clavata). On approaching the area, we admire the beauty of the two little islands and their steep cliffs where some Eleanor’s falcons are breeding (Falco eleonorae). We need to dive to below 35 metres to get a good look at the largest gorgonians.

A little bit of everything today: marine meadow, Cystoseira sp. forests, rocky walls and caves.

There is also a ‘fish cleaning station’ in this area. Instead of yesterday’s shrimps, the species in charge of the task today is the tort (Symphodus melanocercus), and its customers are mainly peacock wrasse (Symphodus tinca) and damselfish (Chromis chromis), which, to request this de-lousing service, remain quite still in the Posidonia meadow in an almost vertical position.

The condition of the sea continues to be perfect for our work. In the morning we had arranged to meet the people from the Marine Reserve, who are helping us to locate dive zones. We will be starting with a sandy sea bed with a few thickets of Posidonia oceanica where a metal structure has sunk which is being covered by native flora and fauna. This is a regular haunt of yellowmouth barracuda (Sphyraena viridensis) and dusky grouper (Epinephelus marginatus).

Today is the start of the final part of this year’s expedition. We’re going to be taking samples from the sea beds around the Balearic Islands using divers, a robot submarine and dredging to classify the different biological communities in the area. During the first few days we’ll be diving between Ibiza and Formentera, and later on we’ll be heading for to Majorca and Minorca.

And at last that is how the Ranger's port engine roared once again, with a little piece of the Toftevaag, the Alnitak project ship; yes, you read correctly, one of our clutch discs was damaged and we were desperately trying to locate a machinist who could make one for us or a workshop that could help us solve the problem, and during a visit from Ricardo Sagarminaga, from the Spanish Association of Cetaceans (SEC), owner of the Toftevaag, while we were discussing the problem, he realised he had an engine very similar to ours put away and that maybe we could try to take the part we ne

My first week on board the Ranger has been an experience full of mixed emotion, on the one hand, gradually getting to know each member of the crew has brought feelings of comfort (I feel as if I were at home) and admiration (each one of them has a vast store of knowledge that I need to catch up on). On the other hand, my sailor’s chores have afforded me the opportunity to add my grain of salt and have given me a sense of being a necessary cog in the machine…

Yesterday, the ROV technicians arrived in order to prepare the equipment and begin our investigations in the waters of the Chella Massif (Macizo de Chella), also known as Seco de los Olivos.

The ROV is a submarine Robot that allows us to film sea floors at depths which are impossible for divers to reach. Our idea is to work from the surface of this small marine mountain, which is at 70-80 meters, down to 240 meters depth.

Today was the first day using the remotely operated vehicle “ROV” aboard the Ranger. On the way out to the research sight, most of the crew members were sitting in the kitchen area. Ricardo stuck his head in the door and yelled “pilot whales.” I shot out to the deck. I don’t remember the last time I moved that quickly. When I got to the front of the deck I saw approximately 12 pilot whales, which were most likely long finned pilot whales. I had never seen a pilot whale before so this made quite an impression on me.

We woke up Sunday morning at sea and began preparations for the day. However due to difficulties with the underwater lights, the crane on the back of the boat, and the rough weather, the decision was made to head to port to insure that the boat was ready for the arrival of the ROV crew tomorrow. The ROV is a little mini-submarine that goes down unmanned and takes pictures underwater. It is very useful for exploring depths too deep for the divers to go.

There are deep water waves and an easterly wind is blowing, but the conditions are still acceptable for working. Tomorrow, the weather may worsen. We must take advantage of the weather today to continue filming life amongst the prairies of Cymodocea nodosa. The upper limit of the prairie is at 10 meters depth and the plant's shafts are more and more scattered. From here to the coast, it is a muddy area.

We left Aguadulce in search of sea grass beds again today. The first dive was in the afternoon and it was very hot onboard. After the divers returned, the rest of us went for a swim to cool off. The water felt fabulous and refreshing when I first jumped in but within 5 minutes I was freezing. It’s amazing how cold ocean water is once you get offshore, even in August.

We arrived back in Aguadulce port this morning after a rough night at sea. I awoke several times to find myself bouncing up and down off of my bed.

We spent the day preparing for the next leg of our journey. This meant doing things like laundry, grocery shopping and preparing equipment. We picked up 2 new crew members; a sailor named Concha and a new cooked named Gabriel.

We being our dive in the area between El Plomo and Punta del Bergantín at 18 to 30 meters depth. We will combine two areas, one sandy, rocky bottom and a wall including some caves. In the sandy area, we find some rhodoliths or maerl, but very few. Here, the Lithothamnium is stuck to the rocks and covers some areas. We see a large tube anemone (Cerianthus membranaceus) and some unusual looking sponges (Petrosia ficiformis) that eat spotted sea slugs (Discodoris atromaculata) and large quantities of hydrozoa, such as the Aglaophenia pluma.

We sailed west overnight to Cabo de Gata. I was surprised to wake up this morning and realize that it was after 9 a.m. I stumbled up the stairs and much to my surprise; there were two new faces on board. The two new people were divers familiar with the area that would serve as guides for the day. The area we are in, Cabo de Gata, is a marine reserve that has various management zones. In some zones fishing is prohibited and in others all activity including diving is prohibited.

Early in the morning, we set up a meeting with the people in charge of the Cabo de Gata Marine Reserve in order to prepare a work plan. They come aboard at 09:00 in the morning and we exchange opinions about the best dive sites. They are exceptional collaborators, and we will also receive help from two volunteers who know this area very well and who will guide us during these few days. José Ramón Chicano y María del Mar Campra come aboard the Ranger and we set sail towards our first destination; it is Piedra de los Meros.

After one day and a half in Aguadulce port working on the boat, doing some shopping and changing crews, we set sail towards the coasts of Almería to continue our work. We need to continue to document the marine prairies on the sea floors in that area. We would also like to see what state they are in.

Hola! My name is Elizabeth Griffin and I am a Marine Wildlife Scientist from Oceana’s Washington, D.C. office. I met up with the Ranger in a small port in Southern Spain called Aguadulce on Sunday. We were in port until this morning which gave me the chance to become acquainted with the boat and the crew before we set sail. I also got to know the mosquito sharing my bunk! I was happy to have Margot, another scientist from our Washington office, here to show me the essentials, such as how to flush the toilets on the boat.

Again we have been travelling overnight to take maximum advantage of the hours of light. At 7:00 am we are in the Gulf of Almería, opposite Roquetas de Mar. We will stay here for some days to study marine meadows. The location is perfect, because this area hosts three seagrass species: Posidonia oceanica, Cymodocea nodosa and Zostera marina.

Early this morning we started off next to the coast in calm, peaceful waters broken only by the pontoons of our catamaran. Standing on deck you can see shapes on the seafloor down to fifteen meters depth. This makes Ricardo's quest for seagrass meadows a lot easier.

After sailing all night, we start the day on the coast of Almería, in the Golfo de Vera. We get ready to work in a seagrass meadow of mixed phanerogams (Posidonia oceanica and Cymodocea nodosa). On our first dive we concentrate on the deepest zone (at about 25 meters), where there is an interesting seafloor. This is the domain of Posidonia oceanica, although there are some common sargasso weed (Sargassum vulgare) on the rocks. We also spot the beautiful red algae Galaxaura oblongata.

This morning we brought divers to the Isla de las Palomas (Island of Doves). I stayed on Ranger where Carlos put me on a bubble-watching mission. While diving you breathe in air from your tank that later is exhaled to rise to the surface. A group of four or five divers emits a steady stream of bubbles that is distinguishable between the waves. It's pretty straightforward to keep them within sight, but like everything with the sea this can change rapidly. During the dive the group might stray into twos or threes and if the wind blows it can obscure the pattern of bubbles.

We left the La Manga area of the Mar Menor in the early hours of the morning so as to arrive at dawn at the next point where we will dive: Isla de las Palomas. This is a small island south-west of Cartagena that has been declared a Special Protection Area for Birds (SPA). However, as is often the case in protection areas, only the part above sea level is classified as such.

Last night we laid anchor outside of the Mar Menor (minor sea) and this morning we passed through a drawbridge and into this unusual world unto itself. In the weightless air of early morning we moved ahead into emerald waters and thousands, actually more like MILLIONS of jellyfish. We lined up along the front railing and my jaw dropped as jellies began to float by in groups of five, ten, thirty at a time in a continuous flow past both sides of the pontoon. Amazing, and in numbers beyond the imagination.

Yesterday was a day of testing. We worked out how to make the best use of the grids, rulers and other equipment that we have with us on board to assess the density of plants and marine algae on the sea floor. In the process, we also tested the coordination between all the team members. For that purpose, we headed towards the coast of Altea, where the extension of a marina has damaged the seagrass meadow of Posidonia oceanica and has also affected some areas of another seagrass species, Cymodocea nodosa.

Mud and sand. That is what we are looking for. The sea floors made up of fine sediment are usually forgotten by marine conservationists and considered "dispensable" when discussing underwater sewage pipeline installations, high-impact fishing methods or any other activity that is considered necessary but damaging. These marine "deserts" are not as popular as rocky sea floors, walls covered in gorgonias and sponges, marine prairies or other ecosystems that are more pleasing to the eye.

“Placer de la Barra Alta” is the strange name given to a small hillock measuring 60-70 meters in height located a few miles west-southwest of the Columbretes Islands. It rises from a flat sea floor at 80 meters and some of its peaks rise up to just 9 meters below the surface. It is not an extensive area, although the sea bed is quite interesting. Since this area is not protected like Columbretes, the sea bed is more deteriorated: we found fishing line and nets caught on the rocks and no sign of any large sessile animals (attached to the substrate).

Today is our third and last day in Columbretes. We will concentrate on the exterior west section of Isla Grossa. The wall is more prominent here and thanks to this, there are many communities of sponges and corals, such as scleractinian and stoloniferous corals. There is also more movement and currents in this area and, consequently, some species can be seen here which usually inhabit open waters, such as the greater amberjack (Seriola dumerili) or the European barracuda (Sphyraena sphyraena).

We have spent the night anchored in the crater of the volcano that "gave birth" to Isla Grossa. During the night, the petrels give us a concert with their distinctive chants: the sounds they make are like a baby crying. Luckily, at night the temperature has been more mild, compared to the intolerable heat we must face during the day.

This new day of diving will take us to Isla Ferrera. There, we would like to film and photograph some species in detail which we have already identified, so this time we will be prepared with the macro.

After leaving Torredembarra at night, we saw various ships pass by us at sunrise, including cruise ships, cargo ships, etc. Further away, more or less two miles away, we saw a trawler. When we reached the area, we saw dozens of dead fish on the surface, mainly bogues (Boops boops), most probably the frequent leftovers of these trawlers. We have collected some with the fish net in order to identify and examine them. Many of them had suffered some injury, while others were completely destroyed.

The new deck crane being installed over the next few days in Roses, Catalonia, will make many of the current operations more efficient and open some new possibilities. Right now just getting the divers and their equiptment in and out of the water is a three ring circus and not altogether safe for the delicate camera gear.

My first week on the Ranger was spent doing a variety of work in the coastal waters around Cagliari. This work included several dives documenting marine life and patrolling south of Sardinina along the 1000 meter depth curve for illegal driftnet fishing operations. This diary is about our crossing the Western Mediterranean from Cagliari to Rosas Spain a trip of a little over 330 miles of open ocean.

The Sardinian waters have revealed us a little more of the marvels that abound there.

Today we headed off early from the port of Cagliari. We sailed in a southeasterly direction in search of a shelf the remote position of which, inside a protected area, had called our attention. It is known as the de Secca di Santa Calerina shelf.

The new faces I saw come aboard the Ranger on the night of the 29th were not so new, except for one. The arrival of the first "batch" of new crew members felt like a reunion: Maribel López, co-worker from the European office, Jorge Candan and Pilar Barros, video cameraman and his underwater assistant and… Miguel Bosé were joining us again!!! The new face to come aboard our catamaran made a long journey to join us.

Only a few days have passed since we left behind our fruitful stage in search of illegal driftnet vessels in Sicilian waters. Today we took another step on our new path, this time on the Island of San Antioco, in Sardinia.

While the rest of the crew went about the daily chores on the Ranger, an expedition made up of Xavier Pastor, Olimpia García, Juan Cuetos and I, left for some of the ports where last year there had been quite a lot of illegal driftnet vessels.

My travelling companion, Nuño Ramos (captain on the Transoceanic Expedition in 2005), and I arrived at Cagliari and went straight to the Ranger, which was moored in the Port of San Telmo. As we had expected, immediately after boarding the yearned-for Ranger, engines were started up and our crew colleagues, with a full tummy, and after having received us with open arms, cast ropes loose and set off in search of more illegal driftnet vessels.

On 24th June we sailed incident free to Cagliari, on Sardinia. On our way we are visited by some striped dolphins and we sight a few loggerhead turtles that dive underwater when they note us coming up close. The sea is calm and one realises that we are in for a hot summer. The heat is quite intense.

We have had an extremely peaceful day’s sailing. After our most recent adventures, namely the successful “search and capture” of illegal driftnet vessels, having a morning without being pursued by boats with fishermen calling us rather indecorous names in the language of the Roman Emperors, or throwing fish at us, has turned out to be quite monotonous. In truth, the watches were much more entertaining when we had to be on look out to avoid them boarding us.

During the 4.00 a.m. morning watch, Soledad, Albert and Juan have sighted a new driftnet vessel hauling in driftnets. They immediately informed Xavier Pastor, Carlos Pérez and Quique Talledo in order that these might proceed to identify the boat in question by means of its graphic register and then file a complaint with the Coast Guard.

Soledad Esnaola woke me this morning at 5.30 a.m. with a single word: “driftnetters”. At last, I was to have the chance to see at first hand one of the most harmful and regrettable illegal fishing nets and to confirm that their use, in spite of the prohibitions, is still possible and goes completely unpunished. I ran up on deck and there it was, the driftnet vessel, only a stone’s throw away, unhurriedly reeling in these nefarious nets without a care in the world.

Its 5.30 am and my companions Sole and Juan have just woken me up to tell me that there is an illegal driftnet vessel nearby.

Still half asleep I get the video camera ready to catch the moment on film; a “moment” that lasts some 3 hours as several kilometres of nets are pulled in.

The whole crew saw how 5 swordfish, 2 ocean sunfish and several members of the carangidae family showed up in the so-called “death net”.

Yesterday we set out on a southern course for Agrópoli in order to observe the fishing activity below a depth of 1,000 m and to make use of the Olex software, which had been fitted to the boat this year, with the aim in mind of mapping a submarine landscape in which the isobaths (lines that join points of equal depth) drop from 1,200 m to 70 m.

While Xavier, Juan and Quique are heading south, at midday, Eduardo de Ana and I head northwards to inspect the ports on the island of Ischia, where the 2005 Expedition managed to witness the presence of driftnet vessels.

Our initial course was directed towards visiting the main fishing ports on the island, namely: Ischia, Cassamicciola and Forio, with the aim in mind of graphically documenting the presence of these types of boats.

No luck this time either. Even though we imagined we would not find much activity from the netters tonight, it is very annoying to see we were correct. There is almost a full moon, and our only satellite lights up the water like the best spotlight. Perhaps that is why the netters haven’t gone out to work. It’s too clear.

Back on the Ranger. Twelve months after disembarking in Lagos after nearly half a year sailing around the world, I return. I think the boat has gotten bigger and more elegant during this time. Everything is cleaner and tidier; everything in its place, everything stowed away, “almost” nothing out of place. It seems different.

It has been an unforgettable and fascinating experience to be on board the Oceana Ranger….!

An essential opportunity offered by Domitilla and Marevivo and which gave me the chance to get to know people as fantastic, simple and splendid as the Italian coasts we have passed: three short but intense days of sailing that took us from the Roman port of Ostia, passing by Ponza Island, before arriving at the Port of Napoles where, unfortunately, my adventure came to an end.

We set off from Ostia in the early morning, after having a shower and filling our tanks.

Heading south, to the Island of Ponza, sailing along the line of one thousand metres’ depth, which is where the fishermen put out their driftnets at the end of the day and pull then in a little before dawn. This timetable permits us to document the entire process by video and photograph as, although the light is not ideal, it is sufficient for us to be able to take some photographs and film clearly, for example, how they catch a fish that is sadly trapped in this blanket of death.

Well, this is my last day aboard the Ranger before I return to the Oceana Office in Brussels, Belgium. It’s as difficult this year as it was last year to leave the Ranger – three weeks of living and working with such an experienced team of people, all of which are completely dedicated to protecting the marine environment.

Yesterday we embarked five new crewmembers: Soledad Esnaola, who crewed on the Oceana Ranger last year and who will replace Pilar Barros for a time; Juan Cuetos, a replacement for Houssine Kaddachi; Enrique Talledo, who will occupy the place of Jorge Candan during the month of June; Jose Peñalver, who also sailed on the 2005 Expedition and who will occupy the position of Alfredo Sagasti in the galley and finally, the present writer, replacing Julie Cator in communications.

The day began very early. Although I am exempt from watch, I accompanied the captain on the first two hours from midnight to 2:00 a.m.  Our anchorage in Cala Galera, protected from the northwest by the Artgentario Promontory, meant that it was wise to have a watch.  The wind was blowing at force seven from that direction only a few hours ago.

The divers have had their last dive in the area of Elba and have been extremely happy with the visibility and everything they have been able to document in this area.

As Pilar said in her diary of her birthday, Miguel Bosé has been accompanying us this week and tomorrow he takes the plane back to Madrid.

The day began with the sun shining in Elba, a blue sky over Portoferraio. On the Ranger, we gradually woke up with the incentive of a green tin of assorted Corsican biscuits for breakfast. You see, today is my birthday. My birthday has always given me a special pleasure and the fact that on this occasion I was already thirty-seven didn’t worry me enough to diminish my joy, indeed it didn’t worry me in the least.

At midnight we slowly pulled out of Bastia harbour. It was drizzling rain with a chilly wind, so since I was on watch outside until 4am, I wrapped up warm, put on my waterproof clothes and donned my life vest. I needed to hold on tight to stay upright as the night was not totally calm. On watch you need to stay alert and scan the horizon for vessels and other possible obstacles.

We had spent the week anchored in Santa Margherita harbour with access to the shore via the zodiac, but now in Bastia we are moored in the harbour. So beeline to the harbour showers for all of us to get refreshed and clean – on the Ranger there is only a makeshift cold shower on the deck. And we are also connected to a mains water supply, which means a chance to catch up on the cleaning – both inside and outside the Ranger are now sparkling.

After a week documenting corals and ocean habitat in Portofino, Italy, the Ranger departed for Corsica. A majority of the crew, including myself, was taking a break ashore to get some authentic Italian pizza in Santa Margherita. As we sat down to order, with menus in hand, we received a phone call from Carlos. The weather was turning for the worst and we needed to get back to the boat, or the zodiac would not be able to pick us up at all.

The exploration of the best dive sites of the Mediterranean, with a focus on ecology and marine protection, what would be a better job description? This is our daily routine on board the Oceana Ranger as divers, and I must say, very fortunate divers…..It took us a couple of days to get to know each other on land and then underwater, but even if we are coming from different environments, the underwater spirit is here….

The dawn has come early to Saint Margarita’s bay. The first lights arrived at about five thirty in the morning and I got up at six fifteen to make the coffee and the breakfast for the crew: cereals, cheese, jam and bread together with fruit juice was what I had planned. Little by little the crew got down to their normal jobs and at eight o’clock the operations of the day had begun. The sun has crowned the mountains from the east, while the wind from the land has given way to a slight sea breeze making the Ranger swing around the anchor, changing its position.

I found myself aboard the Oceana Ranger after a flight from Brussels and a train from Milan to Santa Margherita, Italy. I´m here, not as a scientist or a campaigner, but as a photographer and documentarian complimenting our crew of underwater photographers and videographers, whilst remaining dry on the deck.

In Washington, DC, where I live and work, I typically capture a different side of Oceana. I spend my time filming our staff as they push Oceana´s international movement to protect the oceans through policy, direct action, and other media.

I arrived from Brussels and joined the rest of the crew of the Ranger in Santa Margherita in Northern Italy, our base this week to explore and document the Portofino Marine Park. I am looking forward to another week on board, after my great experience last year during the turtle tagging campaign.

I arrived from Brussels and joined the rest of the crew of the Ranger in Santa Margherita in Northern Italy, our base this week to explore and document the Portofino Marine Park. I am looking forward to another week on board, after my great experience last year during the turtle tagging campaign.

This isn’t a diary from the Ranger today, but from Brussels. While the Ranger and crew are diving in Corsica, I’m here in my natural environment with other Oceana Europe staff, hosting the Oceana Board meeting. It is the first time that the Board and many of the staff members have visited Brussels, as our office there is relatively new, and it was great to show them at first hand the policy work of the Oceana Europe office with the European institutions.

We are anchored opposite the port of L’Ille Rousse on the northern coast of Corsica. You can’t go above deck without having your toupée carried away by the wind. Since early morning, having extricated myself from the middle bunk for a change, we have been accompanied by winds of up to 80 km per hour. Luckily, they are coming from the SW which means that our anchor position is affording us an excellent protection against the swell. Today, we have had to suspend the dives we had scheduled as a result of being unable to ensure diver safety with the dinghy.

 We finally reach the Corsican coast. Today’s challenge was to use our tri-dimensional probing equipment for the first time to scan the work bottom and to chart its relief. The truth is we have been left open-mouthed on looking at how after each scan the seabed increasingly became a relief image which enabled our team to see its structure from several angles, simulating an underwater camera. It is like being able to “cut a slice of the ocean seabed and serve it at table”. We are thrilled with the machine.

 Sunday the 7th and we continue on our way here after the marvellous experience with the basking sharks. The sea was calm and the only thing worthy of note was a couple of ocean sun fish swimming close to the surface, as is their want. They tarried just long enough for us to have fitted ourselves out and prepared the film equipment to get some shots of them before deciding to return to the sea’s depths. All part of the job! Our divers have the patience of Job.

Today they have spoilt an hour’s shut-eye. Thank goodness! If they had not done so I would have torn their hearts out. My watch runs from eight to twelve, but at seven in the morning I jumped out of bed with the sleep still sitting heavy on my eyelids. What in the name of all that is holy did they want? Well, what had they spotted but a group of somewhere between three and five basking sharks (Cetorhinus maximus) peacefully feeding, without a worry in the world, right up against the Ranger.

Because of the bad weather (there was a lot of wind) , the Captain, Jordi, decided to stay a day longer. Today we breakfasted well; some white coffee and croissants in the port of Torredembarra.

The first officer of the boat, Carlos Pérez, held a meeting in the morning to explain the tasks entrusted to each member of the crew and to find out their needs. Then he went off to buy the last few things that were necessary on board.

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The Crew