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Entries about shells

A Love Affair With the Sea

A Salute to the Aquatic

sunny 81 °F

Above The Water

“My lady’s seas are heaving -- her breath a fifty-knot gale force wind. I step down from the lido after spending ten minutes in her wild embrace. My hair is tousled, my clothes all askew. I’m lightly perspiring and my face is flush with excitement. I’m a bit woozy, yet grinning like a mad man. I feel like I’ve just finished having great sex. I am ALIVE, by god, and there isn’t a better feeling in the world.

Am I weird? Does anyone else have a job that makes them feel this way? Y’all need to get on the ocean…”

Taken from my journal April 16th, 2013.
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Isla Tortuga lies north of Santa Rosalia on the eastern side of the Baja Peninsula. In two successive weeks, we had unpredicted gale force winds hammer into us just north of this island in the middle of the night. It’s almost as though the Sea is telling us, “No More! Go Away!” We wisely turned around and ran for cover. After spending the rest of the week trying to hide from the wind, it finally succeeded in chasing us back to La Paz, where we dropped off our guests and called it a season.

Below The Water
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Yep. I’ve fallen in love again. I’ve been smitten with the under water world of the Sea of Cortez. Have you ever fallen in love? For me, it was stranger than normal, what with having to put on diving fins and a snorkel. I think the feeling of breathing underwater is a lot like being in love. At first, it feels a bit odd. Something like, “Holy shit! I’m in love with someone.” But after awhile, you get used to it and begin to explore further. All right. That’s enough terrible love metaphors for now. What is this, my Valentine day spectacular?
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I tried to become a fish. This is my last week in Mexico, which means it is my last chance to enjoy the sun, hot beaches and relatively warm water. In fact, my rallying cry was, “Sleep Less! Explore More!”

This lack of sleep made it hard to make it through my shift, but I kept finding reserves of energy to get on the beach when my shift ended. I’m good like that.

It’s good to have a diving buddy when snorkeling. My friend Cassidy is one of the best. She’s part mermaid, which makes her extremely knowledgeable about all things aquatic. This is very useful when trying to determine the name or type of species of I’m looking at. I can ask her, “What kind of sea star is that?” And she’ll have the answer without fail. “That’s a Bradley Sea Star.” And so it is.
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Either she’s a fountain of knowledge or she’s gifted liar. I wouldn’t know the difference.

My sessions have been great. I’ve explored little nooks of underwater rock around Islas Santa Catalina, Espirito Santo, Carmen, Partida, Danzante and Puerto Escondido. Each location has its own charm. Each session has its own flavor. At each spot, I came out gushing about some new undersea creature I haven’t seen before.

The more I snorkel, the more confident I have become in my explorations. I’ve gone out in snuffy seas with heavy chop and calm days with hardly a ripple. I love being underneath the swells. I love the pull of the current and waves. I love being in the breath of the ocean. I know I’ve said those words before, but they continue to ring true.

It’s especially fun to time a passage over some shallow tops of boulders. I would wait until the wave came through and then launch myself with it up an over a tall boulder using the strong current to propel myself to the other side. One must never fight against the ocean, but instead get with it and use it to your advantage.

The water temperature is warm. It’s about the same temperature as Lake Superior is at its warmest in early August. While other folks swim around in wet suits, this explorer needs only his adventure pants for protection.

My Undersea Collection

These photos cannot do the beautiful reefs of Baja justice. However, they will at least give you an idea of the various life forms found in these vibrant waters. Some of these photos were taken by Cassidy O’Bryant (the mermaid) and used with her permission.

California Sun Star
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Brown Sea Urchin
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Chocolate Chip Sea Star
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“Sea Stuff”
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I love the discarded stuff of the sea. I have a special attraction (obsession) with seashells. This collection is from a small one hundred yard section of beach that we called, “Jackpot Beach” because of all the treasures we found there.

A Crown of Thorns and Corral Structure
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Puffer Fish
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I think The Beatles put it best, “I’d like to be under the sea. In and octopuses garden, in the shade.” This would suit me just fine. Alas, my snorkeling days are over for a while. I’ve left Baja for the year. I’m heading northward to Alaska. While the snorkeling could be amazing there as well, I doubt I’ll be wearing only my shorts and fins to explore those undersea realms.

If you want my advice, I suggest you take a walk by a rocky piece of ocean. Even if you don’t go for a swim you can still check out the tide pools.
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As for me, I’m off to Alaska. To get there I have ten days of open ocean positioning, followed by twelve days of exploration through British Columbia. I can’t wait.

Posted by Rhombus 14:40 Archived in Mexico Tagged beaches shells mexico oceans baja photography snorkel tidepools Comments (0)

The Magnificent Whales of Magdalena Bay

Some Insight on Gray Whales

sunny 76 °F

There were four of us in the panga including our whale-whispering guide, Jimmy, who had a unique ability to coax whales to come close. And it was CLOSE! A Fifty-foot long mother gray whale was floating perpendicular to our boat directly beneath us. It was about two feet away, and despite my gorilla arm length was inches out of reach. So close, yet so far.

I’m ok with that. Close encounters with whales are as moving as watching a gorgeous sunrise light up the alto-cumulus, or finding a mountain meadow full of wildflowers. Her calf was very curious, and surfaced a couple of feet away. In fact, it gave one of us a slap with his tail on her palm. I like to think it was a high five, though she didn’t see it my way.
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After our friends moved on, swimming away, practicing for the long migration up to Alaska, we looked about us and saw gray whales everywhere. There were more mother and calf pairs, seemingly synchronized in their swimming, breathing and blowing at the same time. A great big billowing cloud of misted salt snot for mom, and a cute little puff of salty snot mist for the calf. Speaking from experience, the smell of whale breath is far sweeter down here in Mexico than it is in Alaska. In Alaska, the humpback whales are feeding heavily on herring, giving their breath a horrible noxious mixture of rotten fish belches. The gray whales down here aren’t feeding yet. They have to migrate up to Alaska before they feed, and so their breath is relatively clean smelling. It’s weird to think about, but I’ve breathed the same air a whale has breathed.
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Look at the “knuckles” on this particular mother. The gray whale is a very unique looking compared to other whales. It doesn’t have a dorsal fin, it has “knuckles” This is an old whale, though nobody is really sure how old these whales are. Gray whales don’t have teeth, which usually tell us a whale’s age, they use baleens to eat, separating their food from water. Some think that the whales swimming in Magdalena bay are old enough to remember being hunted by whalers.

The gray whale was known as the “Devil Fish”, as they would fight harder than any other whale when harpooned. The harpooners who were dumb enough to harpoon a gray whale calf would have to face the angry mother attempting to save her baby, and there are tales of skiffs smashed to pieces by enraged whales.

If these whales remember whaling, the fact that these mothers bring their calves to our zodiacs to let us touch, pet, hug and kiss them, is amazing. These whales should give all of humanity hope that there are beings far more forgiving than man is. Man has spent decades trying to kill whales, and in some countries still are. However, these whales, these magnificent gray whales of Magdalena bay, have crossed over and connected with us. This is unprecedented, and it is one of the coolest, feel good stories of the year.
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Everyone who I have talked to concerning touching a whale, has this to say, “It is really, really cool!” or “It’s one of the highlights of my life!” The consensus is, we love whales. I’ve yet to see someone who’s seen a whale up close say, “BAH! So I touched a stupid whale, all it did was come up to the boat, and splash around.” It just doesn’t happen.
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While hiking along the western dunes of Isla Magdalena, I came across a couple sets of whale bones. They were very large pieces, some vertebra, and I think a skull. The scouring westerly winds combined with sand, and hot sun had polished and bleached them pure white. I stopped to look at these bones, and composed a few photos, but mostly I was thinking about the life of the gray whale and their bones on Isla Magdalena. It makes sense that if whales are born here in the warm shallow waters in Magdalena bay that they might come home to die as well. This small island is witness to the gray whale’s life from cradle to grave life coming full circle here in Magdalena Bay.
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I ran my hands over the smooth bones, pondering my own journey. Isla Magdalena is a very powerful and peaceful place. It’s a great place to wander and think. I love the white noise of the rolling waves, the wind continually shaping and remaking the textures of sand make for a pleasant place to lose yourself, and explore a unique place as well. The island collects interesting bits of ocean life. Next to my whale skull was the skeleton of a turtle. I really liked the skull. It was very cool. I’ve found five turtle shells in my jaunts around the island so far. I really like the shells of Magdalena Bay. Look at the colorful detail of this shell. I knew I was in the right place, and on the right path. My lucky number is number nine, and to find one of such vibrancy, was reassuring that I am where I should be.
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I walked on my way, feeling good, and enjoying life. This is how it ought to be.
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Posted by Rhombus 21:49 Archived in Mexico Tagged beaches turtles shells whales deserts oceans photography Comments (0)

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