Galapagos Day 6: The Hammerheads rock at Gordon Rocks.
Galapagos Islands Travel Blog› entry 247 of 251 › view all entries
September 26th, 2008 – by: cmgervais
An uneasy heron has agreed to share the hotel patio with me, so here I lay on the hammock, watching him and about 4 million other birds around this small bay. I am not a bird watcher, really, but I have been here for almost 3 hours. It's an incredible display: Blue Footed Booby birds keep dive bombing the water for fish, but seem to come up empty handed (er, beaked) every time. Brown pelicans soar by me like prehistoric 747s, close enough for me to see into their cold eyes. Far above, Magnificent Frigatebirds glide like kites, occasionally making way for flocks of white birds (Tropicbirds I think) that keep passing through.
I have decided to take it easy this afternoon. I am a little battered and bruised after this morning's brutal-but-excellent dive trip to Gordon Rocks. My body needs a break, hence the hammock. (I wish I had a margarita too!)
It all started at 6:45am when I made my way to the dive shop at Albatross Tours. When the whole group had arrived (a Londoner named Tom, a father and son from Argentina, and a couple from Russia) we made our way to the harbor and started to board a small boat. I looked at the huge waves out there in the water, then to the wee boat, then back to the waves... surely this piece of crap isn't the dive boat!? I decided that it must be the taxi boat that would take us to the "real" boat, which would be nice, big, and comfortable.
To make things more fun, the captain had apparently decided to break some sort of speed record on the way to the first stop. The small boat flew from wave to wave, jarring us all and probably loosening some filllings. At this point I was very glad Steve hadn't come... he would have hated this ride! I was surprised no one got sick. Crazy ride.
Our first stop, at the North Plaza (or was it the South Plaza?), was for a test dive. The dive master, Jimbo, wanted to use this calm area to make sure we were properly weighted and comfortable with the equipment before the real dive. Considering the challenging conditions we would face at Gordon Rocks, I think this test dive was an excellent idea! I jumped in the calm water with my big fat 7mil wet suit, and wouldn't you know I was so puffy I couldn't descend even when weighted with 8kg (17 lbs)! I went back for more weight, then had a good test dive, wearing a whopping 10kg (22lbs).
After our check dive it was time for the real thing: Gordon Rocks, a set of two or three immense black rocks protruding from the ocean. The waves were NUTS. As the five of us gamely clutched the edge of the violently rocking boat, about to backroll into the churning cauldron below, Jimbo screamed out, "WELCOME TO THE GALAPAGOS!!! ONE-TWO-THREE- GOOOOO!" Off I rolled, and down we went.
On previous dives all over the world, the instruction I have received is always, always, always: DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING! Here, we were given gloves and told, HANG ON FOR DEAR LIFE! The current and surge were unlike anything I have ever experienced. It pushed me one way, then the other, then up, then down.
After a surface interval (and lame lunch) in a calm area, we returned to the bubbling brew for another shot at the Hammerheads. This entry made the last one look like a walk in the park. After a backroll into the water, the waves pushed me back into the boat, and I had to swim hard through the surf to get away.
From there, everything kind of went to hell. I yanked the air dump valve on the bottom of my BCD, and it came off in my hand. To get the air out of my vest I had to change from a head's down swimming position to a head's up position. I finally got the air out but lost control of my body in the surge, and descended into or with a cluster of other divers. I could not seem to break free of the group, and we were all being forcibly swept down and away by the crazy current -- right into the rocks! I gripped my regulator in my mouth, pretty determined that it would stay with me no matter what, and happily, it did. But I had no control as the surge slammed me into the rocks, HARD (ouch!).
I stared into the abyss intently, and... THERE! HAMMERHEAD! I let go long enough to punch Jimbo, wave frantically at Tom, and make the silly "hammering my head" signal, and we observed the magnificent creature swimming slowly by. INCREDIBLE. And then right away... two more! They swam so slowly, unlike most sharks that more very quickly AWAY from the divers. (Jimbo later told us this area was a cleaning station. They come here to allow other fish clean their parasites, hence the slow pace.) I checked my dive computer.
We didn't cover much distance on this dive. We just stayed parked and watched the Hammerheads go by, about eight in all. Fantastic! On the way up, we saw a Spotted Eagle Ray below us (on the way home, I saw another one jumping out of the water!). It was a rough dive and my left leg hurts where it hit the rocks (glad I had all that padding), but it was WELL WORTH the effort. It is so rare to see hammerheads like that.
The ride home was just plain crazy. We went even faster this time, in an effort to get the Russians to their 1:30 boarding time with a cruise ship (we made it just in time). I almost got sick, even thought I don't GET seasick, and the whole 90 minutes (or so) I wished with all my might to be back on land. Soon enough, I got my wish. And here I am, rocking gently on the hammock and watching my birds. Oh, and there's a sea lion swimming calmly by.
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