Trip Report and Photos
Clipperton Island - April 10 - 25, 2010

Trip Report and Photos © Elaine Jobin. May not be reproduced in part or whole without advance written permission.
Click on Boxes Below to Visit the Trip Report Associated with the Day
Scroll down to read the Trip Report
Clipperton Trip, Day 1
Clipperton Trip, Day 2
Clipperton Trip, Day 3
Clipperton Trip, Day 4
Clipperton Trip, Day 3
Clipperton Trip, Day 6
Clipperton Trip, Dap 7
Clipperton Trip, Day 8
Clipperton Trip, Day 9
Clipperton Trip, Day 10
Clipperton Trip, Day 11
Clipperton Trip, Day 12
Clipperton Trip, Day 13
Clipperton Trip, Day 14
Clipperton Trip, Day 15
Clipperton Trip, Day 16

The first morning sunrise at Clipperton was beautiful. It was definitely the most beautiful scenery that I have ever woken up to on "Tax Day" April 15th...... Already having my income taxes finished and filed made the day pretty stress free.

Sunrise at Clipperton Atoll, Photo © Elaine Jobin
Sunrise at
Clipperton Atoll

One of the things that are especially beautiful to see at Clipperton are the waves!

Shoreline waves at Clipperton Island, Photo © Elaine Jobin
Shoreline waves at Clipperton Island, Photo © Elaine Jobin
Shoreline waves at Clipperton Island, Photo © Elaine Jobin
Shoreline waves at Clipperton Island, Photo © Elaine Jobin
Shoreline waves at Clipperton Island, Photo © Elaine Jobin
Shoreline waves at Clipperton Island, Photo © Elaine Jobin

On our morning dives we were treated to the "typical" topography of Clipperton - hard coral reefs - as well as to some visits by white tip reef sharks.

Reef at Clipperton Atoll, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010
Clipperton Reef
Five White Tip Reef Sharks at Clipperton Atoll, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010
Five White Tip
Reef Sharks
Fine-spotted Moray Eel, Gymnothroax dovii at Clipperton Atoll, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010
Fine-spotted Moray
Gymnothorax dovii
White Tip Reef Shark at Clipperton Atoll, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010
White Tip
Reef Shark
White Tip Reef Shark at Clipperton Atoll, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010
White Tip
Reef Shark

White Tip Reef Sharks at Clipperton Atoll, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010
White Tip
Reef Shark
White Tip Reef Shark at Clipperton Atoll, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010
White Tip
Reef Shark
Harry Donnenfeld, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010
Harry Donenfeld video's
the reef sharks
Whte Tip Reef Shark at Clipperton Atoll, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010
White Tip
Reef Shark

Surface intervals also offered unique photo experiences and close encounters with the local wild life. During our second morning dive we had heard the sounds of dolphins underwater, but, we had not seen them. When we surfaced and were back on board, we did see them - on the opposite side of the boat. I needed to work on camera equipment so I remained on board the Nautilus Explorer, but many jumped in for a snorkel with the pod of dolphins that had been hanging around. The following pictures from that snorkel opportunity are courtesy of Jeff Bozanic.

Clipperton Boobie Bird, Photo © Jeff Bozanic
Clipperton Island
Boobie Bird
Clipperton Boobie Bird, Photo © Jeff Bozanic
Clipperton Island
Boobie Bird
Clipperton Boobie Bird, Photo © Jeff Bozanic
Boobie Bird and
Nautilus Explorer
Clipperton Dolphin Pod, Photo © Jeff Bozanic
Dolphin Pod
Clipperton Dolphin Pod, Photo © Jeff Bozanic
Dolphin Pod
Clipperton Dolphin Pod, Photo © Jeff Bozanic
Dolphin Pod

In the afternoon I opted to spend some time following Nicole Crane around. Nicole was researching some of the Clipperton fish species, taking fin clips for DNA analysis. To obtain her needed number of specimens she used a spear. It was almost impossible to net the needed fish, clip their fins and release them. Spear fishing was a more efficient way to obtain the specimens for research purposes.

Nicole Collects Specimens
Nicole Crane at Clipperton Atoll, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010
Nicole Crane collecting specimens, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010
Nicole Crane collecting specimens, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010

Attracted by the odor of the dead fish that she was carrying in her specimen bag, Nicole experienced bold approaches by the large local population of fine-spotted moray eels.

Nicole Encounters Curious Eels
Nicole Crane and Moray Eel, Clipperton Island, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010
Nicole Crane and Moray Eel, Clipperton Island, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010
Nicole Crane and Moray Eel, Clipperton Island, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010

At times, the eels would swim through her BCD attempting to get to her yellow specimen bag. It was interesting to note that although the eels had probably never seen humans before, they instinctively seemed to know where the eyes of a human were located . Their stealty approaches generally occurred from behind. They would swim under the cover of her body as they approached the specimen bag. Traveling through gaps between her wetsuit and BCD seemed to come very naturally to them.

Eel Swims Through Nicole's BCD
Eel swimming through divers BCD, Nicole Crane and Moray Eel, Clipperton Island, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010
Eel swimming through divers BCD, Nicole Crane and Moray Eel, Clipperton Island, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010<empty>
Eel swimming through divers BCD, Nicole Crane and Moray Eel, Clipperton Island, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010

I wondered if the eels posed a threat to dive equipment. This eel seemed to be investigating Nicole's dive computer.

More Curious Eel Behavior
Eel investigates Nicole's scuba equipement,Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010
Eel investigates Nicole's scuba equipement,Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010
Eel investigates Nicole's scuba equipement,Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010

Ultimately, the eels wanted the dead fish!. As more were attracted to the bag, specimen collecting turned into a game of "keep away" against an opponent with very large and sharp teeth.

Aggressive Eel Behaviour
Nicole Crane and Moray Eel, Clipperton Island, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010
Nicole Crane and Moray Eel, Clipperton Island, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010
Nicole Crane and Moray Eel, Clipperton Island, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010

Scott Davis, a marine biologist and underwater photographer, left his camera on board and picked up a spear gun to help Nicole fend off the eels during many of her collection dives. The eels kept him busy, as well as the aggressive trevally jacks. leather bass, and white tip reef sharks who also were trying to steal the speared fish.

Scott Davis defends Nicole Crane
Scott Davis and Nicole Crane at Clipperton Island, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010
Scott Davis and Nicole Crane at Clipperton Island, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010
Scott Davis and Nicole Crane at Clipperton Island, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010
Scott Davis and Nicole Crane at Clipperton Island, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010
Scott Davis and Nicole Crane at Clipperton Island, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010
Scott Davis and Nicole Crane at Clipperton Island, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010

The challenges did not end on the reef. When returning to the boat the white tip reef sharks would begin to amass. First off in the distance and then on closer approaches. Several minutes into a safety stop it was not uncommon to find the sharks doing classic "circle" behaviour. I have heard of divers and ship wreck survivors being circled by sharks, but, this was the first time that I have ever experienced it. The sharks would circle us making smaller and smaller circles - I guess to keep us tightly surrounded in one place. Then, it would seem like they eased up a little and the circle would become a less confining. At about the same time, one of the sharks would break off and just head out of view. A few seconds later, if I looked straight down, I would see the shark that had left the circle swimming directly upward, straight at us at full speed. Fortunately, these were fairly small sharks - juveniles. On each blazing run up the water column at us he would stop about 20 feet away and swim back into the circle. I had the feeling that these young sharks were definitely practicing their hunting skills on us! Fortunately our size seemed to rule. When it was time to surface, remove fins, and climb into the skiff is was quite an eerie feeling. That was the one time it was not possible to keep an eye on the sharks below.

Circled by Sharks at Clipperton Island
Circled by sharks at the surface, Photo © Elaine Jobin
Circled by sharks at the surface, Photo © Elaine Jobin
Circled by sharks at the surface, Photo © Elaine Jobin

After fielding eel attacks, fish attacks, and circling sharks, Nicole (below) shows off her collection of scientific specimens on the Nautilus Explorer. Seemingly none the worse for the wear.

Nicole Crane and some Specimens, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010

These are pictures of some of the other divers at Clipperton Island.

Cameron Etezadi and heidi Kneller, Photo © Elaine Jobin
Cameron Etezadi, Photo © Elaine Jobin
Heidi Kneller, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010
Harry Donenfeld, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010
Harry Donenfeld, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010
Harry Donenfeld, Photo © Elaine Jobin

In the afternoon, I opted to do some fish photography.

The eels were numerous and easily available photo subjects. They were not docile and withdrawing like most of the eels that I have encountered. Clipperton eels could easily be found free swimming through the nooks and crannies of the reef all day long. It was rare to find a reclusive one just sitting around. They exhibited little to no fear of divers and would swim through your equipment just like they swim through the reef. They were bold, brave, and aggressive. They exhibited this behaviour even without the scent of recently speared fish near by.

Fine-spotted Moray, Gymnothorax dovii, at Clipperton Atoll, Photo © Elaine Jobin
Fine-spotted Moray
Gymnothorax dovii
Fine-spotted Moray, Gymnothorax dovii, at Clipperton Atoll, Photo © Elaine Jobin
Fine-spotted Moray
Gymnothorax dovii
Fine-spotted Moray, Gymnothorax dovii, at Clipperton Atoll, Photo © Elaine Jobin
Fine-spotted Moray
Gymnothorax dovii
Fine-spotted Moray, Gymnothorax dovii, at Clipperton Atoll, Photo © Elaine Jobin
2 Fine-spotted Morays
Gymnothorax dovii
Fine-spotted Moray, Gymnothorax dovii, at Clipperton Atoll, Photo © Elaine Jobin
2 Fine-spotted Morays
Gymnothorax dovii

Also plentiful were the Clipperton Angelfish, Holocanthus limbaughi. This is the only place in the world that this species of fish is found. The Clipperton Angels were a little camera and diver shy as most angelfish are, but, they still provided fairly easy photo opportunities. Adults were the most common but hiding in the reef I did find some juveniles.

Clipperton Angelfish, Holocanthus limbaughi, Photo © Elaine Jobin
Clipperton Angelfish
Holocanthus
limbaughi
Clipperton Angelfish, Holocanthus limbaughi, Photo © Elaine Jobin
Clipperton Angelfish
Holocanthus
limbaughi
Clipperton Angelfish, Holocanthus limbaughi, Photo © Elaine Jobin
Clipperton Angelfish
Holocanthus
limbaughi
Juvenile Clipperton Angelfish, Holocanthus limbaughi, Photo © Elaine Jobin
Juvenile
Clipperton Angelfish

Holocanthus
limbaughi
Juvenile Clipperton Angelfish, Holocanthus limbaughi, Photo © Elaine Jobin
Juvenile
Clipperton Angelfish

Holocanthus
limbaughi
Juvenile Clipperton Angelfish, Holocanthus limbaughi, Photo © Elaine Jobin
Juvenile
Clipperton Angelfish

Holocanthus
limbaughi

Another species normally found only at Clipperton Island is the Clipperton Grouper, Epinephelus clippertonensis.

Clipperton Grouper, epinephelus clippertonensis, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010
Clipperton Grouper
Epinephelus
clippertonensis
Clipperton Grouper, epinephelus clippertonensis, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010
Clipperton Grouper
Epinephelus
clippertonensis
Clipperton Grouper, epinephelus clippertonensis, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010
Clipperton Grouper
Epinephelus
clippertonensis

In the water column schools of bluefin trevally,Caranx melampygu. frequently passed by.

Bluefin trevally, Caranx melampygus, at Clipperton Atoll, photo © Elaine Jobin
Bluefin trevally
Caranx
melampygus
Bluefin trevally, Caranx melampygus, at Clipperton Atoll, photo © Elaine Jobin
Bluefin trevally
Caranx
melampygus
Bluefin trevally, Caranx melampygus, at Clipperton Atoll, photo © Elaine Jobin
Bluefin trevally
Caranx
melampygus

On the reef and within its cracks were lots of coral hawkfish, Cirrhitchthys oxycephalus

Coral Hawkfish, Cirrhitchthys oxycephalus, Clipperton Atoll, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010
Coral Hawkfish
Cirrhitchthys
oxycephalus
Coral Hawkfish, Cirrhitchthys oxycephalus, Clipperton Atoll, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010
Coral Hawkfish
Cirrhitchthys
oxycephalus
Coral Hawkfish, Cirrhitchthys oxycephalus, Clipperton Atoll, Photo © Elaine Jobin 2010
Coral Hawkfish
Cirrhitchthys
oxycephalus

Other fish I found that were either less common, or, harder to get to pose for photographs were:


Whitespotted Boxfish
Ostracion meleagris

Whitespotted Boxfish
Ostracion meleagris

Barberfish
Johnrandallia
nigriostris

Longnose
butterflyfish
Forcipiger
flavissimus

Bicolor Parrotfish
Scarus
rubroviolaceus

Barred Filefish
Cantherhines
dumerilii

Sea Bass


Chinese Trumpetfish
Aulostomus
chinensis

Back to Top of Page