Trip Report and Photos
Clipperton Island - April 10 - 25, 2010Trip Report and Photos © Elaine Jobin. May not be reproduced in part or whole without advance written permission.
Exactly one month before 'the Clipperton trip' departed, a Maltese chemical tanker, the 'Sichem Osprey', loaded with xylene, ran aground at Clipperton. The 'Sichem Osprey' was traveling from the Panama Canal to South Korea. The atoll is small, but, not that small, and anyone paying attention would know to avoid it. The ship was cleanly removed six days later, but one of the things that we hoped to do was to dive the site where it hit the atoll to look for damage. ,
Captain Gordon put the Nautilus Explorer within reach of where it looked like the Sichem Osprey 'landed'.
Fortunately, the site was mostly an underwater beach area without a lot of coral growth. It was still clear that something large had been there. Some of the rubble had red paint from the ships hull on it. Jeff Bozanic collected a few of the rocks with the red paint to include in his specimen collecting for the LA Museum of Natural History. The small amount of surrounding coral was mostly intact.
The next dive had more sharks and eels. The sharks had no fear of humans at all. One swam through a divers legs as she was finning along. She never knew until I showed her the picture. People helping Nicole collect her fish for DNA testing continued to be harassed by eels. Several people were bitten by the eels. Most aggressive eels ever, much more dangerous than the sharks.
More eels coming out to see what is going on.
Free swimming eels even in the daytime, by the square yard.
At the other end of the island, away from where the tanker ran aground are many beautiful, mostly untouched hard coral reefs.
On this trip I also had the opportunity to see first hand the damage that anchor chains can do to reefs. Usually the 'mother ship' would anchor in deep water and bring us into our dive sites by skiff. One day the boat was anchored a little closer and the wind and waves created some unexpected anchor line contact with the reef.
At first it looked like a huge cloud of white dust in the water column.
I went for a closer look at what was going on and saw first hand how an anchor chain cuts the corals on the reef, just like a saw.
Chris Grossman came up to look at what was going on as well. He took a look and had the sense to take off down the underwater mountain to get out of the way.
I stayed to watch what was going on and was able to take pictures of a large coral head being sawed in two. It tumbled down the hill and left another huge cloud of dust in the water column. Now I clearly understand the need for mooring buoys and no anchor zones in coral reef areas. Anchors and anchor lines can do some damage.
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