Love from Cape Cod (Part III)

We drove to the northernmost tip of the Cape, Provincetown is where the historic first landing of The Pilgrims of the so called New World. I love this quaint town, so picturesque actually.

P1060963
White wash buildings were common in the town!

It has maintained its idyllic and rural setting and I believe its inhabitants never felt pressured to adopt modernity extensively. It is said that the residents felt violated with their privacy with the influx of tourists during summer. The town is filled with old buildings, art galleries, coffee shops & restos, seafood shacks, gift & souvenir shops and even thrift shops! It’s that kind of setting where you can just walk about the whole town, when you feel tired you can just sit on one of those benches around and you can grab something nearby if you need to munch or quench your thirst.  And we practically went around, my sister insisted with the unique shops and we didn’t miss the shell shop at Commercial Street, the friendly owner showed us around and it was interesting that she had visited Philippines twice and still planning to be back!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Almost surrounded by waters and definitely part of the network of marine sanctuaries in the Cape, this northern town housed a center for coastal studies with on-going research on the Stellwagen Bank, an underwater plateau of sand and gravel historically important as a fishing ground for more than 400 years.  The region is rich with maritime history and teeming with life, it was designated as national marine sanctuary in 1992. Provincetown is very significant in the whole territory of Cape Cod.

20180705_144059
Waiting for the signs of whales!

Lastly, the highlight of my trip in the Cape was the whale watching cruise based in Hyannis,  I was not expecting or even planning for it, actually it was expensive. But my sister thought I love the marine world, Gary facilitated for the trip with the Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises as we drove to Barnstable. It was a more than two-hour cruise hosted by a marine biologist who has been on the research team for more than two decades (if I hear it right!). During the trip, the naturalist narrated about the Stellwagen Bank and extensively explained the whales species that normally migrated by season, it is the feeding ground of this animals during summer. The blues skies and the blue seas lifted my spirit even if I was in the midst of total strangers, the waters was perfectly balmy after out of the realms for many weeks!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It took an hour before the first sighting, the host calling out – 1 o’clock!; 11 o’clock!; 10 o’clock! – the watchers shifted position now and then. We were at a distance when a humpback breached!  It was so quick, I just watched in awe, obviously no chance for photos! 😦  There were few more sightings, always shifting when the host called out the position.  You could hear the swooshing and the spray of salt waters up like a fountain, which they explained that the animal was breathing! The whale according to the naturalist was doing zigzag route down under, perhaps viewing the animal from their gadgets.  Many times, the whale showed its tale like waving for us, my position was not favorable for a wider view of the tale so my photos was somewhat obscure. It was too fast, I got stunned I merely watched the sight in awe! Truly, it was a wonderful experience!

My Cape Cod trip will never be forgotten, as they say, “it’s for the books!” but more than that, it’s for my heart treasured forever.  I may never get the chance again to be there but the memories was an important experience and a special part of my marine world learning in the Atlantic front. There was just abundance of life!

Love from Cape Cod (Part II)

Needless to say, vacation at Cape Cod costs a fortune, this exotic place definitely demands a price. But the Lord provided for everything through the generosity of my sister and family including the children. After more than two decades of waiting, I finally made it. Indeed, there is always a right time for everything!

20180706_132051
The summer house at Wellfleet!

The few days we had at the Cape was about getting around, while we were staying south of Chatham which has its own waterfront we spend more time at Wellfleet. My sister’s family revisited them to show me around, the children grew up coming in these spots almost very summer. Definitely, it was part of their childhood memories and always a joy for them to be here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Salt Marsh is one good find at Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, we started the trail from Uncle Tim’s Bridge crossing the Duck Harbor Creek to Hamblen Island overlooking the mudflats, where few birds took refuge and perhaps searching for shells, crabs and grasses for feeds. Then found a horseshoe crab by the side trails, unfortunately it was lifeless. It was my first encounter of such specie, it’s not edible though. There‘s small clearing near the bridge ruins at the creek, where one can sit and watch the view which at the time was all green, the rushing waters was also an attraction. Crabs, shells and other crustaceans dwell by the tidal marsh, a natural habitat for them. The locals on the area supported by the government have endeavored for its protection and preservation.

20180702_110417
The Cockle Cove Beach was facing the Nantucket Sound

The Cockle Cove Beach was just near our Air B&B abode in Chatham, for me it was more than just a spot for pleasure. The beach was just a short drive with my niece and nephew and fortunately the parking was free when we went there! The warm waters from Nantucket Sound is perfect for swimming but there were no beach-goers, only few people were there taking lessons for SUP and windsurfing.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Yet, I was more interested of the seagulls hovering, unbelievably flying low with few landed along the sand picking with the sea weeds, it was surprising they stood their ground while we passed by looking for shells. Just few meters above was Mill Creek where we sighted thousands of hermit crabs and other crustaceans inhabiting the mudflats, a multitude were crawling by the creek side. The cove is without doubt part of sanctuary network in the Cape, series of restoration efforts were mobilized also due to sand erosion in the area.

Love from Cape Cod (Part I)

Cape Cod is hook-shaped peninsula of the US state of Massachusetts, is a popular summertime destination. It is characterized by quaint villages, seafood shacks, lighthouses, ponds & bay & ocean beaches.  The bulk of land on Cape consists of glacial land forms, formed by terminal moraine and outwash plains.  Its historic, maritime character and ample beaches attract heavy tourism during summer months.

CapeCodTownsMap Cape Cod Map courtesy of Wikitravel

This beautiful destination aside from being historic dwelled so much at the back of my mind since time immemorial.  My sister always told me stories about their summer trips – with her family tagging along the kids, with friends and their family, sometimes with friends of friends – they went there every year. Practically, it’s their second home. Setting foot at the Cape is a dream trip to me.

After much prayers and discernment, I scheduled a US trip to visit my Sister and her family and to offer myself a little consolation. Since the trip fell on summer, the Cape Cod dream was few steps closer. And, it happened since my sister’s vacation was scheduled just few weeks before I go back home!

20180701_114555
Typical scene on the beach during summer!

My blue heart was attracted to Cape with no reservations – the great Atlantic waters was for me un-chartered. It was playing a lot of thoughts just to get a glimpse of this large body with its rich marine life. Cape territory is divided into 15 towns with many villages all of which are practically have waterfronts.  Beaches abound naturally…

20180701_123150
Breaks can create waves suitable for surfing!

The Nauset Beach in Orleans is just one of those pristine coast line that are too perfect for summer events – be it sunbathing, swimming, skim boarding or just sitting under beach umbrella and watch the horizons beyond.  It was far beyond compare to our beaches, definitely it’s clean and free from structures and obstructions.  It was naturally maintained.

When we got there, it was already filled with beach-goers we had to find a strategic spot with unobstructed view of the waters. The sun was already scorching and decided not to swim, my sister said the waters too cold for her even it is sunny. Lounging on my beach chair was comfortable enough. The sunny skies and blue waters were nothing different back home, I was wondering what was beyond the surface.  At a distance, we saw a head or two of seals bobbing up the surface, its either getting away from predators or looking for prey in shallower waters.  Few sea gulls flew over humans perhaps looking for food scraps while few also flew over the waters perhaps eyeing for fish.

Obviously, Nauset is part of wildlife sanctuary network in the Cape. Last July 18, 2018 swimmers and surfers fled the waters as shark attacked a seal just few feet from the shoreline, though no human injuries were reported. (https://abc7chicago.com/pets-animals/swimmers-flee-water-as-shark-devours-seal/3849325/)

20180702_173147
Pristine and so enticing for swimming or surfing!

Newcomb Hollow Beach is located at northernmost of Wellfleet, it featured a scenic stretch of ocean beach backed with stretch of sand dunes.  It is pristine just like other beaches in the Cape and its blue waters were truly inviting not only for swimming but also for surfing as there are bars for waves breaks commonly for short boards.

It was just too interesting to try swimming in an Atlantic surface, the water is cold according to my sister but the blue waters with soft waves were just too enticing.  The good thing was my nephew and niece joined me for the swim, being out of waters for almost ten weeks it was some sort of deliverance from sea sickness, I was like hyper ventilating! And again, its waters was also rich with marine life as sharks are patrolling the area for preys. There were times when closures of the beach is necessary if a number of sharks sightings were observed.  There was a recent shark attack in this beach just when official summer was over. (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/newcomb-hollow-beach-wellfeet-massachusetts-deadly-shark-attack-today-2018-09-15/)

20180704_200940It was in Fourth of July when we visited Duck Harbor Beach, still in Wellfleet.  You need to pass along a stretch of sand dunes, thankfully the parking was free though you need to be early before it gets full. It was dusk and we were in for a glorious display of colors of sunset, the sky was clear and we could saw faint image of the Pilgrim Tower in Provincetown from the horizon ahead of us. Just when the whole country was celebrating this big day  we were out there walking along the shore and later sitting in our beach chairs watching the changing hues before us. It was just relaxing!

Love for the Blue!

heart 2.jpg
Pure lovely, right in Mantigue Island depths!

In my year-end dive, we discovered this reef as we went around in the island sanctuary, perfectly decorated with feather stars, whips, soft & hard corals. Very symbolic and a gentle reminder for our love of the ocean and marine world in general. Just needed keen eyes,  I was beaming when we spotted this corner!  🙂

We’re now into the swing of the new year putting in place each one’s agenda, may the force of love our motivation in our journey – our passions, dreams, and aspirations.

Indeed, the ocean is worth the love we could give. As Dr. Sylvia Earle puts it, ” No ocean, no life.  No blue, no green.  No ocean, no us.” Let’s keep the heart beating,  it’s time we return the love!

 

 

Photography in Marine Environment

The marine world is in-arguably amazing and is filled of many wonderful specie, again and again a lot of us desired to take all the memories in photos.  It is understandable, you might not encounter this interesting animal next time and if you might, who knows when.  The present world is becoming photo obsessed and many including us divers are influenced with this social media trending.  However, we all have this important responsibility in preserving this beloved vast blue beyond. Photography under water if not judicious is undoubtedly a real threat to marine life.

Here are few do’s and dont’s while shooting that avant-garde photos in the blue beyond:

  1.  Do have good look around while resting on the bottom. Even its only sand, you might about to crush nudis or seahorse.
  2. Do capture behavior by knowing your subject, reading books and studying marine life.
  3. Do make sure your camera/housing is neutrally buoyant. There are plenty of float arms available in the market. This can help also if you accidentally drop your equipment.
  4. Do secure all dangling equipment, streamlining is the key as we have been taught from the start.
  5. Do use common sense when choosing subjects to shoot at night.
  6. Do place the welfare of plants and animals and the care of the environment over the need to get any shot
  7. Don’t even think of taking a camera underwater if you are a novice diver. Wait until you get the advance course and maybe 50+ dives! 🙂
  8. Don’t insist on taking pictures if the subject is inaccessible.
  9. Don’t add unnecessary stress to an animal who is already stressed. Be discerning in using flash, it can’t be denied that constant flash is taking toll on any subject.
  10. Don’t harass animals on night dives, avoid flashing directly your torch on them.
  11. Don’t feed the fish! This is very basic….
  12. Don’t force animals into behavior just to get a shot. Again, don’t touch any fish for that yawn effect. Such gesture is actually telling you to go away. So be sensitive!

In my diving novitiate years, I prefer having no camera at all because I can observe marine life better and I have other more important issues to attend to like the basics and protocols. Diving is simpler with less accessories. My first point-shoot camera came two years later when I felt I was ready for such task underwater. It’s true, nothing beats having photos of amazing finds underwater. But after it was flooded, I got my second point-shoot camera a year later with no rush, which I’m using until now. It was serving its purpose I guess, I got decent photos for my write-ups and I  am happy with it.  The point is, the welfare of the marine world is important than the fleeting desire to get photos. 🙂

The truth,  marine world would be perfectly thriving and safer without the photos!

NB.  Adapted from Asian Diver Mag, Colors of Asia Edition

THE BLUE WHALE

blue_whale
Photo courtesy of http://www.biganimals.com

QUICK FACTS

The Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus)is the largest animal that ever lived on Earth. They can grow to 30 meters, weigh up to 181 metric tons and live 80-90 years.

Status:

Endangered (World Conservation Union Red List) due to rampant whaling in the 1960s.

They feed mostly on krill (tiny shrimp like animals) and can consumer around 3.6 metric tons in a day.

They belong to the baleen whales. Baleens are fringed plates of fingernail-like material attached to their upper jaws.  They feed by swallowing mouthful of water and expelling these through the baleen which acts as filter that trap the krill.

Blue whales are graceful swimmers and cruise the ocean at more than eight kilometer per hour, but accelerate to more than 32 kilometers an hour when they are agitated.

Blue whales are among the loudest animals on the planet. They emit a series of pulses, groans, and moans and it is thought that, in good conditions, blue whales can hear each other up to 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) away.

THEY ARE ENDANGERED

Their huge size does not spare them from human threats.

They are threatened by boat collision. Dynamite fishing, marine debris entanglement, plastic trash pollution, chemical and sound pollution.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP SAVE THEM

Help spread awareness about conserving and protecting our marine resources.

Report illegal fishing activities.

Reduce your plastic waste.

Help document presence of whales and other large marine life (do this from a safe distance).

Hotlines:

Maritime Police                               0927 893 4993
Coastguard (Dumaguete City)     0915 112 8823; 0929 674 2380
BFAR                                                    0926 357 2278
DENR                                                   0905 595 9149

A campaign of Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines

Resolutions for the Ocean

Wishes during the holidays from friends includes fantastic dives and amazing moments underwater for the coming year but more than just traveling to exciting dive sites I planned and getting blasts underwater, I reaffirm my responsibility for the environment and reinforce my vows for the marine world.

There are a lot of things divers and other ocean lovers can do to help protect and preserve the beloved ocean. But there are things not to do, some simple things we can, day to day to help. Here are five things to digress for a healthier ocean, these are nothing new actually and are not hard to do.

P1040720
Healthy water environment is free from litters!

PLASTIC
Bring canvas bags to the grocery store and say no to plastic. Plastic waste is one of the most prevalent threats to the ocean today. Look for items with less packaging and recycle as much as possible. Don’t use plastic ware or paper plates.  I cringed watching food chains’ daily dumps at the land fill, so horrible.  I can only wish that every local authorities shall ban use of plastics.

Last night was a victory as I refuse packing the fruits I bought in a plastic bag from a street stand. Nothing grand but if it becomes a habit being conscious everyday will eventually eliminate plastic wastes.  Hopefully.

TRASH
Don’t litter. This is kind of a no brainer and most people who enjoy the outdoors in any capacity follow the “leave nothing but footprints” or, in the case of scuba divers, “leave nothing but bubbles” rule. Leave No Trace should always be our policy! I always bring a nylon trash bag during my dives to collect garbage and do a quick clean up before leaving the beach. We can do this even when we trek or hike.

P1040936
Corals look better underwater!

CORAL
Don’t buy coral or other harvested souvenirs when traveling. Pieces of coral are most likely broken off living reefs, causing damage that can take years to rebuild. Instead, take pictures of the beautiful corals and shelled animals you encounter while diving. This makes a memory for you yet still leaves the ecosystem intact for the next diver to enjoy.

SUNSCREEN
Use care when choosing your sun protection. Many commercial sunscreens contain chemicals that wash off into the water which cause negative physiological changes in the environment, and therefore, the marine life within. But not to worry — there are plenty of “reef safe” products available to protect yourself from the sun’s damaging rays and treat any overexposure. Choose a lotion or spray with organic ingredients as possible, my favorite Sohoton cove prohibits sunscreen when you visit the Jellyfish Lagoon!

P1050490
Choose salads instead!

FISH
Reduce your consumption of seafood. Overfishing is a tremendous problem and demand for certain types of fish just leads to more and more being taken from the sea. Research sustainable seafoods in your area to see which ones are non-threatened species. The World Wildlife Federation publishes lists showing which seafoods are okay to consume and which to avoid.  Personally, this is a struggle since I avoid meats but alternatives are at hand. Yup, choose salads instead!  🙂

As we start this year anew, we need to change our ways!