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!

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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…

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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/)

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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!

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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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

Deeper in Albay (Part II)

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Nursery that propagates corals – pink corals, anyone?

Legaspi City Coral Nursery

Many local government units (LGUs) maintained nurseries, in agriculture parlance nurseries are where we nurture seedlings which shall later planted in its appointed time and appropriate area. It could be fruit trees seedlings, vegetable seedlings, flower and the like. In the waters, to preserve the reefs and provide shelter for the degrading marine life, many have adopted coral transplantation. Just like planting on the surface, selected seedlings are necessary to be nurtured and for this purpose that would need a coral nursery. Legaspi City is one the few local government units that installed and maintained one. It is a formidable task for the LGU alone, so in partnership with BFAR, BU, MCCF and Pacific Blue they established the facility. Last year, the brief encounter with Mr. Jin Masuda of Pacific Blue who was too optimistic on the success of the restoration efforts was too encouraging. For me, the importance of protecting and preserving marine resources can not be undermined. I just thought, this nursery is worthy for a visit!

Pacific Blue was kind enough to arrange one for me for free, the ICRM office was just beside the dive shop  and I had a good chance in meeting the sea patrol unit. Legaspi City is one of the few who are serious in the fishery law enforcement in their territorial waters which I found too interesting. I had a long surface interval discussing their activities, plans, difficulties, challenges as well as victories.

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Coral seedlings are branching out!
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Juveniles claiming their home in the restoration project

We trooped to the west end of the boulevard, took the ICRM boat donated by AECID  and had my third descent for the day enjoying the afternoon warm flat waters, I was bit excited what to find in the depths. It was only at 9 meters on a sandy area, it wasn’t long when we found the crates of the seedlings. Their technology is different from the Linamon Project but all the same, the seedlings are allowed to grow first before the transplantation. The corals are sourced out in the nearby for adaptability advantages. My two companions – Ato of ICRM and Jun of Pacific Blue got instantly busy. Cleaning, arranging and inspecting the crates. They went around from end to end, later they told me they were searching for thatone missing crate which I had no idea while down there. We found it like 20 meters away from its original location. The newly transplanted corals in the area thrive well and juvenile fishes were roaming around.

After 40 minutes of going around we ascend, it wasn’t really long (I could have stayed longer I still have much air) but what a great privilege to be one of the few who witnessed such uncommon but very beneficial project for the marine world. Mr. Masuda is right, in five years Albay Gulf would be carrying in its bosom a colorful, active, rich and productive reefs. The home of Mt. Mayon is more than just its alluring surface, something is more fascinating in its depths!

NB This is dedicated for the World Ocean’s Month

AECID  – Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and Development
ICRM    – Integrated Coastal Resource Management

Cleanup Ideas for World Oceans Day!

world ocean day 2015Cleanups are a great way to bring people together and enact actual change for the local environment. But what can you do with a beach clean up to make it unique? Well for starters you don’t have to clean up a beach! Here are 6 quick ideas for holding a cleanup on World Oceans Day – or anytime you want to do something for your community. Click here if you’d like to download a full-length aquatic clean up guide.

1. A clean watershed makes a clean ocean
Beach cleanups are great, but your event doesn’t need to be at the beach. You can stage a cleanup at the local watershed, river, wetland, or even underwater. Removing trash everywhere helps the ocean.

The Instituto EcoFaxina in Brazil focused on their local mangrove forest for World Oceans Day 2014 and removed 274 kg of trash! They learned about the importance of reducing plastic and recycling, while helping out their community.

2. Include everyone
Try to have activities for all ages and skill groups to do, and make sure to have relaxing ocean activities for breaks.

3. Go underwater
Even if you don’t participate in the activities yourself, try to involve local interest groups such as divers or surfers. For them, the health of the beach environment is directly important to their day to day life and they may want to help out.

4. Celebrate!
Have a fun activity planned for after the cleanup. Perhaps a beach BBQ, or a bonfire with s’mores. It’s a great time to get together and hang out with your local community of ocean lovers.

The group Sager der Samler in Denmark celebrated a successful harbor cleanup for World Oceans Day 2014 by enjoying a barbecue and live music together. Their event also included a large group of people including; sailors, rowers, divers, and anglers. According to organizer Paul Natorp, the day was great because it not only cleaned up the harbor, but strengthened bonds between the different groups who used it.

5. Get competitive for a cause
Why don’t you turn the day into a trash competition? Form teams and whoever picks up the most trash can win a prize (perhaps a WOD T-Shirt each).

6. Refresh: reduce, reuse, recycle
Afterwards you can refresh everyone’s knowledge of how to dispose of trash and recycling. Perhaps you can challenge the younger participates to reuse some of their own “trash” (such as water bottles from home) for crafts.

Have you ever participated in a cleanup? What happened in it that made it fun or unique for you?

NB. An article by Caty Fairclough for http://www.worldoceansday.org