Ghosts of hammerheads

Shadows

Scalloped hammerheads off Kicker Rock, San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands.

With low light, poor visibility and nothing but blue sea beyond, they were little more than ghosts as they slipped by us on a dive site. I’ve reproduced in black and white to maintain image quality.

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Happy napping sea lion

Sloth defined

Sea lions will nap just about anywhere. This one chose a ledge just above the surf on Kicker Rock off San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands.

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An underwater rocket of blubber and teeth

Fire!

A sea lion off Kicker Rock shoots past me on a dive near San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands.

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Kickin’ rocks

Kicker rock

The Kicker Rock dive site, also known as Leon Dormido, off San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands.

Probably the single best site of my Galapagos adventures. We dropped into the channel between the two pinnacles and — after a bit of trouble with another diver’s weight — we swam beneath a school of about 40 juvenile Galapagos sharks.

We circled the smaller pinnacle for a bit; I ended up finishing the dive “alone” as I was the only tourist left with air. For the record, diving alone is incredibly unsafe. I wasn’t really; I was only down about six meters, with the divemaster on the surface above me, keeping an eye on both the spent divers and me.

(That’s still not the best way to go, but everyone else had burned their tanks just 30 minutes in. I’m a bit better on air and wanted to enjoy. Plus, six meters is a depth from which I could easily ascend on a single breath if need be.)

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Hola, green sea turtle

Hay tortuga!

Another Green Turtle, off Kicker Rock, near San Cristobal in the Galapagos Islands.

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These guys froze me in my fins

Schooling overhead

During a channel dive at Kicker Rock, near San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands, a school of young Galapagos sharks cruised overhead, literally stopping me in my fins. In all, more than 40 sharks just planed by about 10 meters overhead. One of the best dives I’ve ever done.

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Sharks are friends, not food

Beautiful

A beautiful Galapagos shark cruises near Kicker Rock, close to San Cristobal in the Galapagos Islands. I sound like a broken record but: Most if not all sharks are under threat from over fishing. I know I’ve eaten shark previously — even claimed it to be my favorite meat — but I will never again (even if I stop being vegetarian).

Sharks are too often apex predators or even keystone species. And they’re also natural art, highly adapted and evolved. They’re one of the oldest living predators on the planet.

Even catch-and-release sport fishing can be severely harmful to the great animals, particularly when pulled from depths. They can suffer barotrauma from pressure changes and thermo-regulation problems from being removed from cold water. One scientist I met in the Galapagos specifically stressed that often catch-and-release fishing of large, deep-water species leads to high mortality rates.

Please, don’t fish or eat them and don’t encourage others.

Lone shark

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Hallelujah, it’s raining fish

Silhouette

I love being below a big cloud of fish. The swarm is like a rainstorm. Underwater.

This from Kicker Rock, off San Cristobal, in the Galapagos Islands.

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Fish ID is tricky business

A wrasse wandering around Kicker Rock

In the Galapagos Islands, this fish is commonly called a “hog’s head” wrasse. But I have no idea what that actually makes it. It’s probably a relative of the much larger humphead wrasse, but the scientific name or even more common name entirely escapes me.

Either way, he’s a fun fish who doesn’t scare away from divers. This one (and a dozen others) had no problem following me around at Kicker Rock, near San Cristobal.

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Scaredy-fish

Pufferfish hiding in a crack

This pufferfish has wedged itself into a crack, as they’re generally some of the more timid creatures in the ocean. This one comes from Kicker Rock, off the coast of San Cristobal Island in the Galapagos chain.

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