Charging Across the Wild Blue

Here the water is a capricious beauty, changing colors on a whim like outfits to suit her mood. Blues and greens are favorites, but I have also seen gloomy greys and the softest of pinks. And after every sunset she dons a jet black evening gown sparkling with sequins of bioluminescence. One might guess this mystical image was captured in the quiet tranquility of night—but it is merely a fluke of both light and dolphin. A unique photo I captured during our first day exploring Golfo Dulce, it reflects the water’s magic.

Our boat engine repaired (with epoxy, a small but mighty step above duct tape), I am at last on the water, searching for and documenting marine life in this remote Costa Rican embayment. And I’m excited to share a peek at some of the animals and waterscapes that have already crossed my shutter.

This is a more clear picture of the Pantropical Spotted dolphin (Stenella attennata).

Gregarious family groups are prone to bow-riding and dancing in our wake.

Bottlenose dolphins (Turciops truncates) are residents here. They tend to be more timid in nature and it is a rare treat to have them approach the boat like this.

Endangered sea turtles nest on the beaches. The high season for Olive Ridleys has passed and right now we are seeing mostly Chelonias (regionally called Black sea turtles).

This is a Yellow-bellied sea snake (Pelamis platurus). It’s one of the species I’m most interested in. Golfo Dulce is home to a xanthic phase, too, which is completely and strikingly yellow! I have seen two such snakes drawing Ss on the surface of deep blue water but, so far, I’ve failed to snap a decent photo.

To the northeast, near Piedras Blancas National Park there are remnants of a once-thriving coral reef with tiny colorful fish still active in the teal water. This is but one of the many soothing sights that compensate my effort. I am working hard, endless hours. But, truth told, much of this project has been carried on the shoulders of Jorge Largaespada.

Jorge, who has stood beside me for every fisherman interview, ready to clear up confusion my poor Spanish might cause… who has solved every mechanical crisis with incredible ingenuity (the delicate epoxy work was genius and the motor is running with good efficiency!)… who every day helps me haul a tremendous amount of gear and gasoline to and from the marina… who deftly captains our craft, managing the logistics of my destination requests… and who can reliably spot a dolphin dorsal from over a kilometer of troubling seas. Above all his capability, Jorge is congenial, an ideal partner for my study. The first few days we were also joined by Gareth, a field biologist from the states whose parents live here, and who brings good sense, strong muscle and a steady demeanor to the survey.

Generally up at 4:30am , we are on the water before the sun makes her 6am entrance on Stage East. Every performance is a little different and I could make a series of my morning shots. Occasionally the day brings a small surprise. Like a tiny eel squirming strangely at the surface. Or a smooth deep-water current carrying several Portuguese Man-o-wars, blue stinging tentacles trailing in its drift. Of course we see gulls. Along with Brown pelicans.

And Brown boobies. I, too, am turning brown (well, everything except my boobies). We spend 6-8 hours per day traversing the gulf, which we’ve divided into four Geographical Areas. By noon , the sun picks at our skin and eyes.

But the sense of freedom we find carving across the wild blue with sea breeze pouring over the bow is one of life’s most perfect sensations. With 22 days remaining, I still want to photograph Humpback whales and whale sharks. It may happen. After all, the water is lovely and she lures many creatures. Including hopeful humans (Homo sapien).

Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air… Ralph Waldo Emerson

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