Day 8 |
Mar 23, 2012

At sea, en route to Isla Coiba, Panama 

By Uli Kunz – Oceanographer and Zodiac-Driver

Position: 5°37’ N, 81°24’ W
Air temperature: 26 °C, 78.8 °F
Water temperature: 24 °C, 75.2 °F
Air pressure: 1006 hPa
Wind speed: 24 km/h

Our guests are doing an incredible job with the weather! The Pacific Ocean is flat calm and hardly shows any waves.

After breakfast, our climatologist Claudia Holgate presented a lecture about the weather and climate in Central America. She explained the inter-tropical convergence zone, which leads to hot and wet weather. She also talked about the currents in the oceans that affect the climate all over the world.

We are sailing on the western side of South America, which is a part of the Pacific that is under the influence of the Humboldt or Peru Current. This stream carries relatively cold water from the Southern Ocean northwards along the coast, creating an upwelling that brings more cold, nutrient-rich water from the deeper parts of the ocean to the surface. This biosphere is one of the most productive in the world with an enormous amount of fish. All along the coast of South America, the people are dependent on the rich waters.

Every now and then, however, this cold water current is weakened by a slight change in the trade winds that blow over the Pacific Ocean at low latitudes. Warm water, normally found close to Indonesia and the Philippines, spreads out towards the East Pacific, covering the body of cold water off the coast of Peru and Ecuador. This phenomenon is called 'El Niño', which means 'Christ Child' in Spanish, but does not mean something good when it arrives in South America... The big schools of fish disappear, sea birds and seals don't find enough food and perish, the whole food chain collapses.

We are planning to arrive at Isla Coiba the next day, a place with a very beautiful coral reef, so together with the rest of the expedition staff, I prepared and cleaned all our snorkeling gear. The masks and snorkels were disinfected and we sorted the fins by size to hand them out to our guests.

At teatime I presented a trivia in the Panorama Lounge. The 20 questions were related to oceanography and marine biology but I also included some tricky ones that basically came from 'outer space'... do you know how many times you have to fold one page of your daily newspaper for it to become high enough to reach the moon? Or what would you feed to 'Megaptera novaengliae' in case you ever come across it? A rabbit, krill, seaweed or bamboo? You don't know? Join the next trivia in the Panorama Lounge!

Our Expedition Leader Conrad Combrink and I presented the destination and snorkeling briefing for our next day in Isla Coiba, followed by Claudia's, Claire's and Marco's recap. We are going to a wonderful place with lots of underwater wildlife and I can't wait to get into the water to see the colourful world beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean!