Position: 9° 13’ 00” S and 78° 31’ 60” W
Weather: A bright blustery day with cool dry air, warm in the sun.
It was a lazy morning with no scheduled stop until after lunch, so it was possible to take full advantage of Prince Albert II’s breakfast offerings, have that extra slice of toast with lox and cream cheese and have a good chat with the couple from Belgium.
Explorations kicked off at 9:30 am with a heartfelt lecture by Robin Aiello on the truth behind the depletion of coral reefs world wide. Then, after an early lunch, we boarded Zodiacs for an extraordinary exploratory adventure along the rocky inlets and shear cliffs of Bahia Samanco.
The land was black, angular, volcanic rock with patches of dusty oxidized orange and peaks of guano-covered white. There was not a plant to be seen anywhere. Despite the stark landscape there was an abundance of squawking, whistling and chirping seabirds. The broken rock provided hundreds of ledges and crannies for nesting birds. Boobies, terns, pelicans, cormorants and gulls scrambled for landing space on rocky outcrops and fought over fish that some local fishermen threw off the side of their boat.
Sea lions and a pair of sea otters played around our Zodiacs as we negotiated the uneven shoreline. We had to choose between photographing wildlife or the dramatic sight of spray from waves slamming onto the sides of vertical cliffs.
Accompanying us at sea were small, brightly colored, and cheerfully named—Claudia, Richard 4, Jesus, Linda—motor-boats, outfitted with compressors. Surface buoys marked the location of their harvest. Men, dressed in wetsuits, masks, flippers and weights, dived down to collect scallops and muscles. They looked cold when they climbed back into their boats. On a small beach we saw a shelter made of cane and grass matting sheltering two large tubs—perhaps filled with seawater and where they could keep their catch alive until transportation to restaurants in Lima.
Near the end of our afternoon of exploration, we motored out to visit some of the shellfish processing plants located in deeper water. From a distance they looked like small villages resting on the sea. Close-up they were covered rafts filled with men in bright orange waterproof wear, metal drums, tables, floats, and nets filled with shellfish.
After our return to the ship, recaps were given by Toby, J.J., Claudia, Claire and Robin. Toby showed what he termed “holiday snaps” which were actually wonderful pictures of wildlife, J.J. talked about Peru’s guano islands, Claudia discussed the scallop, Claire showed pictures of balsa trading rafts and reed fishing boats used by early inhabitants of the Peruvian coast, and Robin explained the difference between true seals, walruses and sealions. After that it was a well-deserved dinner.