Using Creativity & Cameras to Reveal Baja's Underwater Secrets

06-05-2019

By Wilson Barrett, expedition guide on the Safari Endeavour

“Encased in steal capsules, man ventures forth from the friendly environment of earth to space beyond, to the waters below. In search of the unknown. So, the new submarines of Calypso enter a landscape long forbidden…A dark and silent world past old boundaries, they descend to new frontiers. What had seemed alien and full of menace will grow familiar and reveal itself in beauty. Only when he can range wider, stay longer, go deeper, can man learn to utilize the incredible wealth of the sea.”

Those were the opening words of Rod Serling that the world heard when the popular 1960s television series The Under-Sea World of Jacques Cousteau premiered a groundbreaking episode on the introduction of submarines to the Calypso collection.

The television show marked the first widely-seen application of underwater cinematography. This particular episode showcased the unique environments of the deep sea with the advent of manned submersibles. Underwater video for scientific exploration and entertainment have come a long way since the 1960s, but our fascination with the deep unexplored reaches of our blue planet remain.

Onboard the Safari Endeavour, curious minds afloat in the Sea of Cortez have long imagined the watery wonder that lies just beyond the snorkel zone. The nutrient-rich waters of the Gulf of California often cloud the seascapes, making the deeper water off rocky shelves and below our anchorages a mysterious void.

Until now! Introducing the “GoProProbe Mark III,” a landmark marine video device newly incorporated into the arsenal of the onboard expedition team. This sophisticated amalgamation of scrap metal and Goodwill appliances weighs about 3 pounds, has a steel frame encased in a rubber base, is accompanied by a 100m waterproof flashlight and adjustable pivoting connection points, and brandishes a GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition.

With the aid of a conventional fishing reel and 60lb monofilament line, this creation can reach depths exceeding many of our Baja anchorages at around 40 meters. Several deployments have yielded jaw-dropping marine life encounters and stunning seascapes. Shallow sand beds reveal timid garden eels, nighttime deck lights illuminate thousands of glimmering needlefish, and rocky reefs showcase a production of enchanting bustling thespians.

On one recent drop, we tested the limits of the probe at a nighttime anchorage off Isla San Francisco. The calm quiet waters off the stern seemed hypnotizing in its tranquility and depth. What treasures it must be hiding.

The depth sounder read our anchorage at roughly 114 feet. The amount of fishing line we had spooled? 120 feet. There was no room for error. Gingerly the team secured the main line, arranged a tag line, and belayed the unit into the abyss.

After 30 minutes of filming, the footage we received revealed a dazzling world of macro-organisms swarming in the beam of the flashlight. The illumination caught the eye of many curious fish, including puffers, mullet, and a few ravenous stingrays.

The majority of our planet is covered in water, and the vast amount of the sea floor is unexplored. Through our travels on the Safari Endeavour, we seek to expose new truths about the alien world just below our boat.
 

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