We’re less than a day out from Clipperton Island now and the excitement onboard is palpable. Mary Lynn Price and I gave a presentation on Conrad (Connie) Limbaugh and the Scripps expeditions to Clipperton of 1956 and 1958.
Connie Limbaugh is often spoken of and written about with great reverence by those interested in the history of the scuba diving industry. He was an innovative industry leader in his day and made large contributions to scientific and recreational diving and filmmaking. Unfortunately, he died at the age of 35 in a caving diving accident in France while working with the Cousteau team.
The 1958 Scripps expedition to Clipperton (Limbaugh was the dive safety officer from Scripps) was especially notable for the first deployment of Limbaugh’s famous shark cage that allowed a scuba diver to swim along the bottom from the safety of a cage built from heavy electrical tubing and wire lath (chicken wire). It was quite a cage!! 6′ 6″ long and 26″ high with canvas ports for a diver to stick his arms through while swimming along!! What a far cry from the great white shark cages we deploy at Guadalupe Island off the stern of the Nautilus Explorer.
Juvenile Galapagos sharks (carcharhinus galapagensis) were reported as being extremely numerous and aggressive during the 1956 expedition. To the point where scuba diving operations were first limited and then terminated because of the apparent danger from the sharks. The shark cage was the answer on the 1958 expedition. Cool huh?!
We are all fervently hoping to see that kind of shark behaviour and numbers when we get there, but realistically expect to see far fewer animals given the immense pressure from modern industrial fishing. Interestingly, members of the 1956 expedition also reported seeing great numbers of large white tip reef sharks (carcharhinus platyrhynchus) on the surface – something I have never heard of before. In all my experience, I’ve only seen white tip reef sharks close to either nooks and crannies on the bottom or occasionally very close to vertical topography. The excitement continues to build!!!
Weather: Overcast and very hot and humid… Temperature 90°F. Winds from the northwest 10 – 15 knots. Seas 6 foot from the northeast.
Water: Water visibility and temperature unknown.