Leaving a time capsule behind on Clipperton Island

Location: At sea steaming north, Clipperton Island behind us, Roca Partida (Socorro Island) ahead of us.

Comments: We’re all very sad. Our Clipperton Island adventure is over. Our last project of the expedition was leaving a time capsule behind. We recorded messages on video from all of our guests and crew and collected items ranging from a can of Guinness beer (that was from me!) to a cigarette (no matches) to a newspaper from Cabo San Lucas to lots of business cards to a set of rubber gloves. We inserted everything into a length of PVC pipe, sealed it and sent it ashore.

So it’s goodbye to the atoll that the English pirate John Clipperton discovered in 1705 when he claimed the island as his own and used it as a base from which to sail out and attack the Spanish La Plata Fleet (also known as Manila galleons). I cannot imagine how he manoeuvered his vessel, the “Five Ports,” over the coral reef into the lagoon, and can only surmise that Clipperton must have looked very different 300 years ago.

We are now headed north to Roca Partida (Socorro Island) for two days of diving and the wrap of our Mexico 06/07 dive season. Our motley crew of scientists, adventurers, photographers, cinematographers and staff all thoroughly enjoyed and were stimulated, by our visit to Clipperton. Mary Lynn Price did an amazing job of capturing the spirit of our adventure in a one-hour documentary. I’ll be posting a shortened version on the multi-media section of our website. None of us are ever going to forget the 1/2 million booby birds (and their incredibly cute chicks) that we saw, the 5 million bright orange land crabs, the amazing number of moray eels and their bizarre behaviour, the thick “clouds” of black and big-eye jacks, heavy schools of black triggerfish and rainbow runners, the endemic iridescent blue Clipperton angelfish and the coconut groves, white sand beaches and beautiful setting.

Guests are already asking when they can come back for another trip to Clipperton trip with us! I would say that the atoll is very much “alive” but judging from the amount of fishing line crisscrossing the coral reefs, it has been pounded hard by illegal longline fishing. Over 5 days of diving with 4 dives per day, we saw a total of 20 large hammerhead sharks most of which were in 140ft of water or deeper  (I’m not sure if these guys were shy or down deep because of the lack of a thermocline), 6 silky sharks, approximately 20 silvertip sharks (mostly juveniles), one whale shark, 6 white tip reef sharks and 2 giant manta rays. There is no question in my mind that Clipperton could once again have a vibrant shark population IF a patrol and enforcement mechanism could be implemented. We are involved in an effort to implement a privately funded aerial patrol program in the Revillagigedo Archipelago (donations are very welcome!) and I’m wondering if that program could be expanded to include Clipperton Island. This is a trip that I will remember for a long time.

–Captain Mike


Weather: 6 – 8 foot headsea (it was calmer yesterday), scattered clouds, 84°F air temperature, winds from the north 20 knots.

Water: Water temperature and visibility unknown.