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Ricardo Guerrini on 22/02/2007
Marcus we simply enjoy collect ,clean,exchange and scientifically study shells.To be honest an ignorant self nominated echologist shouldn't bother you,they fill better doig what they think is wright but again they study so little that I worry about it.They should worry about the real problems that are POLLUTION and ENVIROMENT DESTRUCTION ,that are the real danger!They fill good doig that stupid and infantile game because is easier and they fill like saving the planet!The problem is that you waist your time saving the flea while the dog is dying,it's symply stupid.I am an echologist and

Costa Rica by Marcus Coltro

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Our good friend Tony McCleery invited one of us to visit the Golfito area of Costa Rica for a few days - and of course I accepted the invitation! I checked Google Earth to get an idea of the place.
At first it did not seem to be very appealing, many rivers flowing into Golfo Dulce made visibility poor on those satellite images.

I met Tony at the "huge" airport in Golfito and after shopping for some supplies we went to his boat. As part of the deal, I had to cook, so I had to carefully choose things I can prepare besides pasta and fried eggs...and of course we bought a few beers too.

Tony's sailboat was right at the dock, so we quickly boarded and sailed to our first destination, a nearby bay. We anchored close to shore - the very rapid drop-off to the 80 meter bottom makes it possible to anchor very close to shore. I put on my diving gear and went for my first dive of the trip. The water was quite warm, it almost needed no diving suit - but it proved to be, as I will show later. A thin layer of muddy sand covered the rocks, which caused a mess every time I turned one of them. I slowly turned my first rock, and there was a Cypraea arabicula! Well, a disappointment often follows whenever I find a shell so quickly, since later on it proves not to be easy task to keep finding others. Luckily this time I kept finding many different shells under each rock I turned: Cypraea robertsi and cervinetta, Columbellidae, Turridae, Buccinidae, Bursas, you name it! The bay was very calm, almost no need for Dramamine.... OK, I know myself so I kept taking it anyway! I love to feed fish but not with something I already have eaten.

We then moved to the next bay and tried some dredging on the way. Since I did not bring a helper this time, I had to manage the dredge myself while Tony sailed the boat. I must confess that I did not remember how heavy the dredge was... We got a few shells, but nothing of sufficient interest to keep dredging. So I went diving again and found other different shells, Morum ponderosum, Strombus gracilior, Fissurellas, Arene, Conus princeps lineolatus, gladiator, nux and purpurascens.

This was the second trip using my Sony DCS-N1 camera in its underwater housing. I thought I would hardly use it due to the low visibility, but in some places it was quite reasonable after all. I even saw a large stingray and got a few shots before it vanished in a huge cloud of mud. There were quite a few of these guys around and I could to hear them crunching coral and sand for food.

Tony had to do some work on the boat, so I went diving alone; since it was a very shallow place, I thought it would be no problem. There were some nice turnable rocks, some large walls, and behind them a muddy sand drop-off. I came closer to look for sand-dwelling shells and saw small tracks - Terebras. I did not have a hand dredge so I took one in one by hand and tried to fan the sand to see if something else was there. No shells, but instead some sort of stinging microorganisms which made me get away pretty fast! My face was burning like fire, and when I rubbed it, I forgot that my hands were full of mud and that made it worse....

Anyway, I am not sure if I was very excited to look for shells that I must have forgotten to breathe, Tony almost had to come looking for me after close to four hours diving with one tank. Since it was a shallow place I used the whole tank - had to blow the BC by mouth... (kids, don't do that at home!).

Tony and I had something to eat, rested, and decided to try a night dive there. He left the mast lights on so we could see it from far away and placed a blinking flashlight on the dinghy. We found a few different shells not seen during day; Tony got some beautiful Strombus granulatus, and I found a few Conus. Although the water was quite good both for temperature and visibility, there was something both of us did not like very much: isopod crustaceans, about 6mm long - popular name: blood-sucking swimming bastards. I forgot my diving hood in Brazil, so I had lots of them all over my face and head. They were attracted to our lights by the millions and it got to a point where our desire for shells was not enough to keep us in the water any longer.

The next day, we moved to an area with coral which was quite different from the previous rocky places. I took the dinghy to a shallow spot and anchored it. The coral was mostly dead, with just a few live areas here and there. Again, more different shells - which I mostly did not collect due to their large size, such as Vasum caestus, Hexaplex radix, Homalocantha oxyacantha, baby Strombus galeatus and peruvianus. I just got a couple H. oxyacantha and a few S. peruvianus because those were probably the smallest I ever saw.

Time to cross the gulf, the next area was quite nice too, a very isolated bay with two small islands near it. Tony went with me and we split up going around one of the islands to meet in the middle of the other side. More nice Conus princeps and purpurascens, Cypraea cervinetta, Jenneria pustulata and other shells. I took some great photos of shells there and then I saw some beautiful Opisthobranchia. I turned my camera on to take its picture. Horrified, I saw some drops of water inside the case - and the camera would not turn off! I swam back fast to the dinghy holding the camera out of the water. When I got there, I carefully removed the battery and started praying to not have ruined it... Since not much could be done at that point I continued diving.

When I got back to the boat, I rinsed the case with fresh water, wiped off the camera and left it to dry for a few hours before trying to turn it on. It was stuck with its lens extended, and when I placed its battery back, nothing happened. The camera was dead....

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The next day, we moved on to the mouth of the bay, again a very different place. There were some rock outcroppings like a small reef which seemed to be promising to explore. I spent a few hours in a very shallow and wavy spot. Found other shells such as Calliostoma antoni, Tegula verrucosa in different colors, Astraea buschii, lots of Columbellidae. On the other side of the rock barrier I found Turbo saxosus, Morum tuberculosum, Mitra lens, Arene ferruginosa and some bivalves. This was the first place with nice sand, so I used a hand dredge to look for shells. I did not find any Marginellas (Tony's favorite family), but found some very nice Olivella sphoni and zanoeta. I returned to the boat, and Tony suggested we should use the dinghy to dredge since it was only 8 meters deep, so we did. We found some nice Turridae, Agaronias, bivalves and other small gastropods. But dredging with the dinghy was quite tiring so we got back to the boat and used the larger dredge instead, much easier to pull up using a power winch... but after a few passes the line broke and we lost the dredge! Tony had plotted the way, so I said that I could try to dive and look for the dredge, and we returned to the area where the line broke. The water was not very clear down there, and in case I found the dredge I needed to attach something to it. Tony had a very long cable and I attached it to my wrist, he pointed a possible direction and told me to follow West on my compass.
When I got down there, I dove until I found a thin track which I thought was from the dragging line, so I followed it, but it ended soon. I went back to the boat and started again, this time in the other direction until I found the dredge track. I didn't think we dredged for a long time, but it took forever to reach it and the cable was getting difficult to pull at such a distance. I thought of letting it go and follow the track, but with a strong pull I got a few more meters and finally spotted the dredge! I tied the cable to the dredge and followed it back to the boat to get the dinghy. Closer to the boat, I found a live Conus virgatus crawling on the sand so a night dive there could possibly be good. After the dredge was safely back on the boat, we talked and planned our night dive.
The sea was calm, although there was some current when we got down there. Tony was holding a security line and I followed him while looking around for shells. He got a nice Conus patricius, I found some Olivas, but collecting was very poor. And guess what else was down there? Yes, isopod crustaceans!

On the next day, Tony found on the map a rocky reef pointing from a beach to the bay; we found it after a few minutes and anchored near it. This was a much nicer and cleaner place, mostly because of the huge rocks and the clean current which made the best diving of the trip. I found some small rocks, many shells and using the hand dredge once more found lots of Olivellas. When I got back to show my findings to Tony I opened my collecting bag and emptied it in a bowl - Tony saw one Persicula phrygia which he was trying to find since he got there! Now he was very excited to dive too so we had our lunch and got back into the water. He took another hand dredge and we stayed for a couple hours trying to get more. He got two and I got one.

It was time to cross the gulf so I would be near Golfito to come back home. We anchored in another place near Golfito's entrance which seemed OK. The drop-off was very near the shore, a rocky wall but since the sea was calm we did not worry. Tony was tired and I wanted to do my last dive so I took off from the boat without the dinghy. The depth was about 10-15 meters, the water was a bit colder too. I found several nice Conus princeps there, among other things. My air was running out and since it was not really shallow I thought it was time to go up and inflate my BC. When I got there, the sea had changed and rough waves were hitting the rocks behind me. I dove far from the boat and had no air to go under water, so I started swimming back against the waves - it looked closer than it really was and took all my strength to get there. The boat now was way closer to the rocks so Tony fired up the engines and we found our way to Golfito.

My flight was in the afternoon of the next day, so I had to wash and dry the diving gear, pack all the shells, have dinner and some rest before my long way back to home. Tony went with me to the airport, invited me to another future trip and said goodbye. After "only" two hours delay, I was flying to San Jose and from there ready to go back home....

P.S. Back in Brazil I put the battery back in the camera and it worked! It seems it had a "Microsoft Windows" moment, you know, when your computer hangs, and you just have to turn it off and on again and it works again with no reasonable explanation!

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