September 30, 2013

Expedition 8/29-9/4/2013

The expedition scheduled for the end of August was multifaceted and logistically VERY complicated. There were 4 groups involved, each with a slightly different objective.

Group 1: Scripps Institute came back down to deploy the remaining Manta satellite tag which had been repaired and was ready to go. The Scripps group was to be comprised of Dr. Exequiel Ezcurra (Director of UC-Mexus), Dr. Luis FueyoMc Donald (Commisioner of CONANP…Natural Protected Areas in Mexico), Dr. Octavio Aburto-Oropeza ( Research Scientist for Scripps Institute) and Josh Stewart (PHD Undergrad Sudent at Scripps Institute). Unfortunately last minute complications prohibited Drs. Fueyo and Ezcurra from travelling.

Group 2: Grupo Cleofas was comprised of Greg Alker (Director of Grupo Cleofas) and Nicholas Alker (Photographer) whose mission was to provide logistic support for all groups involved and photograph activities both on land and in the water.

Group 3: GOPRO was comprised of GOPRO CEO Nicholas Woodman, and six other employees in the company with various technical, promotional and support roles. The majority of these employees had been with the company since its inception and were long time friends of Mr. Woodman. Their mission was to complete an interview with Anderson Cooper of 60 Minutes, which had been started at the corporate offices in San Francisco, but the producers wanted to capture the GOPRO team surfing and just having fun as the concept of the waterproof camera had evolved from a “surf” oriented beginning. The idea was to accompany the Scripps team to Cleofas Island to hunt for the Giant Manta and hopefully tag one on camera with Anderson Cooper in the water. Nicholas Woodman was very generous and donated the funds for the vessel for the Scripps and Cleofas teams to go on the expedition.

Group 4: 60 Minutes arrived in Puerto Vallarta on Thursday, August 29th and was comprised of Joyce Geshundheit (Producer), David Schneider, (Producer), Dustin Eddo (Sound Tech), John DeTessario (Cameraman), and Chris Albert (Cameraman). Unfortunately, due to the nerve gas situation in Syria, Anderson Coopers’ (60 Minutes Interviewer) arrival planned for Friday PM was postponed until Saturday PM. As stated their mission was to complete the GOPRO interview on location as well as film the Manta tagging process.

All groups met at a private residence in Punta Mita for dinner to get organized for the days ahead, plans were solidified and we retired for the evening. Since Friday was a day mainly dedicated to preparation for the trip to Cleofas Island. Camera gear was checked and the drone to fly the GOPRO camera was tested. Chris Albert (60 Minutes) took out his still camera for a test in its Ikelite water housing only to have the o ring fail and destroy the camera. Josh Stewart and Octavio Aburto checked all their dive and tagging gear and we readied our provisions (for two days) for an early AM departure from the St. Regis Hotel. On Saturday, August 31 2013 we transferred all the gear into the 3 vessels and departed around 5AM. We arrived at Cleofas Island approximately 8AM and immediately off loaded the camera crew which, with some difficulty, got to shore and set up the video camera in a good location. The GOPRO team were wearing waterproof microphones and were recorded while surfing. Octavio and Josh dove a nearby reef looking for Mantas, but none were found. Greg and Nick Alker hiked up an arroyo on the island, encountering a variety of bird and reptiles, which were photographed for identification at a later date. The day went well and the 60 Minutes crew decided to return to Punta Mita for the arrival of Andersen Cooper and were to return the following (Sunday) morning. Unfortunately, there were some mechanical issues that prohibited that vessel from returning and by the time another vessel was hired it was too late to make it out in time to dive. We returned, at approximately 6PM and the GOPRO interview was done on land at a private residence. It was unfortunate that we did not encounter the Mantas at the island, but we were not discouraged and planned to go out on Tuesday, September 3, 2013. Grupo Cleofas was unable to attend the Tuesday tagging expedition, but we did fund it. The team encountered a group of Mantas again on the east part of the bay, but again the tag tether broke upon deployment. We notified Wildlife Computers (the manufacturer) who were very apologetic and responded by giving us 2 new tags as well as repairing the broken one. This was a $10,000 “gift” although actually was just/fair compensation for our lost time and effort. Grupo Cleofas returned home on the 4th of September, while Josh and Octavio stayed for meetings until the 6th.

Even though Mantas were not tagged on this trip, strategic alliances were either strengthened or newly formed between Scripps, GOPRO, 60 Minutes Producers (who are now aware of the Manta and Tres Marias Projects), Punta Mita Expeditions, and Grupo Cleofas. At present we are engaged in discussions of leasing the Royal Pelagic for further expeditions beginning in November.

Much thanks and appreciation to Drs. Exequiel Ezcurra and Octavio Aburto for coordinating the permits. Also, to SEGOB, SEMARNAT, and CONANP our deepest thanks and appreciation for allowing access to the Tres Marias and Mariettas Islands.

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Contact Information

Grupo Cleofas

19 Hollister Ranch
Gaviota, CA 93117

Greg Alker, Director