Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cabo San Lucas, August 2010 - Part 4

Divers hanging on the anchor line in strong current at Gordo Bank.  Photo taken at about 80 ft.
Divers hanging on the anchor line in strong current at Gordo Bank. Photo taken at about 80 ft.


Gordo Bank (advanced dive site)

Gordo Bank called to me when I read the description. The chance to see schooling hammerhead sharks, schools of tuna and the possibility to see large mantas or whale sharks. Gordo Bank is about an hours boat ride from Cabo San Lucas. It is located north of San Jose del Cabo in the Sea of Cortez. The dive site is a pinnacle in the middle of the Sea of Cortez that comes up to about 120 ft below the surace. There can be strong currents - like the day we dove there. Gordo Bank is an advanced dive site and is recommended for more experienced divers only. Kevin, one of the owners of Amigos del Mar dive shop, advised me that August was not the best time of year to dive Gordo. Even though I didn't come back with any good photos to share, I'm still glad I experienced it.

School of Panamic porkfish (Anisotremus taeniatus) at Cabo Pulmo
School of Panamic porkfish (Anisotremus taeniatus) at Cabo Pulmo

We did two dives with an anchor line down to the pinnacle. The current was strong enough that we needed to use a granny line to get to the anchor line at the front of the boat. I was glad to have a good surface marker buoy (SMB) and jon line for these dives. If anyone had lost their grip on the anchor line, they would quickly drift out of site of the boat. As we descended for the first dive, I followed the dive guide down the line to about 70 feet. The current was ripping and I was glad to have gloves on. As we got below 70 feet, the anchor line suddenly jerked as the anchor broke free of the pinnacle and the temperature dropped dramatically, causing me to sharply inhale. We hung on as we briefly swung free in the current until it caught again. I continued down to about 90 feet, while the dive guide pulled himself down the line to make sure the anchor was set. The top of the pinnacle was just visible from 90 feet. Later he shared that the anchor was at 140 feet. From 90 ft, we could make out schooling hammerheads in the distance. A group of them was herding a school of tuna. Unfortunately, they were too far away to photograph and they kept phasing in and out of our visibility. As we ascended up to above 50 ft, jellyfish and small siphonophores drifted quickly by in the current. Also drifting by was excrement from both the hammerheads and tuna. We were downwind from a lot of fish.

A school of jacks at Cabo Pulmo.
A school of jacks at Cabo Pulmo.

The other two divers almost didn't join us on the second dive. They were newer divers and were a bit nervous because of the current and a little sea sick from the large swells. They also didn't have an SMB or even gloves. I decided to switch to macro for the second dive in the hopes of photographing the passing jellys. On the second dive, the current was still strong, but as fate would have it, the tuna came closer. We also saw some hammerheads closer, but they were well below us in the dark. I didn't go as deep, trying to stay within the range where the jellys were. I used my jon line to hook into the anchor line so that my hands were free to use the camera. I tried, unsuccessfully, to photograph the jellyfish and siphonophores as they passed by. Right about the time I was get the camera focused to the right range, they would be floating passed me. It was quite an experience and I would like to try it again during the right time of year when visibility is better and the sharks are more numerous.