Today is Portugal day and we arrived very early in the morning to Corvo island. The pear does not have the capacity to receive the Santa Maria Manuela ship, so we have anchored near the shore. Shortly after we dropped the anchor we were invaded by grey triggerfish and jacks that were looking for the boat’s shadow.
Before 10:00 am, the leaders of the expedition, Emanuel Gonçalves of the Oceano Azul Foundation and Paul Rose of the National Geographic Pristine Seas, the CEO of the Oceano Azul Foundation, Tiago Pitta e Cunha, who was with us four days, , Pedro Afonso and Jorge Fontes, and the Commander of Santa Maria Manuela boarded rigid-inflatable boat to go to Vila do Corvo. Objective: to celebrate the Day of Portugal with more than 20 young “Corvinos” and their teachers. We were impressed with the reception, on a Sunday, by so many people. We went to the village school where we were presenting the expedition and its objectives. Beyond the sympathy of all, children and adults, happiness and thirst for learning were notorious in their eyes. Especially when the Commander of Santa Maria Manuela invited them to visit the ship in the afternoon. They gave jumps of joy, teachers and students.
In Portugal we have a popular proverb that means, “those who go to the sea get ready on land” so we stayed in the village, almost until lunchtime, to buy fresh vegetables, those that were on sale – potatoes, cabbage, oranges and pears. A kind lady gave us Portuguese cabbage and lettuce from her garden. Even today, despite the airport and the internet, the population of around 400 people continues to live quite isolated. Everyone has a garden so they do not depend entirely on the fresh products and supplies that come from other islands.
Meanwhile, the scientific, baited cams and media teams were diving around the island.
There will be days of great hustle and bustle.
Days 9, 10 and 11
These days had several goals for the different teams.
Two scientific teams formed by American, Spanish and Portuguese researchers of different institutions were totally dedicated to the census of algae, invertebrates and fish. At first glance, even before analyzing the data collected, the diversity and abundance of fish and the diversity of algae, appeared to be greater than in other places where we have already dived like Flores and the channel between Pico and Faial.
The scientific team of the University of the Azores was focused on marking dusky groupers and blue sharks. The abundance of dusky groupers in the coastal area of Corvo is notorious. Ten years ago Corvo’s fishermen decided to create a voluntary reserve for the protection of this species. Initially because they realized that there was tourist interest in diving and there was a company operating on the site that organized dives with tourists to spot dusky groupers. The company failed but the fishermen, 10 nowadays, continue to preserve this area from fisheries.
Mr. Pereira, a “Picaroto” from birth (native of the Pico island) and “Corvino” of marriage, is a fisherman since he was a young boy. His support for three days was amazing. With his fishing boat and wisdom, he did a big effort to help the scientific team catching dusky groupers for tagging them. After two days of unsuccessful attempts, on the 3rd day (on the 11th day of the expedition) we finally managed to catch two dusky groupers, both female, and put the transmitters on.
Blue sharks, with no luck! Even with the help of the fishermen, we were not able to find them. But we know that they are around because one of our baited scientific cams recorded images of a blue shark.
Four days at Corvo island: 18 divers / scientists, 30 diving spots and 200 dives.
At the end of the 11th day of the expedition (June 13) we sailed away to Flores to explore some areas around the island and adjacent areas, such as “Cachalote” seamount, about 30 miles away.
Photos 1,3,4,14 and 15 by Nuno Sá
Photos 5,6,7,8,13,16,17,18,19,20,21 by Joe Lepore | Waitt Foundation