Meeting the mythical guardian of Atol das Rocas
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Although we can't see the whole island from here, the view from the ship
suggests Atol das Rocas is a fairly desolate place.
||Learn more about the noted scientist at the center of the Brazil shark mission...
Breaking language barriers, team memebers from Brazil, Denmark
and the U.S. organize netting that will help to capture and detain some of
the smaller lemon sharks.
CLICK HERE to learn more about @Sea correspondent, Mark Carroll.
DISPATCH 03: The Mysterious 'Island Lady'
@Sea correspondent/photographer, Mark Carroll
9:32am, March 13 -- Last night's impromptu attempt to capture lemon sharks at the seamount uncovered nothing. "I
think we made a mistake heading out last night," said mission leader and cheif scientist, Dr. Sam Gruber, at a morning
meeting in the ship's conference room. "We have plenty of time here. No
need to rush it."
Then again, we couldn't rush it, even if we wanted to. The Brazilian
authorities that protect the atoll's marine sanctuary, in this case a
solitary woman that lives on the island, wanted to meet us face-to-face
before allowing access.
Just a few minutes ago we dropped anchor at Atol das Rocas. From our vantage point, the atoll's strip of sand
offered no more than a few trees and brilliant, brilliant blue water.
Frigate birds flew overhead while other sea birds -- masked boobies and
assorted terns -- glided over the wave tops, circled the boat, then
retreated to the horizon. The island's point, a mile from our ship, looked
to have some surfable breakers. I guess I won't be doing any surfing, though, because there'
s no board onboard, and I can't surf.
Only sketchy details about Atol das Rocas's lone resident surfaced before our departure from
Natal yesterday. It seems she is an enigma to the locals. Onboard, stories
about the mysterious 'island lady' abounded. One crew member recounted a
story he had been told of a beautiful Brazilian that lived off the bounty of
the sea. Another mythical tale told of a mermaid that aggressively
protected the island -- with deadly force, if necessary.
12:15pm, onboard the SEWARD JOHNSON -- Anticipation ran high as a small
skiff approached carrying the island's protector and the answers to our
questions (it was also the first boat we had seen since losing sight of
land). When the mysterious woman stepped aboard our research vessel, she
was promptly surrounded by an excessively curious crew. She seemed normal
and friendly, but unnerved by our eager reception. In translated
Portuguese, she half-jokingly announced, "I should have brought my gun."
She was neither siren nor mermaid, but she did have power over our
expedition. At the meeting, it was declared that no more than ten people
would be allowed on the island. And, although we already have an observing
Brazilian Navy officer onboard, we also had to make room for Brazilian
monitors on our smaller boats, in order to insure the safety of the animals.
2:08pm -- With these (un)pleasantries out of the way, work continued.
Yesterday was dedicated to preparation; today was dedicated to trials.
Several of the smaller boats were launched from the deck of the SEWARD
JOHNSON to test their sea-worthiness. Seeing as they didn't sink, a small
contingent loaded one boat with nets and lines and hooks and headed to
the beach to establish a base camp of sorts, a staging area for much of the
gear that will be needed in the atoll's lagoon.
10:24pm -- Even as much of the team relaxes in the other room, no one can
let the project go. Conversations inevitably turn to the expedition and
preparations for tomorrow. Morale is high, but the crew seems to be anxious
to get to the heart of the expedition -- to interact with the lemon shark.
First, we have to see if there are indeed sharks at Atol das Rocas.