Ecuador Day 8 – Disaster Aboard the Poseidon

At last our day of scuba diving had come. Over night the engines had cut out at 03:00 and by the time we got up for breakfast the boat was being toed by the two pangas with the hope that the National Park would allow an excursion on North Seymour instead of Santa Cruz. At a speed of 1mph they were hoping to reach the island within an hour though as torrential rain started to fall it was not looking good. The crew had started siphoning fuel from the boat to use in the pangas, so it would only be a question of what gave out first – the waves pushing the boat back or the fuel in the pangas.

At about 09:30 we left the crippled boat behind and boarded a panga that took us over to the diving boat and got kitted up quite quickly. Due to the speed they were helping us at we never really had chance to do proper buddy or buoyancy checks. One of the more worrying things at this point is when my oxygen tank made a loud noise and started spewing air – this actually deafened me for a few seconds.

Panamic Cushion Sea Star (Pentaceraster cumingi)

The first dive lasted about 30 minutes and during it we saw a load if manta rays, eagle rays, and White-tipped sharks amongst many less exciting species such as octopuses. Towards the end of the dive James had about run out of air despite him telling the guide he had 50 bar left. At this point he switched to the dive master’s octopus and started to ascend to the safety stop. As my air was getting low too I ascended with them, and during the 3 minute stop was constantly looking at my air due to it getting closer and closer to 0. Fortunately just as I was about to run out the safety stop was over and I broke the surface with just enough air to put a bit in my BCD to stay afloat. It was nice to have reached my deepest depth yet though – 17.9 metres. This was despite the fact we were told it was a 15 metre shelf.

Whilst waiting for the other divers to come up I started to feel very seasick and vomited several times. Not the best of feelings after a dive – but before that it had been an okay dive. I didn’t bother eating after the dive due to feeling unwell, but after a quick snorkel I decided I was feeling better – at least enough to try diving again.

Razor Surgeonfish (Prionurus laticlavius)

For the second dive we moved location and had about 300 bars to start with. I wasn’t feeling great but diving is supposed to help with seasickness. Unfortunately I felt quite low on energy due to having not had lunch and also had a dry mouth making it hard to equalise properly. On this dive we saw many White-tipped sharks including one that passed about 30cm behind me. By the time we saw a rather large snake and an octopus I was getting quite tired; partly due to the strong current we were swimming against.

The combination of tiredness and having to work harder used our oxygen up quicker than normal and after about 25 minutes James had to use the guides octopus again. Instead if starting ascending immediately as is common practice the guide led James round for a bit pointing out more sea life; in which time my own air had dropped to 50 bars so started to ascend with them. After about a minute safety stop the guides air ran out also so had to cut the safety stop short and make for the surface. On the surface due to lack of air in his own tank the guide had to manually inflate his BCD to stay afloat. If he hadn’t have messed around underwater and had instead started to ascend as is normally recommended we could have had a proper safety stop. I think had me and James been on our own it would have gone a lot smoother.

Once everyone else had returned to the dive boat it took the two of us back to the Gran Poseidon (the registered name for the Galapagos Voyager). It took 3 or 4 attempts to line the front of the boat up with the back of our boat and then had to walk round the bow to jump over onto our boat. During the second dive I hadn’t been able to use my underwater camera, back in our boat I found out why – the housing had leaked.

Upon returning to our boat we found the pangas had gone to get supplies whilst everyone waited on board. In the morning they had gone over to North Seymour instead of Bachas beach and in this time they had still not managed to fix the boats engine. A while later a few people went on an unscheduled snorkel just as something to do, but the other passengers patience was starting to wear thin. I didn’t go on the snorkel due to being too tired from diving, but when we were told we’d be spending the next hour on a sandy beach with nothing but female sea lions I decided to pass. We’d already wasted the previous day doing nothing interesting and visiting beaches, I didn’t really feel like getting burnt and bitten on another beach – I prefer to have something to do.

That evening we were told they’d got a part for the boat that would be fitted by 01:00 the next day and that we’d be continuing to Bachas beach in the morning. This meant we’d be missing Genovesa.


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