San Diego Natural History Museum--Your Nature ConnectionSDNHM Biodiversity Research Center of the Californias
Agua Verde–Punta Mechudo Binational Expedition

Binational Expedition to Agua Verde and Punta MechudoDAY THREE
Friday, November 7, 2003

Ensenada Blanca, Baja California (Map location 2)
Transmitted from camp by an Apple computer hooked to a Qualcomm/GlobalstarUSA satellite phone.

Ensenada Blanca

Ensenada Blanca is located about 22 miles south of Loreto along the Gulf of California coastline. It isnít a bad place to have to wait around for the expedition teams to arrive. The Sierra de La Giganta make for a nice backdrop and the view of Isla Danzante is front and center over the water. We were able to unload our gear onto the beach and everyone is now accounted for, including the KPBS crew. Our boats arrived and we began staging our equipment forward, by sending two pangas to the first base-camp at Los Dolores.

While waiting for everyone to arrive, Team Botany got a chance to go on a short hike to the east side of Ensenada Blanca. During the hike, they discovered a population of Brickellia megaphylla which is only known from a couple of populations near Loreto and Cerro Mechudo. This is a rare find of a narrowly endemic plant species. We selectively collected a few other uncommon species from the region, documenting them for the first time at this location.

Zebra-tailed lizard, © 2003 Mark Bratton Montanagrizzlies_2000@yahoo.comThe Herpetologists kept busy hiking as well. Their find of the day was a Baja California Coachwhip snake (Masticophis fuliginosus) hunting the numerous Zebra-tailed lizards (Callisaurus draconoides). This Baja endemic is a diurnal hunter that is fast and aggressive. It is characterized by having a large eye and slender, agile body.

While snorkeling off of Ensenada Blanca, Paticia Beller had a chance to observe a number of fish species. Of special interest was the blue with white-banded juvenile Holacanthus zonipectus. The juvenile of this species is rarely seen in this region of the Gulf of California.

Our departure for Los Dolores is scheduled for 7:00am which includes preparation of gear and loading the boats before this. So, Iíll have to leave it at that. Time for bed.

Bradford Hollingsworth
Expedition Coordinator
From Ensenada Blanca at 11:15pm

Jan Emming and Mike White unloading the van at Ensenada Blanca.
Jan Emming and Mike White unloading the van at Ensenada Blanca.

Ensenada Blanca Assembly Area.
Ensenada Blanca Assembly Area.

Jon Rebman with rare Brickellia megaphylla .
Jon Rebman with rare Brickellia megaphylla.

Baja California Coachwhip ( Masticophis fuliginosus) snake seen at Ensenada Blanca.
Baja California Coachwhip (Masticophis fuliginosus) snake seen at Ensenada Blanca.

Saturday, November 8, 2003

Ensenada Blanca to Los Dolores, Baja California (Map location 3)
Transmitted from camp by an Apple computer hooked to a Qualcomm/GlobalstarUSA satellite phone.

All Aboard the Pez Sapo

Pez Sapo at Ensenada Blanca
Pez Sapo at Ensenada Blanca.

Making decisions abroad the Pez Sapo
Making decisions abroad the Pez Sapo.

Dolphins bow-riding as we approach Los Dolores
Dolphins bow-riding as we approach Los Dolores.

Unloading the pangas at Los Dolores base-camp.
Unloading the pangas at Los Dolores base-camp.

It was long day! Our challenge today was to travel 60 miles to the south by boat along the Baja California coastline. Destination Los Dolores: a remote valley, inaccessible by car, and site of our first base-camp. Plain and simple, traveling by boat with 35 people and their gear is a tiring exercise. We woke up before sunrise to pack our gear, loaded the pangas by 7:30am, and shuttled people and equipment to the Pez Sapo. While she still floats, the Pez Sapo doesnít motor like she used to. Our trip south started smoothly, albeit slowly.

Trouble arose when a north wind started blowing and the sea became choppy. Landing on a north-facing beach would be troublesome if the seas became too rough. Three hours into the trip and only 30 miles completed, the Pez Sapo and her crew had had enough and turned towards Santa Marta for refuge and decision making. The crew wanted to put us ashore at Santa Marta and shuttle us to Los Dolores over the course of the week in smaller pangas. This put us in the difficult position of having to establish two base-camps when we had only planned for one. After some quick negotiating and a little persistence, the crew of the Pez Sapo was convinced to motor onward; Los Dolores it would be.

Another three hours and finally our journey was complete. Excitement came across the expedition as Los Dolores came into view and the dolphins guided us in. The expedition could at last begin. Los Dolores is a wide arroyo facing eastward from the Sierra de La Giganta. The north wind made landing on the beach troublesome only because the crew dropped us off in a quiet cove two miles from the area we wanted to use for base-camp. We hiked the rest of the way in, while the gear was shuttled in through the rougher surf.

Base-camp was set up within three hours and our cook started to make the first hot meal from a fully functional kitchen. Shade tarps, screen-tents, bathrooms, and showers were put together, specimen prepping gear was sorted and moved to individual tents where tables were erected.

We had made it after two hours of packing in the morning, six hours in the boat, one hour unloading the boats, and three hours setting up the camp. Itís time to go to work!

Bradford Hollingsworth
Expedition Coordinator
From camp at 10:30pm

Zebra-tailed lizard photo © 2003 Mark Bratton;
All other photos by Bradford Hollingsworth

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