This is part 2 of a two part blog. Click here to view part 1.
Bay Area artist and waterman, Martin Machado, was invited to sail with a group of artists and scientists to a far off uninhabited atoll in the middle of the Eastern Pacific. Exotic animals and beautiful tranquil scenes. Check it and dream of similar travels.
(photo: Biller) The science folks were diving daily, studying the reef and its inhabitants. This place is historically known as a shark haven. Just a few months before, the dive boat had seen the waters teeming with sharks when they had made a run out to Clipperton, this time we saw practically none. Some blame the fisherman for being well within the boundary they were supposed to keep off the island, some say its natural to see numbers fluctuate. The scientists involved on our trip stressed that it is impossible to say what happened without a proper extended study. I hate talking shit on other commercial fishermen, but the facts show that those large purse seiners are doing irreputable damage to tuna populations as well as for their bi-catch (i.e. sharks).
They say they keep records of this and that they are allowed to catch a certain small amount due to the difficulty of escorting them out with a swimmer. It is not likely that such a legit ship would be taking part in the shark finning trade, but studies show that there are fins coming from the eastern pacific. I'll stop waxing political about it, but please read up on it if you can and avoid eating Tuna if possible or go for line caught Albacore. Or try wild caught Alaskan salmon!
(photo: Beek) Getting anything or anybody onto the island was an insane challenge. There were no channels anywhere and large waves pounded the shallow reef constantly.
(photo: Beek) After damaging an outboard and popping an inflatable on their first landing attempt, we resorted to kayaking everything ashore.
(photo: Machado) It was tough work and you pretty much had a 50/50 chance that a set would come in and smash you on the nearly dry reef that circles the island.
(photo: Machado) I saw some footage of the island from the 80's when Jaques Cousteau came here, so I convinced French Tom to bring one of his surfboards. But we couldn't find anywhere that didn't look like it would smash us to bits.
(photo: Machado) We spent about a week on the island, with constant shuttling gear back and forth from the boats. I honestly don't know how someone didn't die in that surf, the photos don't do it justice, there were some big waves onto shallow reef!
(photo: Beek) Ashore, a tent camp was pitched on the cement foundation of an old base. The island has an insane history involving conflicting nations, pirates, murders, and a whole bunch of marooned people. Its definitely worth looking into if you're a history buff.
(photo: Machado) Sleeping in hammocks under coconuts, not the best idea.
(photo: Machado) The island is covered with these little tough guys
(photo: Machado) Crabs and Boobies for as far as you can see. In the middle of the island is a huge brackish lagoon, which currently is closed off to the sea.
(photo: Naim Rahal)
(photo: Naim Rahal)
(photo: Naim Rahal)
(photo: Machado) These birds were hilarious, totally unafraid of people and not too smart, they would fly into us all the time.
(photo: Naim Rahal)
(photo: Machado) Lots of boats have run aground out here
(photo: Machado) Clipperton Rock, the only elevated area on the island
(photo: Naim) Way back in the day there were Guano collectors here from San Francisco, but turns out this shit is not all that great
There were caves the wind all through the rock, it seemed almost fake, like something out of a pirate movie set
(photo: Machado) The view from the top of the rock
You can see the deep part of the lagoon in the background. Jaques Cousteau did a deep dive to the bottom, nasty acidic water down there.
(photo: Machado) Unfortunately strong currents in the Pacific gyre cover this place with plastic debris
(photo: Machado) The French catching up on their favorite t.v. shows.
(photo: Machado) The sailors collecting goodies, a huge Japanese float! Prize find.
(photo: Beek) Sadly the week came to an end and we packed up all of our gear to head back up to Baja
The Island Seeker took off first, but we switched up crews and I got to try the other sailboat for the sail back
(photo: Machado) We had some adventures on the Pisces on the sail back, broke a forestay, shredded some sails, realized we were without a sat phone, etc. We had a civilized cocktail hour though every day around sunset, with some ingenious concoctions. Because of the compromised rig we couldn't sail upwind anymore, so we limped into Puerto Vallarta, safe and happy after about a week of sailing. For some of the crew it was their first time ever on a boat! A 2,000 mile sail for their first trip, not bad. All in all it was a successful trip though. Artists helped scientists with their field studies, and vice versa. Conversations constantly spun around in three languages and I did my best to follow along.
(photo: Machado) Julie (smiling above) is happy to be pulling into the bay off Puerto Vallarta. Poor Julie was sick nearly the entire time we were at sea!
Since the trip everyone has gone back to their respective parts of the globe, but The Clipperton Project folks have been hard at work organizing events and things. Check out their site for more info and upcoming shows. They are already planning their next excursion to South Georgia Island, one of the least hospitable places in the world. I told you Jon might be mad. Anyways, their current show has been running in Glasgow, Scotland and should continue into October. There is work from many of the participants and they have been holding educational events as well. If you are in Scotland, check it out at The Glasgow Sculpture Studios.
Here are the two large paintings I did on paper, rolled up in a tube, and shipped out to Scotland in June. Both are titled "The Inhabitants of the Waters of Clipperton Atoll"
Thanks for reading and looking at the pics, I hope you enjoyed them. - Martin
For more on Marty Machado, check http://www.martinmachado.com/. Be sure to check his wonderful paintings. He's not just a travel blogger.