Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dispatches from Djibouti #7: The end of the expedition

Seeming all too quickly, the 2010 Djibouti Whale Shark Expedition was coming to an end, two weeks of intense whale shark activity but a lot of fun as well. The last night aboard was a celebratory affair as always, with the activities being recorded by a seemingly robotic camera that ‘Mr. Gadget’ Hussain had unleashed for the evening.

The team on the last night aboard Deli captured by Mr. Gadget's robotic camera...

The following morning was a bit more subdued but everybody pitched in for the final whale shark session and were rewarded with a real flurry of sharks, many of which were ram-feeding to the delight of the photographers.

Ram feeding shark on the last morning, photo Hussain

There were however some reminders about the vulnerability of this aggregation as one particular shark displayed a series of fifteen propeller cuts along his right side.... this group of sharks is known to exhibit more scars than are found in any other known aggregation and remains a great concern to its long term viability.

A nasty set of propellor cuts was a reminder of these sharks vulnerability, photo Luis
The morning session completed, everyone set to the task of packing their gear away for the trip back to Djibouti. One final group photo on the front deck of Deli brought together the whole week two team, the crew and the expedition’s supporters from Djibouti and then it was time to leave.

Boarding the ‘magic bus’ which transferred us to the hotel signalled not only a return to land, which felt pretty strange to a lot of people, but also the start of a little post expedition trip to Lac Assal, apparently the lowest lake on the planet.

This allowed people to put the area of the expedition into a bit more of a geographical context as the bus trip across the rugged, parched mountains took us past deep ravines to the shores of the Ghoubet with its remarkable volcanic plugs and lava flows, where we had been working just a few days before.

Following the great rift further inland we first stopped at one of many fumeroles where the hot sulphurous air escaped from the earth’s core below, before we arrived at the great salt perimeter of Lac Assal.

Abi & Laetitia peer into a fumerole....not sure about the wisdom of sticking you head into a volcanic vent but there you go...

Here local artisan’s scour the area for geodes and Gypsum and salt crystals to sell to the few visitors that make it to this remote area.... they also do a nice line in salt encrusted goat and antelope skulls if you’re into that sort of thing! Not sure how well that would look on a mantle-piece in London!

Salt crystal skulls anyone?

And then it was done... The 2010 Djibouti Whale Shark Expedition was over . For the next few days the group waving farewell at the hotel got smaller and smaller as the participants flew off to their homes or next adventures, from Paris to Bangkok, Manchester to Seychelles, Mauritius to Kuwait and a whole list of places in between...

Meanwhile plans are already being made for Djibouti 2011..... What are you going to be doing for the first two weeks of January 2011.... fancy checking out a few whale sharks?

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