Stories from the Amazon

  • Booby in flight
    A booby flies by the MV Explorer in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Ecuador.

    A Rare Chance to See a Symphony of Life

    People on the MV Explorer were busy. When there was free time, I would go outside and watch the Pacific Ocean pass by as the ship cut through the blue waters. I found the smell of the clean air and the feeling of an endless vista calming.

    As the end of this busy day came to a close, I visited with a fellow presenter on the ship.

    “Tomorrow morning is one of those times you will want to be outside,” said Zeke Jakub, an ornithologist on the ship. “It will be your best chance to see wildlife.”

    There are moments when even though there are multiple things to do, you just find the time to be outside.

    One such time was the next morning off the coast of Ecuador as the ship continued to head south. We already passed the equator and had entered the rich cool waters of the South Pacific.

    On the horizon, I could see occasional small isolated islands or small fishing ships searching the waters. Here we entered the Humboldt Current.

    The Humboldt Current is a cold ocean current that flows north along the western coast of South America. Approximately 18-20 percent of the world’s fish catch comes from the Humboldt Current Large Marine Ecosystem.

    A noted chain of islands called the Galápagos Islands is in the pathway of this special ocean current. The current plays an important role in providing nutrient rich waters to the islands, thus supplying food for the animals that live there.

    Standing at the back of the ship, I began to see an occasional pelican fly by. Following were large flocks of birds in the distance, flying together in formations.

    Pelicans in flight
    A flock of pelicans glide over the waters of the Pacific Ocean off ther coast of Ecuador.

    Twenty minutes later, various species -- some recognizable and others foreign to me -- seemed to fill the sky in every direction.

    Suddenly, that giddy feeling of seeing large flocks of geese or sandhill cranes back in Nebraska came rushing over me.

    I watched in awe as these birds dove into the water for fish. Just above the ocean swells pelicans glided in effortless formation.

    “Wow,” I kept saying out loud, oblivious to anything else around me. The abundance of life just kept increasing.

    A few moments later, the largest pods of dolphins I’ve ever seen jumped through the waters while chasing unseen schools of fish. Some pods surfed the wake created by the MV Explorer; others used the wake to launch themselves into the sky.

    Large pod of dolphins
    A large pod of dolphins surface in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Ecuador.

    “Wow,” was still all I could get out of my mouth. I could feel my heartbeat increase with excitement.

    Then, more pods of dolphins passed by our ship together with larger flocks of pelicans and blue-footed boobies.

    Gliding by in the distance, I recognized a waved albatross flying solo.

    “That’s an albatross,” I said to a man standing next to me.

    “You wish,” he replied.

    Seeing an albatross in the open ocean is somewhat rare. The waved albatross is endangered, mostly due to getting killed by long-line fishing when bait is dragged across the top of the water and the birds become hooked and drown.

    There is a myth that sailors believe it disastrous to shoot or harm an albatross. For me, it is a sign of good luck to spot one.

    I took a photo of the bird flying off in the distance and showed it to the ornithologist. “Yes, that’s a waved albatross,” he later confirmed for me.

    To top it all, on the horizon I spotted sprays of white water shooting straight into the air. “Whales,” someone shouted.

    It was as if nature was playing one huge symphony of life, and all of it was choreographed into this unbelievable movement that left one speechless. It was a perfect moment unrestricted by man.

    As a smile spread across my face, it became so large that it made my cheeks hurt.

    A couple of hours passed, and then all too soon the ship left this display of life behind on the horizon.

    Other duties called. More work was required to prepare for our port of call in Peru.

    But, as I worked, my spirit continued to dance to the symphony of life I had been fortunate to witness. It was a good day.

    Amazon River
    A trio of dolphins jump together in the wake of the MV Explorer in the Pacific Ocean off the coach of Ecuador.

    Fremont Tribune

Copyright © Dean Jacobs 2019. All Rights Reserved.