National Geographic Undertakes Science Expedition to the Gulf of California

Gulf of California seen from space. Photograph courtesy of NASA.

Sea lions, whales (blue and humpback), bull sharks, whale sharks, dolphins and sea snakes were among the abundance of marine life observed by the National Geographic Committee for Research and Exploration (CRE) on its 2016 field inspection, which ended yesterday at the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula.

The CRE expedition aboard the cruise ship National Geographic Sea Bird sailed for seven days through the desert islands of Mexico’s legendary Gulf of California. Some 70 scientists, grantees, and National Geographic staff were shown around by Sven-Olof Lindblad, President of Lindblad Expeditions, which serves as the marine platform for National Geographic Expeditions. (Read an interview with Sven Lindblad about the Lindblad-National Geographic partnership and its dedication to sustainability and conservation in the world’s moat iconic travel destinations.) He was assisted by Mexican naturalists, including from several conservation groups with active programs in the region.

Gulf of California seen from space. Photograph courtesy of NASA.

Large numbers of pelicans, turkey vultures, and a vibrant breeding colony of frigates were noted with appreciation by the CRE. Among the land animals recorded was the seldom-seen Santa Catalina Rattlesnake, the only species of rattlesnake that does not have a rattle, having lost it in evolutionary isolation on Santa Catalina island.

Santa Catalina Rattlesnake. Photograph by David Braun.
Santa Catalina Rattlesnake. Photograph by David Braun.
Photograph by David Braun/National Geographic
Photograph by David Braun

For the botanists in the group, a daily and impressive feature of the expedition was the ubiquitous Mexican giant cardon cactus, which routinely grows to 20 feet or higher. The islands may be challenged for water, but they are covered with desert plants that thrive and provide shelter and sustenance for numerous animal species.

Highlights for scientists most interested in the distant past included a visit —> Read More

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