The Ranger is here! She arrived yesterday. Everything has been crazy since -- people running around buying supplies, fixing engines, finding old friends -- and we're leaving for Cocos tonight. I'm more excited than I can write.
We (Xavier, myself, and some of the MarViva crew) went out to meet the Ranger yesterday morning in one of MarViva's boats. We were up at 5:30 and on the water by 6:00, coasting towards the Golfo Dulce through a morning fog. For fifteen minutes or so we had two dolphin escorts riding under our bow.
We met the Ranger near the mouth of the gulf. What a beautiful boat! She appeared on the horizon; we passed the binoculars back and forth until there was no doubt -- her white pontoons were bright against the water, and the Oceana logo was clear against the white. The crew were all on deck, grinning and waving, taking pictures of us taking pictures of them. When we pulled the MarViva launch alongside the larger boat there was a happy chaos of hugs and introductions.
Xavier has been in touch with the Ranger crew; they are nearby and should arrive in Golfito tonight.
We have been working closely with the staff of MarViva to prepare for the trip to Cocos Island. Some background on MarViva: The organization was created in 2002 to enforce protection in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Conservation Corridor (a string of five islands that includes Cocos, off Costa Rica; Coiba, off Panama; Malpelo and Gorgona islands, of Columbia; and the famous Galapagos of Ecuador) and throughout the Meso-American reef system, which runs from the Caribbean coast of Mexico to Honduras. Both areas are extraordinary. The islands that make up the Marine Conservation Corridor, on the Pacific side, all belong to the same geologic formation -- a ring of heightened seafloor that looks like a mountain ring on a topographical map. Because of the magnetic peculiarities of the area and the many currents that converge here, the corridor is a destination -- and now a haven -- for migratory species like sharks (silky, scalloped hammerhead, Galapagos and whitetip, among others), billfish (swordfish, marlin, sailfish), tuna, endangered sea turtles (leatherback, east Pacific green, olive ridley, loggerhead) and endangered great whales (blue and humpback). The coral reefs by some of the corridor's islands are among the few in the Eastern Tropical Pacific.
So here we are, waiting for the Ranger in Golfito. And waiting keeps us busy. There are arrangements with the marina to be made, communications technology for the boat to be tested, press releases to be sent out. Xavier is on the phone non-stop; I'm trying to learn as much as I can about Golfito, Cocos Island and the water in between before we abandon land and internet connection both.
Golfito ("little gulf") is a very small town on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, just north of the Panamanian border, set on a "sub-gulf" that emerges from the larger Golfo Dulce ("sweet gulf") like a droplet of water from a larger drop. It was born as a banana town: from 1938-1985 Golfito was the southern Costa Rica headquarters of the United Fruit Company -- the much-vilified banana empire notorious for its involvement in the 1954 U.S.-sponsored coup in Guatemala, for widespread repression of workers, and for having economically colonized much of Central America.
Golfito boomed with the banana trade. Trains carried supplies in and bananas out. The town grew along the track and is still one long, narrow strand, nearly all the buildings set along one road. In the old days a train ran here, slowly; people traveled from one end of town to the other by grabbing hold as it passed. The Company -- and people here still refer to it as "la Compañia" -- built a hospital, schools, a pier, and populated "el pueblo civil" with worker houses.
I'm in Golfito. On one side there is jungle; on the other, ocean, and the Ranger should arrive any day. The adventure begins.
The trip to the ocean has been mostly through the air. I took a plane from DC to Miami; from Miami to San Jose; and this morning, in a plane that would fit in my bedroom, from San Jose to here.
Costa Rica is mountainous. From above it looks like wrinkled silk, the peaks clay-colored, the valleys full of a deep green, the ridges veined with dirt roads. I descended into San Jose for a night, and this morning, with Xavier Pastor (director of Oceana Europe), took to the sky again. The plane was no more than an aluminum cocoon -- I think it held 10 of us, tightly -- and I felt as foolish as a deluded butterfly trying to fly cocoon-bound. We at least had wings and we rose, miraculously, up out of the peaks until we were looking down again on the wrinkled land.
It wasn't more than twenty minutes before the ocean appeared at the horizon. It stretched forward to meet us, a smooth panel of electric blue. There was a long band of beach between the forest and the bright, bright sea. I think I will move here.