San Marcos Island and Santa Rosalía

Mar 28, 2018 - National Geographic Sea Lion


Today we started exploring the beautiful San Marcos Island, located fairly close to the peninsula. San Marcos is one of the few islands in the Sea of Cortez with a resident human population. Yes, there is a gypsum mine near its southern end and a small company town of less than five hundred people live there. However, today we concentrated in the wilder part of the island and divided to explore its shoreline using our expedition landing craft and to hiking its desert arroyos. Those that decided to do the first enjoyed some nice views of some of the bird species that make a living out of the sea, including brown pelicans, Hermann’s gulls and even a belted kingfisher. Meanwhile the hikers had the chance to admire up-close and personal many of the desert plants including the desert lavender, the old-man cactus and the copal tree and enjoyed the rare privilege of listening to the absolute stillness and quietness of the desert.

Once we all came back on board for lunch, the National Geographic Sea Lion made her way to the town of Santa Rosalía, just a few miles to the northwest.  We entered the century-old harbor and went ashore to explore Santa Rosalía, founded in 1888 as a company town by the French “El Boleo” copper mine. The mine operated for 54 years using the top technology at the time, most importantly electricity. Several generators provided energy for drilling, pumping, pulling and pretty much everything else, making El Boleo a very efficient operation. Today there is still plenty of evidence of those times and we explored the old part of town where the workers and the French managers lived; we walked uphill to the veranda of the gorgeous Hotel Francés for some refreshing beer, margaritas and guacamole, making the perfect ending of a very interesting day.

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About the Author

Carlos Navarro

Undersea Specialist

Carlos J. Navarro is a biochemist specializing in marine biology, a M. Sc. in Environmental Management and a freelance wildlife photographer/author. Carlos has spent most of the last 30 years living along the shores of the Sea of Cortez and participating in numerous scientific, conservation and environmental education projects on the vaquita, marine invertebrates, sea birds, great white sharks, baleen whales, jaguars and crocodiles. Carlos’ six years of jaguar research provided the basis of ONCA MAYA, a non-profit organization dedicated to jaguar conservation based in Cancun, of which he is a founding member and still serves as a scientific advisor. He loves being underwater, either free-diving or using SCUBA gear and have had the chance to explore the underwater realms of Alaska, Mexico, Svalbard, the trans-Atlantic ridge islands, the Caribbean and both coasts of South America from Panama to Chile and Brazil to Argentina. 

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