After sailing north throughout the night, National Geographic Venture started a new day sailing past San Ildefonso Island. A fairly strong green flash rewarded those of us who eagerly waited for sunrise. That marvelous and elusive optical phenomenon is not uncommon in the clean, pristine skies of the Sea of Cortez, and many nonbelievers have been converted here.

We spent the morning at sea and had a great time with a large group of long-beaked common dolphins that traveled alongside the ship for half an hour or more. Several dolphins were bow-riding the pressure wave in front of the vessel, and more traveled parallel to us, giving photographers plenty of excellent opportunities to take their picture. I wish I had fifty cents for every picture taken on the ship today! Long-beaked common dolphins are possibly the most abundant cetaceans in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez and one of the most gregarious ones, oftentimes forming groups of several hundreds or even thousands. They are always on the move and looking for the small schooling fish that they feed on, mostly sardines and anchovies.

Eventually we parted ways with the dolphins and continued on our way to San Marcos Island. We stopped for Zodiac rides and saw a good variety of birds along the dry shoreline, including ospreys, red-tailed hawks, blue-footed boobies, brown pelicans, yellow-footed gulls, and a surprisingly large number of nesting great blue herons. Eventually, we arrived to the town of Santa Rosalía, which was founded in 1888 as a company town by a French mining company named El Boleo Mining Co. For sixty-nine years, the company extracted copper from the area. El Boleo was a very important company and used the most advanced technology. They used electricity, a new commodity at the time, for most of the mining processes, including ventilation, pumping, drilling, melting, and pulling. A variety of people worked at the mines, but the French managers gave Santa Rosalía a very distinctive flavor. The old buildings that still stand downtown show an undeniable French style that is very unique in Mexico. We spent the night to get ready to continue our exploration of the wonderful peninsula of Baja California the following morning.

Photo caption and photographer: Long-beaked common dolphin swimming alongside National Geographic Venture. Photo by Carlos Navarro