Ever jumped off a boat into 3,000m-deep, blue ocean waters, when you’re 2 days away from any form of land? Neither had we until yesterday. No, it wasn’t because we’d had enough of everything and decided to swim home. It was because our boat needed a really good scrubbing (much like her crew at this stage in our journey!).

Photo Credit: eXXpedition & Candy Medusa

As a vessel travels through water, various kinds of wildlife, e.g. algae and barnacles, can attach themselves to the hull, like quiet (and rather problematic) little hitchhikers. These foreign visitors can wreak havoc in fragile habitats like the Galapagos Islands, where many of the species are endemic, meaning they aren’t found anywhere else on Earth. Invasive, non-native species take precious resources like food/nutrient supplies and space within the ecosystem and as a consequence, the indigenous species may be unable to compete and die out. Therefore, it is crucial to avoid inadvertently bringing any non-native species to this environment. SV TravelEdge’s hull is treated with a specialist ‘anti-foul’ coating, which prevents most slime and grime from settling in, so we weren’t expecting to find anything too crazy down there.

The Leg 6 eXXpedition crew were the only crew to purposefully go overboard in the middle of the ocean to perform the important task of cleaning the hull, before we could enter the waters of the Galapagos. This involved several of us, minus life jackets (they self-inflate upon contact with water, which wouldn’t be particularly helpful in this situation!) jumping in to help. With safety line in one hand, cleaning cloth in the other, we scrubbed along the water line of our huge heaving and surging hull. Some of us went deeper, equipped with snorkelling gear, to check for barnacles and inspect the propeller. The remainder stayed on board to keep a head count and watch for sharks (!!!).

Photos Credit: eXXpedition & Hilary Nash

It was actually quite a humbling experience. I (Hilary) got halfway around the other side before it struck me how tired I was and that I was merely a small human in the midst of the open Pacific Ocean with thousands of metres of water below me. I suddenly felt very insignificant and vulnerable in this vast body of raw nature. The realisation was almost overwhelming. Anyway, as it turned out our hull was satisfyingly clean and we all returned on board feeling exhilarated and fortunate to have had this opportunity!

The reality of the situation though, was that our entry to the Galapagos Islands was dependent on getting this job done. Upon our arrival the customs officials wanted to see video evidence of us performing this task, and they even sent a diver down to check. Thankfully, our boat was given a clean bill of health and we were now free to explore the abundant wonders of this precious place. Bring on the sea lions, turtles iguanas, penguins, puffer fish, sharks, finches and blue-footed boobies!

Photo Credit: eXXpedition & Anna Strang