DIVING at Capo San Giovanni
Capo San Giovanni at Bova Marina
The story of an underwater itinerary by Francesco Turano, written especially for the Greek Calabria site
Francesco Turano is an underwater photographer, a nature illustrator, underwater guide and author of maps of the seabed and wrecks. The following is his story, and we thank him for the beautiful photographs which we feel we must share with you.
When summer comes around, I usually turn my attention once more to diving sites I have disregarded the rest of the year. These are located mostly on the Ionian coast of the Strait of Messina, where the water is often murky and presents a very poor range of colours. Just before, during and immediately after winter, the lack of visibility does not make scouring these underwater environments very pleasing. Reefs bordering on mud and sand suffer from the impact of the water carried down to the sea by the many rivers and streams descending from the Aspromonte massif. When it rains, they transport all kinds of detritus with them, including waste that is not always biodegradable, down to the sea, muddying the water for several days. When the fine season arrives, the sea grows calm and the rivers reduce their activity due to the seasonal change in the weather; the now clear water makes visiting some very particular environments inviting, despite, as I said before, their lack of chromatic variation.
Another reason urges me to devote myself to the Ionian Sea in summer, that is, the fact that the area is relatively deserted and not overly frequented by bathers. On the Tyrrhenian coast, on the contrary, localities like Scilla or others in the same vicinity, are besieged by tourists and lovers of the ephemeral, so that, even 40 metres below the water, you can hear the roar of jet skis, crisscrossing above your head. So every year, I await September, when “nothingness” returns and I can resume my normal activities without too much interference.
As I wait, here I am, on the Ionian; at Capo San Giovanni, just north of Bova Marina.
The coast consists of a beautiful stretch of sand. On the beach, near the mouth of one of the many streams from the Aspromonte, the San Pasquale, lie gentle rocky headlands covered in the yellows and greens characteristic of summer vegetation in hot areas. Here it does not look as if the sea is hiding reefs because looking from the outside you might imagine a sandy sea bed. Instead, under the water there are rocks concealing numerous inlets and surprises.
This underwater excursion foresees a deep-sea dive as well as one of only a few metres, in order to examine the two rocky agglomerations this coast presents. Clear calm sea water, usually the case in summer, is rather rare during the rest of the year. So, when conditions permit, I slip down along the steep walls into the deepest blue, drawn by something mysterious and find myself at the foot of the reef at a depth of -56 metres. Here the temperature of the water varies between 25 degrees and 19 C. In the deeper areas currents are nearly always absent. Touching the bottom at the foot of this imposing reef, where the water is clear though horizontally the view is clouded by mud in a permanent state of suspension, provides a really different experience: like landing on the moon … all is silence, wrapped in nothingness.
I really enjoy these moments, despite the fact that there is little life down here. I usually examine the rocky reef on my way back up to the surface, little by little, focusing on the calm swimming style of the pink damselfish. Different species of sponges have chosen their favourite nooks among the rocks: the Petrosia ficiformis, with its wine-red, almost purple colour and its texture almost rigid to the touch is, of all those residing down here, the largest and most widespread.
I have happened to see, nestling between these grey stones, some very rare, young specimens of black grouper and serranida, a lover of the deep, which, only when very young reveals itself, though very rarely, to the diver who observes the environment with the utmost care and attention.
Once the place was the habitat of sea cicadas and lobsters; now you see one every blue moon. Even the dusky groupers have dwindled in number and the few present have become shrewd and live in particularly safe crannies. Then we have the inquisitive golden grouper. This reef has always been the realm of the octopus which had chosen this place as their springtime hatching ground, totally unaware of that danger called “man”. I hardly ever take photos down here, just when the rare occasion crops up, and, after a few seconds, I swim to the shallower reef so as to avoid creating too much decompression.
I am accustomed to using the air that remains at my disposal to observe the marine life along the shore-side reef, full of nooks and crannies, at a depth from between eight and fifteen metres. There are many octopus hideaways, mostly empty because of continuous plundering by unscrupulous divers. When I see those stones carefully arranged in front of an abandoned haunt, I always think of those who go under water only to poach, to seize whatever they can, without knowing or thinking of what they are doing. The empty retreats of the octopus, which reproduce in summer, are really unbearable to see. During my excursion through these evocative underwater meanders, amid the rock crevices, I always see numerous beautiful fiery red cardinal fish, in schools, motionless in the twilight barely touched by the sun’s rays; with the help of a flashlight you see the males with eggs in their mouths…
The spectacle is further enriched by the lush posidonia [sea grass] carpet; where the leaves give way to vast clearings we can witness the picarel mating in the spring, a truly extraordinary event. A frantic bustle of fish moves around the nests they have built on the bottom of the sea, with males showing their beautiful liveries off when seeking a mate, creates, in a mere ten metres of water, amazing dances of silvery fish with shades of green and blue. In this case, photography cannot do justice to the scene: it would be necessary to shoot a series of films. Several times, however, only my mind has succeeded in creating these films and, if I wished to tell you what I saw, I would not be able to find the appropriate words.
Membro del Gravity Zero Diving Team, è fotografo subacqueo, illustratore naturalista, accompagnatore subacqueo e autore di mappe dei fondali marini e dei relitti. Ha iniziato a fotografare sott’acqua in Mediterraneo nel 1984, e dall’inizio degli anni novanta le sue immagini e i suoi disegni sono apparsi su riviste (Oasis, Bell’Italia, Aqva, Sub, Il Subacqueo e molte altre), libri ed enciclopedie e sono state premiate in numerosi concorsi fotografici di prestigio (tra cui anche il Festival di Antibes). Socio di associazioni culturali e promotore di iniziative legate sempre alla salvaguardia del territorio e alla difesa del mare, ha organizzato manifestazioni ed eventi, mostre fotografiche e curato corsi di fotografia naturalistica. Ha inoltre svolto più volte un ruolo importante, in qualità di esperto, nel contesto di molti progetti di educazione ambientale. Da fotoreporter naturalista ha scritto numerosi articoli di biologia marina e turismo naturalistico, collaborando stabilmente con Sublandia e occasionalmente con altri siti e portali internet. Autore di numerose pubblicazioni, tra cui “Viaggio in fondo allo Stretto”, “Sott’acqua in Mediterraneo” con Gianni Neto, “Enciclopedia Illustrata degli Invertebrati Marini” con Francesco Costa, e “Calabria, Mediterrane o sconosciuto” (grande volume fotografico), dedica molte ore all’anno all’osservazione diretta e alla ripresa, in ogni condizione, della fauna marina mediterranea; in 25 anni di intensa attività ha realizzato un archivio con oltre 50.000 immagini (diapositive) subacquee relative al solo Mediterraneo (oltre le foto realizzate in altri mari), ed è partito con l’archivio digitale che vanta già diverse migliaia di scatti. Per fotografare ha utilizzato sia il sistema Nikonos, del quale è stato sostenitore, sia diversi scafandri (prima Pentax LX in custodia Aquatica e poi Nikon F4 in custodia Nexus). Attualmente utilizza reflex Fuji S5 in custodia Sea&Sea, dopo aver fatto una serie di prove, mentre all’asciutto il sistema Nikon. Ha disegnato una gran quantità di fondali e punti d’immersione del Mediterraneo per conto di diversi diving center, fornendo validi supporti per il turismo subacqueo. Mentre sono in preparazione altri libri legati al mare, l’autore è impegnato in nuovi progetti di educazione all’ambiente e in un costante monitoraggio dei fondali e degli ambienti sommersi del Mediterraneo in generale e dello Stretto di Messina in particolare. Il suo lavoro è oggi fotografia, disegno, editoria, escursioni, immersioni guidate ed ecoartigianato; il tutto condensato in una libera professione che ha come riferimento lo studio “Fotografando”, a Reggio Calabria (www.francescoturano.it).