Branco: Day 29

In June, scientists Raquel Vasconcelos from CIBIO-InBIO and Aurélien Miralles from the National Museum of Natural History in Paris came to the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco to examine Scinque Géant specimens brought to Monaco from the island of Branco in the Cap Verde archipelago in the early 1900’s by Prince Albert the 1st. This lizard species is said to be extinct but during our time here in Cabo Verde, we hope to be able to find evidence of a live Scinque Géant.

The uninhabited island of Branco has a rough terrain, is very windy, and has only one tiny stretch of beach that disappears at high tide. Because it is a difficult island to get to, let alone spend any amount of time on, there is not much research done there. However, despite the less than ideal conditions, Raquel and Aurélien managed to camp on Branco for 3 nights to collect samples for their research, and looking for evidence of the Scinque Géant.

While we traveled to Branco, we prepared the camping materials in small drums to transport them, and worked with Yersin Captain Jean Dumarais to determine the best way to get ashore with as few people and trips back and forth with the tenders as possible. One of our biggest difficulties with the work Raquel and Aurélien will be doing is that the Yersin needs to travel away from Branco while they are camping. There is no cell service, so we have to leave a satellite phone and have them check in each hour to confirm safety.

We arrived near Branco late in the afternoon and had to work fast to get the team ashore and their camp set up before sundown. The Yersin anchored a few hundred meters off the coast. The tenders took us near the shore, and from the tenders we transferred everything to the small dinghy with the local fisherman to go to the beach. It took 4 trips in total, and on the second trip, a huge wave capsized the small dinghy throwing 5 people and all the equipment into the sea. Luckily we were ok, and recovered everything before the sea carried anything away. We worked quickly to set up camp and do a few interviews before leaving the small team to fend for themselves for a few days.

Branco was quite the adventure. Raquel and Aurélien were able to collect many useful samples, but found no evidence that the giant skink still exists.