April, 22

Gombessa 5: Encounter with a sunfish at a depth of 135 m.

On the occasion of the announcement of the upcoming release of the film Planet Mediterranean retracing Gombessa 5 expedition, we asked Laurent Ballesta to share a moment that had inspired him:


“No fish is like the sunfish. If its shape betrays that it is not a great swimmer, it is an excellent diver. Why such daily dives? To meet its two necessities: on the surface, to take the sun, then down on the bottom, on the coralligenous massifs, to benefit from the cleaning fish. UV baths just below the waves, skin care at the bottom, one has the dermatological care one can.

Fifty years ago, there were far fewer sunfish than today. With global warming, jellyfish has proliferated, and now sunfish have more to eat. Food is abundant, yet it is becoming increasingly rare to come across a giant sunfish, which length can be up to 3 m and weight over 2 tons. How come? Because of the deadly collisions with the ever-increasing numbers of boats. It is statistically impossible in the life of a sunfish to avoid crossing the wake of a ship.  Irony of modern times: sunfish are becoming more and more numerous, but their life is shorter…

At a depth of 135 m, this sunfish is serene; moreover, it is looked after: the cleaning wrasse takes great pleasure in eating the many parasites that infest its skin. It must be said that the sunfish is devoid of scales, its skin is fragile, prone to infection and coveted by parasites. The caretaker is at work, this is what will make the sunfish smile again. Far from the circus of the surface, the merry-go-round continues when, on the tip of the flippers, I start to move away. For several days my companions and I have been living at saturation point, now no more in a hurry to go back up. Just for once; I am the one who leaves. It is always easier for who’s leaving.”

Mola mola
©Laurent Ballesta_Gombessa5