The declination of the moon primarily dominates the currents in the San Bernardino Strait. When the moon is nearest the equator, two flood and ebb currents occur each day, but as the moon's declination increases there is an increasing velocity in the flood current and a diminishing velocity in the ebb. At the moon's maximum declination, North or South of the equator, the diurnal difference in the ebb current is so great that one ebb entirely disappears and there occurs only but one flood and ebb current in a day. It will be noted that during this time, the flood lasts for the longer time of the day and is of varying strength.
Current Flow in the General Area of Naranjo Islands
The North Equatorial Current approaches the Philippines as a broad West flow across the Pacific. It is stronger during the Northeast monsoon and has an average velocity of 1 knot in the latitude of Samar. The flood current enters the Samar Sea from the North through the San Bernardino Strait at a velocity of about 4 or 8 knots and generally sets Southwest between and around the Naranjo Islands, South between Capul and Dalupirit Islands and South-Southwest between Dalupirit Island and the Northwest coast of Samar.
In the channel between Aguada and Escarpada Islands, the flood current sets Northwest; and between Rasa and San Andres Islands, it sets Northeast. The meeting of the currents causes rips and tides in the area Southwest of the San Andres Island, North of Rasa Island and in the entrance of the passage between Rasa and Darsena Island.
FRESH WATER SOURCES
Aguada Island is the major source of spring water in the area. A large reservoir has been constructed in Barangay Ternate of the same island. Water faucets are strategically located in the small village for accessibility. Medio Island has a deep well but the water needs boiling if it shall be used for drinking. Capul also is a major source of potable water.
The waters of Naranjo Islands are rich in marine life due to the strong currents from the San Bernardino Strait. Magnificent coral gardens and tropical fishes abound in the area. One of the investigated area, Binangtan Island off the North coast of Darsena, has the most number of tropical fishes and splendid coral gardens. Hard and soft corals flourish in the area like fan corals, table corals, vase corals, stag horn corals, among others. Moreover, the waters surrounding Naranjo Islands are also considered the game fisherman's paradise where varieties of fishes such as swordfish , marlin, yellow fin tuna and grouper can be caught.
Some areas of Medio have long beds of beautiful corals and an abundance of colorful fishes and marine life. A small portion of other areas have coral reefs with some damage primarily because of blast fishing. Some corals in Medio Island's South beach and some portion of the North beach have been regenerating. The diverse fishes in the area are interesting and fascinating. Local fishermen are selling parrot fishes as large as 2 or 3 kilos a piece and lobsters caught in the area. Sea abalones, large mussels, crabs, oysters and sea urchins abound in the waters of Naranjo Islands.
The Spaniards named the group of islands "Islas Naranjos" because of the oranges that grew on the island during the galleon days. Unfortunately, the natives did not know how to care for this type of trees and eventually they all died and were replaced by the sturdier coconut trees which are now the major vegetation in the area. Crop planting like rice and vegetables are virtually nil.
Naranjo Islands has not much wildlife to speak of. This may be attributed to the lack of fresh spring water in the islands and hardwoods. There are no endangered species that may be dislocated upon the transformation of the area into a tourism zone.
DIVING POTENTIAL OF THE AREA
The diving potential of the area may be gauged primarily from the current movements in Naranjo Islands, its coral beds, adjacent islands with potentially good drop-offs and crystal clear water. The strong currents coming from the San Bernardino Strait would indicate a myriad of underwater life forms in the area. Marine fauna is expected to be abundant and ideal for scuba diving and snorkeling.
At present, there are seven (7) major dive sites in the country. Namely:
1) Southwest tip of Batangas in the Verde Passage
2) Northern part of Mindoro including Puerto Galera
3) Busuanga area
4) Northern Palawan
5) Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea
6) Cuyo Islands in the Northeast area of Palawan
7) the waters between Negros, Cebu and Bohol
Due to the funnel-like structure of the San Bernardino Strait, current in this part of the Samar Sea could be quite significant. The current flow in some areas of Naranjo Islands may reach about 3 meters per second. Such currents may offer drift diving activities to the more advanced divers. Drift diving could extend a diver's area of coverage and diving time. The waters in this part of the Samar Sea may become the new frontier of the more adventurous diving enthusiasts.
With only 2 days of diving expedition, the area of the underwater survey was very limited. The first dive was made at the Southern tip of Darsena where a good drop-off is located. The area at the Northwestern side of Medio was surveyed and was found to have a number of interesting underwater caves. A long bed of good corals have also been noted in the area. Plenty of diverse tropical fishes abound. The southwest, East and Northeast areas of Medio have a few broken and scattered corals due to blast fishing. The last area of be investigated was the Binangtan Island in the North coast of Darsena. This has been the best coral grounds so far surveyed. It has the most number of tropical fishes and the largest variety of corals.
Other Possible Dive Areas
The islands in Naranjo are all surrounded by coral reefs and drop-offs. There are more than a dozen potential diving areas waiting to be discovered. The waters of San Andres, Escarpada and Aguada remains unexplored. Some of the possible interesting places are: Budong Point, South end and the Northwestern tip of Escarpada, Caua Point and Samuro Point of Aguada, Southeast and Northwest area and Sallao Point of San Andres, West portion of Rasa and the channel between San Andres and Rasa.
Naranjo Islands are formed in a circular pattern such that one can always find a safe place where the water is calm even during a storm. This unique formation coupled with the numerous diving areas available to choose from make scuba diving relatively a 365 days a year activity.
The strong current in and around the islands could pose some danger to the novice divers. An extensive survey of the diving areas must be made to plot, plan and time dives according to the existing current. The underwater caves on the North shore of Medio will be extremely dangerous during strong currents as sucking motions were noticed on the first dive to the caves as flood currents are coming in. Only advanced divers must be allowed to do drift diving activities with strong current flow.
Eastern Visayas is one of the most historical regions in the Philippines. It was the site of two events that have influenced the country’s history. The first being the discovery of the Philippines by a Portuguese explorer named Ferdinand Magellan in March 16, 1521 as he landed on Homonhon Island off the southern tip of Samar. The second was the promised return of the American General, Douglas MacArthur, in 1944 in the province of Leyte that liberated the country from the Japanese occupation during the second World War.
The exploits of Magellan encouraged Spain to send in more expeditions and later established the Manila Galleon Trade. The route passes through the Southern coast of Luzon down to the San Bernardino Strait and across the Pacific to the California coast and finally southward to Acapulco in Mexico. These voyages are long and perilous and may take some 200 days or more and provisions are usually acquired where it was available. The “Islas Naranjos” sitting near the mouth of the San Bernardino Strait was the galleons last stop for water and other victuals before venturing out into the Pacific en route to Acapulco.
During World War II, the region became a major zone of the Pacific theater of conflict. Using the same gateway that the conquistadors had taken some 400 years ago, Gen. MacArthur took a gamble and penetrated the center of a Japanese network of airfield and military bases by landing in Leyte to defeat the Japanese army.