Monday, October 13, 2008

Isla Guadalupe-Shark Diver Olivier

You get to meet some amazing people in this gig. None more so than Olivier, whose enthusiasm for diving with sharks started way before he first heard these words over the phone "Shark Diver, can we help you?":

Trip Report:

It has been about two weeks now since I got my first fix. The world then rocks for about 2 days which makes every simple task somewhat of a challenge. Then the rocking stops, but the static images flashbacks in my head have not stopped, if anything they increased.

Hi my name is Olivier and I am a great white sharkholic.

I work in an environment where I deal with sharks every day, mean ones too . And I do it without the safety of a cage. The TV business is full of them, one hungrier than the other. The hours are very long, the pace is at best hectic, the tension high and my imagination is always on demand but I love it all.

Every time Shark week hits the discovery channel, I hit that either live or with TiVo. "Cage diving with great whites, I really wanna do that!" My wife of 11 years, the woman who I love more than life itself looks at me with her beautiful blue eyes and in unison we start reciting a couple of line of jaws:" You go in the cage, the cage goes in the water, our shark is in the water too?" Yeah... I really wanna do that.

I asked her a few days ago if she really thought I would go through with it. "of course I did, I know you."

There is now a beautiful great white on my enormous computer monitor. Enormous, I'd say about a 17 footer. Powerful, majestic and I took that shot as it swam toward the cage to check me and the other sharkholics out.

Guadalupe Island is truly magical. It is a place of beauty. The perfect setting for this adventure. You forget why you are there, until the first fin appears, even then what a rush. The journey was pure and fantastic, I found myself for 5 days with people sharing the same interest or fascination. There is nothing like your first time they say. well I had my first time 5 or 6 hours a day every day for 3 days straight and every time I stepped in the cage my heart was pumping like my first dive. Not out of fear though which surprised even me. It is one thing to say you want to step in a cage where at times 3 or 4 great whites are swimming around the cage, it is something else to do it all together. The critters all have different names and personalities. Jacques, Bruce, Pablo, Lucy, Shredder among others, My favorite? "Jacques" of course. He came by quite a few times, seems he was as curious about me as I was about him. Now it is entirely possible he looked at me and saw lunch. Why not? I looked like a seal and he is the predator of all predators. Yet in the cage I was never afraid, always in awe, but never afraid. I can't even tell you how many times the soundtrack of jaws played in my head and I am willing to bet that every single diver who has stepped in a cage with a great white heard that soundtrack at least once if not 12 times. I am so glad I did this. The Crew of the Horizon was perfect in every way. They know the animals and their behavior, they surely respect them all. They had great humor were very supportive and so helpful. On my trip there was a marine biologist who was nothing short than a shark encyclopedia . Perfect. Every question I had was answered. he was there to film, photographs the great white for a future documentary he is making. I gladly offered my services for any help he may require and I do hope he takes me on my offer.

Quite frankly I can't wait to go back and do it again And I will. I went from a sharkholic to a sharkaddict in one minute and I bet I am far from the only one. My beautiful wife got it and as much as she made sure every single part I was born with was still attached to my body when I got back, she seems to understand why I went even more than I do and for that I am and will be eternally grateful.


Documenting Science-DNA Sampling 2007

From the RTSea Blog today:

In my capacity as a filmmaker with a special interest in nature, I've had the opportunity to film some fascinating animals. Sharks in particular, like tiger sharks or great whites, can be exciting because

1.) you're in the presence of an apex predator

2.) they can be unpredictable.

In filming a sequence for Island of the Great White Shark involving taking a biopsy sample, the plan was to lure a white shark close to the cage to allow the researcher, Mauricio Hoyos, to take a small sample using a biopsy pole spear. Taking the hangbait, the shark turned unexpectedly towards the cage and there were a few tense moments as the shark, weighing in between 1,500 and 2,000 lb., thrashed back and forth, slamming the cage several times with its tail before turning aside and moving on. Being in the cage at that moment was like standing inside one of those huge Buddhist temple bells; with each swing of its tail, the "gong" effect of the rattling cage could be felt right through your bones!

While responsible shark diving means not exposing the "paying customers" to unnecessary risks for both the sake of the shark and the diver, researchers and professional documentarians often put themselves in less than ideal situations. As a filmmaker, you occasionally get to offset hours of tedium with a few heart-thumping moments of pure adrenaline

Record year for white shark tagging 2008

Your 401K may have tanked but for the understanding of Great whites and their migratory habits, it's been a great year:

Another tagged New Zealand great white shark has migrated to the Great Barrier Reef off Australia – 1 of nine sharks to be satellite tagged this year.

The 3.5 metre shark, nicknamed ‘Thomas,’ was tagged with a popup archival satellite tag. The tag records information on light levels (from which approximate daily latitude and longitude can be estimated) as well as water depth and temperature so that the shark’s movements can be tracked.

After a predetermined time (six months for this shark) the tag pops off the shark, floats to the surface and transmits the data to a satellite that emails the information back.

‘Thomas’ was tagged by Department of Conservation (DOC) scientist, Clinton Duffy, off Ruapuke Island in Foveaux Strait, in February. The satellite tag popped up at Swain Reefs, off Rockhampton, late in August.

"This is only 100 kilometres from where another tag popped up last year from a shark tagged at Stewart Island after having travelled over 3000 kilometres," says Mr Duffy.

Charismatic Megafauna-Anyone? Anyone?

It's kind of like a matra around here at U.T:

Charismatic Megafauna= Sustainable Tourism.

It's simple enough equation if you want to apply it to sharks, whales, or even these toothsome critters all you need is a good marketing department, some vision and some great critter encounters:

The newly-opened attraction, Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin, offers the chance to be lowered into a tank full of crocs, among them suspected man-eaters, wearing nothing more than a mask, snorkel and swimsuit or trunks.

The 'Cage of Death' is said to be "perfect for serious adrenalin junkies" who have perhaps become jaded with swimming with dolphins or cage diving among great white sharks.

The cage is hexagonal-shaped to stop the crocodiles from getting a grip on it with their fearsome teeth.It enables tourists to come within a few feet of several 'salties' measuring more than 16ft long, some of the largest in captivity in the world