Friday, October 1, 2010

White Shark Diving Trip Report -

Another of our newly minted shark divers, Steve Vaughan, added pen to paper recounting his 2010 white shark adventures with Shark Diver and Horizon Charters.

It has been a most excellent shark diving season this year.

Diving with the Grey Ghost - Steven Vaughan
Part One

After a 5 hour flight from the east coast, I had about 8-9 hours to kill until I could officially board the MV Horizon and began my white shark adventure. It was one of those times when you wish you could snap your fingers and be where you wanted to be. I was worried about what I was going to do for 8 or so hours after booking my flight. Fortunately for me I have a very dear friend (Kelly) that lives in the beautiful and great City of San Diego.

Kelly was kind enough to chauffeur me around San Diego and show me the sights. I tried to entice her to come with me on this adventure....the look I received told me a nice way... it was not going to happen, but then she smiled at me and replied, thanks, but no thanks. I knew there was no need to ask again. We had a good time catching up. I took several great pictures with my new camera of the area, and to my disappointment, accidentally deleted all of them...somehow, while on the boat. I was not a happy camper.

Kelly took me to H & M Landing by 930, we said our goodbyes, and then I met Mark. He immediately grabbed my suitcase and we proceeded to the Horizon. After meeting him and other crew members, along with the other shark venturers, I knew I had made the right choice, this was going to be an awesome and unforgettable experience.

My anticipation grew as I stood there looking at the cages, knowing that sooner or later I would be inside of one of them, face to face, with a magnificent creature. I felt the adrenaline run the course of my veins, and again, another time I wanted to snap my fingers and we would be there. I realized again, that I could not rush time, and I would have to be patient. Mark took me to my cabin, I dropped my bags and went out on deck. I mingled around the boat, chatting with everyone and of course inspecting the boat. after all, we were going 150 miles out to sea, on an 80' boat. I could tell that I did not have to worry, it was beyond sea worthy and she had a great crew.

We all met one another, and went through a briefing, with the Captain and crew. I was so tired and could hardly stay awake. The briefing lasted for about 10 mins. I said goodnight to everyone, and crashed, with a little help from Tylenol pm. I found that the best way to help speed up time was to sleep.

I first noticed my bunk as being a little small, and cramped, but...that was not a concern. I slept like a baby every night, its the best sleep I've had in a long time, it was quite comfortable and cool with the air conditioning. Linens, blankets, and pillows are provided.

I awoke to the smell of breakfast, I wandered up to the galley, and was greeted with smiles and good mornings from Beth and Mark. These two made you feel at ease and were more than willing to fix you anything for breakfast, or any meal. The food was delicious! The food was delicious, did I mention that? I know, I think you get the point. If you get hungry on the Horizon, it is not the fault of Mark or Beth. It is your own.

I heard the clanging of the cages and some commotion on the deck, I grabbed a quick cup of coffee, and headed out to observe the operations. I had plenty of time because I was on Team B and there was an hour before my team would dive. As soon as I approached the stern of the boat, Aeriel yelled WHITE SHARK! What?! no way I thought. Sure enough, there it was. A great white shark. I was fascinated and awe struck, and I was still on the boat.

After numerous t.v. shows and movies, I had finally seen a white shark. Again, another thought is racing through my mind, where I want to snap my fingers and its our turn to get in the cage. I actually put my fingers together to make that sound, but caught myself. Nearly everyone was on deck leaning over the railing to see the shark. The other divers of Team A were hurrying to don their wetsuits now. Of course Jan, Aeriel, and I were jealous, along with the other members of Team B.

However, please do not worry about who gets the better dive. That day, Team B had the better dives. on our second day, Team A had better dives as well. So, all of you will get the better dive at some point.

Finally, our hour came, Jan and Aeriel insisted that I go first, I tried to get Aeriel to go first, but again they insisted, So I went without hesitation. Martin was there to assist us, and he is simply, "the man". He is loaded with information and knowledge about the sharks and the operations on board the Horizon. He is a very interesting man. We all knew we could rely on and trust him, he would not let anything happen to you.

Part Two - The Sharks

Bruised and Beaten at Isla Guadalupe 2010

The 2010 white shark diving season at Isla Guadalupe has been one of the most productive on record with most of our trips seeing high double digit numbers for identified sharks at our cages.

During each season we see a wide variety of white sharks in various health conditions. In 2004 a shark we called Dead Man Walking appeared at our cages for the first and only time.

His condition was horrible, covered in parasites, emaciated, and sadly, not long for this world. He never came back.

This is the nature of commercial shark diving, we are here to witness these animals. The 2010 shark population has been robust and, for the most part, healthy. Except this guy - image by Amanda S.

Two weeks ago this unidentified critter arrived at our cages looking pretty tattered. Massive old and fresh bite scars are all over the animal and dorsal fin that was chopped and flopped were the hallmarks of this white shark.

Newly minted Shark Diver, Amanda S, got some good ident images we will be sending on. Not all is lost though, as we discovered with Lucy. Her tail is absolutely shredded and when she arrived at our cages a few years ago with the fresh bite that had removed 20% of her tail we wondered if she could make the long migration to and from the island.

She has, three times now, and successfully predated on a seal as well. What we think we know about the robust nature of these amazing animals, we do not, as critters like Lucy, and this new shark (still looking for a name) show us how nature survives even in the worst of conditions.