Friday, July 29, 2011
His post echos many I have read over the years and some that I have penned talking about the triumvirate of conservation.
His post is a perfect summation of the challenges that face shark conservation and a road map for next generation of shark conservation groups and individuals seeking to help sharks globally.
Yes, the loss of this many sharks in the Galapagos is a blow, it is also a wake up call to the global shark fin trade and the need, moving forward, to start thinking and acting differently.
If your not one for reading long well thought shark conservation summaries here's the crux of Ricks post:
So while we appear to be getting better at establishing legislative protection for sharks, where the rubber hist the road is in the enforcement of that protection. And enforcement takes funding, training, monitoring, consequences, public awareness, and a judicial process prepared to prosecute. Expecting open water to somehow police itself is as realistic as expecting a bank to safeguard its holdings without surveillance, guards, and a prosecutorial system.
Complete post here.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Our very first white shark encounter in 2003 was with a 12 foot male white shark complete with “shredded” dorsal fin and several deep bite marks on his head.
He came in fast from the left, our first sight was of his mangled dorsal fin slicing through the surface toward our hang baits (tuna), he hit the first one with an unexpected fury, then turned and zeroed in on the second hang bait missing it and disappearing into the blue distance. This was clearly a unique animal and at the end of the day we named him "Shredder," little did we know he would more than own that new name.
Shredder Takes a Bite
I was up in the wheelhouse with our boats captain (Greg) during the last dive of our last day at Isla Guadalupe. It had been an amazing expedition thus far and our shark cages were loaded for the last time with die hard shark divers. At the time three new sharks in the 10-13 foot class were entertaining them. Two divers not in cage rotation, Kevin and Matt, were fishing for “last chance” tuna on the bow of our 88-foot dive boat the Ocean Odyssey when our crew in the wheelhouse heard a large splash. Seconds later a startled voice called up to us, “Umm, hey, a shark just blasted up and severed the anchor cable from our boat,” that was Matt, one look into his face I knew he was speaking the truth.
Our ships captain was not so sure, saying “that’s a rated 20,000 pound poly-pro anchor cable, there’s no way a shark just bit through it.”. One of the ships crew was summoned forward to have a look and sure enough came up with the last 5 feet of cable ending in one very messy shredded fray. A 12 foot great white shark had just leapt up almost 10 feet clear out of the water and bit through our anchor cable, about the size of a mans wrist and designed to hold an 88 foot dive boat in place in even the roughest weather conditions!
We were now adrift with shark cages fully deployed, sharks in the water and one shark the (newly named Shredder) with a new taste for anchor cables. In the history of shark diving I doubt this has ever happened to another dive boat. Crew raced forward and aft, we had our shark divers calmly exit the cages (30 minutes early) pulling them from the water in record time. In exactly 20 minutes we had the ship squared away and ready to get under power. Once we had settled down our divers were thrilled. After all you cannot call it a "shark expedition” until a shark chews through your anchor cable!
That's how Shredder got his name. He's now much bigger in the 14-15 foot class and still an icon of Isla Guadalupe, Mexico. His sat tags have revealed he is a regular visitor to Hawaii's North Shore when he is not thrilling divers at Isla Guadalupe, Mexico.
Saturday, July 23, 2011
T-minus 12 days and counting:
Rick Flaugh was not sure he wanted to go shark diving as his expedition date to Isla Guadalupe drew closer last year.
He had to get over his fear of swimming first.
We are proud of this newly minted shark diver who met his fears and completed his latest adventure in style.
Here's his story:
Ever since I saw the movie Jaws, the Great White Shark has been an animal that I have admired and dreamed about. Yes, the movie gave them bad publicity, but I was hooked!
I first heard of Shark Diver a few years ago when I saw them on Discovery and wondered if they took anyone out commercially. They did, and I wondered if there was a way to make it happen. A few years passed and I kept wondering if it would be possible. Finally April of this year came around and I said to myself I'm going to do it.
I got booked for a trip going out to Guadalupe on the 16th of October, after having many passport issues, you have no idea, that date was not going to work and Pat Douglas the CEO said he could get me on the next trip out.
Now here is where the story really begins.
At age 10 I had a bad experience at a swimming pool, something that has always stuck with me.
I went through life not knowing how to swim with a fear of water. When Pat gave me the date that I would be leaving, I got on the horn with Morningside College here in Sioux City and began swim lessons.
Yes, a week before the trip!
I went through two lessons on Monday and Tuesday. My fear of water and what was awaiting me was worsening not getting better. I called Patric that Wednesday (a few days form departure) to see if I could get my money. He of course said no, thanks Patric by the way!
I knew I was going to have to conqeur it. I had actually skipped my lesson on Wednesday because I was scared. Thursday came and I went, fear was still there. Friday something started clicking and I was able to stay under water without shooting for the surface, it was getting better. Then Saturday morning went back in, the day prior to me leaving!
I was pretty comfortable underwater at this point, so I asked if we could work on some swimming. Not really thinking anything was going to come of it. Andy Burnham was my coach, great kid. Within a half hour or so, I was swimming across the pool with absolutely no FEAR of sinking or drowning. I was diving underwater and even touching the bottom. Learning how to swim at this point of my life was the greatest thing I've ever accomplished.
I was now excited to be leaving the next morning at 3:00AM to go get on a plane, for the first time of course. Still leery about getting sea-sick and being on a boat for a 20+ hour boatride though. Didn't really get sick, one morning I felt nauseous but it passed.
Once onboard I had other shark divers throwing me compliments and the "are you crazy" look that I was out doing this with no snorkeling or diving experience. It made me feel good about what I was getting ready to do. Yes, my first time under in the cage with a regulator in my mouth was a shell-shocking experience. With some encouraging words from divemaster Martin Graff I went back down and stayed down.
Seeing a Great White for the first time was calming, relaxing, and an adrenaline pumping experience all at the same time! The most missunderstood and beautiful animals in the world, not an opinion that's a fact.
To everyone that helped me do this from my swim coach, Martin, and Shark Diver. The crew aboard the Horizon was top notch, I owe a debt to you guys and gals as well. The food was great, Mark I need to hire you as my chef I hate cooking for myself. I made a few friends amongst the other shark divers as well, people I am and will still keep in touch with.
I'm going to give myself some props as well. My dream of seeing a Great White became a reality and will cherish it forever. Truly for many reasons the best time of my life.
Thanks to everyone!
Editors Note: Rick you're one of our heroes mate, congrats on the adventure, this was a huge year for you!
Friday, July 22, 2011
If you think boomers are taking a cruise for the buffet and the evening song-and-dance, think again. They crave activity, adventure and authenticity on both small yachts and mega ships and sailing among the fjords and islands of Alaska's Inside Passage and into some of the most exotic corners of the world.
"Boomers may not want to camp every night and scale mountains, but they definitely want to view wild bears, speak with residents of remote coastal villages, kayak in a quiet cove and walk in the rainforest and learn about it from a real scientist while they are standing in it," says Maureen Gordon, co-owner of Maple Leaf Adventures, which offers adventure cruises in British Columbia and Alaska.
In fact, boomers want choices and lots of them for a variety of experiences. They want to shop with the ship's chef at the local market, talk to the onboard naturalist about the indigenous flora and fauna, track Lewis and Clark and delve into intact wild areas. And they are getting these experiences and more on a number of cruise ships and sailing vessels.
Canada-based Maple Leaf Adventures offers natural and cultural history cruises aboard a classic 92-foot sailing ship, taking an intimate group of eight on each trip. A longtime practitioner of ecotourism, the company offers multi-day excursions to experience some of the most beautiful places on the B.C. and Alaska coast in a highly participatory and personal way and in the company of expert naturalists or historians, crew and chef.
Experiences are authentic to time and place and might include bear viewing by kayak with an expert guide; "extreme picnicking" on a culinary/craft beer tasting trip that involves hiking to a stunning vista over Gulf Islands National Park and a gourmet tasting picnic; climbing out on the bowsprit to be with dolphins who are surfing the schooner's bow wave; and paddling among seal pup-inhabited icebergs to watch (and hear) giant chunks of ice calve into the sea not to mention plucking your own chunk of crystal clear ice from the sea to take back to the ship and smash up for drinks.
"Certainly we find that people are interested in our trips because they can experience firsthand the wilderness and the sense of adventure that comes from exploring it with a personal guide," says Gordon. "But they can sleep on a comfortable bed with fluffy duvet at night after a fabulous chef-cooked meal and a good wine."
The onboard experience with Holland America Line's 15 cruise ships offer very topical enrichment opportunities, including a Culinary Arts Center program, presented by Food & Wine magazine, that lets guests indulge their love of fine food and drink while immersing themselves in traditions and tastes unique to their ship's ports of call. Not only that, they can meet top chefs from all over the globe while learning how to create gastronomic masterpieces and get a book signed by a culinary author.
The theatre-style venue with its state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen and large plasma video screens puts participants right in the middle of the action, with guests taking part in cooking demos and some joining the chefs on stage to help prepare dishes oh, and tasting wines representative of the ports on their itinerary. Salut!
The line's Digital Workshop powered by Windows (available on all ships except for the MS Prinsendam), promises "jargon-free" sessions led by a Microsoft-trained "techspert." Participants leave sessions editing cruise photos, turning photos and videos into a slide show and others with not only digital scrapbooking prowess, but the expertise to email the shipboard memories they're making to family and friends shoreside.
For boomers questing after lifelong learning experiences, Princess Cruises presents ScholarShip@Sea: learn ship navigation; scrapbooking; enrichment lectures covering topics from politics to theatre to science; and pottery painting - paint your own bowl or mug fired in onboard kilns a cruise industry first for a truly one-of-a-kind souvenir. On the Island Princess and Coral Princess, there's a wet-clay pottery program that includes specialized wheel-throwing classes.
But Princess isn't just about what's onboard. Shore tours in Alaska include whale watching, going for a ride on a dog sled, meeting professional mushers and flying over glaciers to see waterfalls. In Bora Bora, there's helmet diving underwater and off-roading to tour tropical fauna. Wending through the maze that is the Port Market with its hubbub of musicians and vendors is an adventure in Uruguay. And floating on Lac Rose (Pink Lake) is the sport of choice in Senegal.
InnerSea Discoveries recently launched two expedition ships embarking on "un-cruises" in Southeast Alaska (through September), specifically targeting active adventures. The ships carry between 60 and 76 guests, and hiking and kayaking are the main activities during the one- and two-week cruises.
"Our energy is focused on what's happening outside in the wilderness," says Sarah Scoltock, director of communications and business development. "The ships carry 28 double kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, dry suits, snorkeling gear and zodiacs."
This same company owns American Safari Cruises, a more upscale experience that takes 12 adventurers into the historic landscape shaped by the Columbia and Snake Rivers. Onboard expedition leaders guide excursions off the yacht and discuss the natural and cultural history of the area, Lewis and Clark's expedition and the locks and dams. A jet boat excursion in Hells Canyon and winery tours are included in the voyage.
"Active boomers want choices, but don't want to be too regimented or too scheduled," says Adrienne D'Annunzio, manager-corporate communications, at SeaDream Yacht Club. "They want unique experiences, not cookie cutter."
Aboard the laidback twin mega-yachts, SeaDream I and SeaDream II, which accommodate 112 guests, that's exactly what they'll get. Because of their intimate size, these vessels the only locations at sea to be certified members of the Thai Spa Association can call on many smaller, less crowded ports out of reach to big ships. Itineraries are designed for plenty of party time in the evening in ports like St. Bart's and St. Tropez.
The yachts have complimentary mountain bikes for guests to go exploring on their own and, while the company offers a selection of professionally guided tours in each port, it also offers complimentary crew-led hikes, bikes and walks like shopping with the chef in Sorrento, Italy. The water sports marina at the aft end of the yachts offers swimming, snorkeling, wave runners, kayaks and Hobie cats.
"We find it's all about personal choice," says D'Annunzio. "Active boomers want to decide just how active or how relaxed they'll be. Good service is very important and they want easy, hassle-free experiences."
Now, about those sharks . . .
Patric Douglas, founder and CEO of Shark Diver, pioneered mega yacht shark diving services at Isla Guadalupe in 2005 with the yacht M/Y Triton. An advocate for sharks and the shark diving industry, Douglas offers five- and eight-day live-aboard cruises featuring shark cage diving as the main draw.
"Believe it or not, 30 percent of our divers are boomers," says Douglas.
Expeditions head to Guadalupe in search of great white sharks and to the Bahamas to see tiger sharks, reef sharks and great hammerheads. Guests get to snorkel with spotted dolphins and participate in reef and wreck dives.
You can't get much more authentic than that but that's what boomers want: Authenticity, hands-on activities, personalized experiences and value, which doesn't necessarily mean a bottom line price.
Holland America Line, www.HollandAmerica.com
InnerSea Discoveries, www.InnerSeaDiscoveries.com
Maple Leaf Adventures, www.mapleleafadventures.com
Princess Cruises, www.Princess.com
SeaDream Yacht Club, www.SeaDream.com
Shark Diver, www.SharkDiver.com
Kathy Witt is a freelance writer and the author of "The Secret of the Belles," a historical novel the late Cammie King Conlon ("Bonnie Blue Butler") called "a beautiful read, and another amazing tribute to the phenomenon that is 'Gone With the Wind.'" Visit Kathy's website at www.KathyWitt.com and her blog at www.TravelinTales.com.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Discovering actual EU Rapid Alerts for toxic sharks is something to pay attention to - what's in your shark meat?
Notification date: 05 July 2011.
Notification from: Italy.
Notification Description: Mercury in frozen blue shark steaks (Prionace glauca).
Distributed to: Italy.
Amount: 832 kg.
Analytical Result: 3,51 +/- 0,31 mg/kg – ppm
Action taken: official detention.
Notification date: 26 April 2011.
Notification from: Poland.
Notification Description: Cadmium in frozen blue shark steaks.
Distributed to: Poland.
Analytical Result: 0.081 mg/kg – ppm.
Action taken: withdrawal from market.
Notification date: 15 April 2011.
Notification from: Italy.
Notification Description: Mercury in frozen shark slices.
Distributed to: no distribution ( border rejection ).
Action taken: official detention.
Notification date: 14 April 2011.
Notification from: Spain.
Notification Description: Mercury in ‘white dogfish’.
Distributed to: no distribution ( border rejection ).
Analytical Result: 2.1 mg/kg – ppm.
Action taken: official detention.
Notification date: 14 April 2011.
Notification from: Spain.
Notification Description: Mercury in ‘white dogfish’.
Distributed to: no distribution ( border rejection ).
Analytical Result: 1.3 mg/kg – ppm.
Action taken: official detention.
Notification date: 07 March 2011.
Notification from: Italy.
Notification Description: Mercury in frozen slices of blue shark (Prionace glauca).
Distributed to: Italy.
Analytical Result: 1.42 mg/kg – ppm.
But this pales in comparison to Marti Graf's time at Isla Guadalupe and this year he celebrates a decade of sharks, and our admiration.
Martin is one of those rare individuals who loves sharks enough to log over 50,000 nautical miles getting to and from famed white shark island, Isla Guadalupe.
He is our dive operations manager, and a well known fixture in the shark diving community, an outspoken advocate for sharks, and all round fantastic guy.
He's also befriended the 130 sharks we have helped identify at Guadalupe over the years. Actually it has been our divers who have submitted shark images and data with Martin to the MCSI data base to make this happen.
Sharks like the now world famous Shredder were named by our divers, Fat Tony, Mystery, Scarboard and Kimel are some of the biggest and most impressive sharks on site.
Once again in 2011 we'll be back with full charters (we're 98% sold out) and Martin to lead our soon to become official Shark Divers into the wild blue world of white sharks. Adding another 6000 nautical miles to Martins log and another full season of our toothy and human friends to his memories.
I spoke with Martin this week and he summed up his time with these magnificent sharks like this, "when I am setting up the cages in the morning and sharks like Shredder come in, I always shout hello into my regulator and he always turns and comes right up to the cage, we have a thing going."
Yes you do Martin!
Patric Douglas CEO
Just a quick blog to say the first video diary is up. As promised, I wanted to let you know the kind of gear we are shooting with out here and it also includes some nice sharky footage at the end which shot a few days ago. It's straight outta the camera so no processing on it but hey, check out all those Bull Sharks!!!
I'm gonna do a blog soon about how this is all affecting me and me feelings at actually being here but today, I'm sick unfortunately so will wait until I'm better to hopefully do it justice.
Incidentally, having missed the dives today due to aforementioned sickness, Mike and Chris, a really nice guy out here on a project called Broadreach, informed me they had one of the Tigers turn up not once, but twice! Damn! However, I am hopeful she'll be back to say hello to me soon.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Especially ones that generate funds for sharks.
Welcome to White Tip Lager Caybrews latest tasty lager in a partnership between the brewery and the Cayman Island Department of Environment.
The Cayman Brewery is also using the White Tip Lager to save marine wildlife.
“The Department of Environment’s Mat Cottam came to us and asked if there was there any chance of us actually partnering with them to use beer as a vehicle to push conservation and awareness in the Cayman Islands,” Mr. Mansfield said.
“Beer’s more interesting than a brochure usually,” said Mr. Cottam, manager of the Terrestrial Ecology Unit at the department, “and they were completely for it, they thought it was a great idea.”
The White Tip label was designed to promote awareness about dwindling shark populations worldwide and the environmental significance of this misunderstood predator.
The beer can is covered in snippets of information, as well as a 2D barcode that smart phone users can scan to be directed to the Department of Environment’s web page of shark information.
In addition to being a drinkable source of information, beer sales will also contribute to the department’s shark conservation efforts monetarily: Five cents from each can sold will go towards shark research, awareness and conservation programmes.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
This month Chris will once again (this makes 7 times) be featured on the long running series Shark Week seen last year by 35 million viewers.
His latest adventures with sharks takes him from South Africa to Isla Guadalupe. The paddle board video released this week is pretty neat stuff:
Activity around the boat had ceased for about five minutes and all was pretty quiet at the stern. Schroder describes the incident; “Next thing I know I hear a splash, and see a white shark breach out of the water from side of the boat hovering, literally, over the crewmember who was chumming on the boats portside.” Schroder automatically sprang into action and pulled the crewmember quickly away towards the stern of the boat’s platform into safety.
The crewmembers all jumped towards the stern of the boat as the 3m, 500kg, shark landed on the top of the fuel and bait storage containers. The shark had landed with only half of its body onto the boat and Schroder and her team hoped that as it thrashed it would make its way back into the water. But instead the panicked shark worked itself into the boat getting stuck in between the 1.5x2m area behind the container and boats stern. The shark began thrashing around, destroying equipment and cutting the fuel lines as it twisted and turned on the boats deck.
Monday, July 18, 2011
T-minus 15 days and counting:
For our divers 2010 has been the Trip of a Lifetime so far. Celebrated with email blasts to friends and Facebook posts to the world.
These lucky divers have met the most charismatic, studied, and filmed white sharks on the planet.
For newly minted Shark Diver Craig Reynolds, nothing but his own Great White Blog to recount his adventures this year would do:
Day 4 – TWO BLACK EYES- Knowing that sharks are active feeders at dawn – due to the favourable light conditions it provides for hunting – my cage team volunteers for early morning “shark lookout.” Really, it just sounds like an extra hour for keeners so we’ll take it, thanks. And one hour quickly turns into two.
The sharks are slow to venture up from the bottom for the first while. Their grey topside blends in almost perfectly with the abyss below our feet. The white tips of their flanks appear to be nothing more than small fish from far away. And as your mind starts to play tricks on you, the small fish start to look like White Sharks.
But by the second day, we’ve grown more accustomed to our steel confines.
Gradually, you start to find ways of hooking your feet around the ladder and pivoting your body like a climber, hanging on to a bar with a couple of fingers while the others hold the camera, and leaning with the current instead of against it. Your movements become more efficient as does your breathing that bordered on hyperventilation the previous day. I can only imagine how fast your heart would race if you were outside of the cage...
Complete series posts.
With the largest domestic audience in all off Latin America our team was tasked with introducing Brazil to the wild world of the Tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier).
The shows host, Claudio, and his crew had been in the Bahamas filming the Blue Holes and cave diving adventures during the previous week. The Bahamas as a dive destination offers multilayer adventures for almost any level of diver, a fact that often gets lost with the focus on sharks and shark diving.
Their crew had run into technical difficulties on one of the islands and called us in the middle of our Gillette shoot asking for help. That help came by way of the Bahamas Film Commission - Donna Mackey.
Donna is perhaps one of the best film production government coordinators we have ever come across and once again with her offices help, the Brazilians made it to Grand Bahama with all their film gear and no hassles.
The shoot took three days. The idea was for close interactions without cages so the audience at home could come to understand a different side of the Tiger shark. With the expert guidance of Capt Rob MacDonald, who remains of the the top shark handlers in the region, the shoot went off without a hitch.
For those that dive Tiger Beach you may have noticed the "beggar sharks". Some folks have started hand feeding the animals. Frankly, we wish that hand feeding would stop because the legacy of those feeds resonates on for weeks later as animals approach new groups of divers seeking hand outs that are not forth coming.
Fortunately we quickly identified the "beggar sharks" and worked around these somewhat pushy critters for a few hours of shark bliss and some epic footage of the Tigers of Tiger Beach.
The show will air nationwide in Brazil this year with some nice conservation talking points from Scotty Grey and Shark Diver. Natural history productions are fun to work on, and with professional dive crews like the one from Globo tv these productions serve to educate and thrill audiences worldwide.
Patric Douglas CEO
Sunday, July 17, 2011
The creator, Mark Thorpe, has spent the last few years in development and launch phase of this unique community and now needs your help.
It would appear that only a few companies and individuals have "stepped up" with the paltry asking fees to keep iDive alive.
Yes, Shark Diver was one of those supporters.
Why you ask?
Folks, it just does not get any better than this, and we don't think there will ever be another broad based Internet platform for shark divers worldwide to rise again if this one goes dark.
iDive represents an evolution away from an industry of tribal affiliations and small time regional recognition to something bigger, grander, and more inclusive.
So what's the hold up? A dollar a month? To keep Internet servers alive?
Let's not see this unique and inspired industry development go to waste, out of 1200 members, we can do better than the 35 who have answered the call and who see the vision.
Join and support iDive today because our industry needs to grow up, and sometimes having your own clubhouse to share visions, images, experiences, and industry developments is where it starts to happen.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
T-minus 18 days and counting:
Guadalupe Island - Diving With Great White Sharks 2010
When Drew Grgich called us many months ago to book a shark diving adventure we knew we had a budding Shark Diver on the line.
His enthusiasm for sharks you could "feel" all the way from Arizona.
He was also a non certified diver, one of the many we "train" to become Shark Divers each and every season.
Today Drew can call himself an Official Shark Diver having encountered the top shark species at the best site for them on the entire planet.
Day One (and a half)
We came from all over - - Michigan, New Jersey, Nebraska, the Bay Area, Vancouver, Maryland, and Arizona - - and all of us had one goal in mind … swimming with Great Whites. Mind you, none of us had death wishes so our goal was to do this swimming carefully ensconced in a steel cage. Nonetheless, we would be in the water with them and thus, they would be in the water with us! Our journey began in San Diego out of H&M Landing. Our vessel was the MW Horizon, an 88-ft. dive boat.
We boarded at about 10:30pm and were underway just after midnight. The first night was spent in fitful sleep while trying to detect whether or not the queasy feeling in our stomachs was the beginning of seasickness or just nerves. We arrived in Ensenada the next morning at around 9am. A quick check with Mexican customs officials sent us on our way to Isla Guadalupe, the fall home of some 100+ Great White sharks. The trip was uneventful if long - - 18 hours long to be exact. We were told that the ride was among the smoothest our captain had experienced. A few of us succumbed to seasickness but for the most part, all was well. We saw some remarkable sights - a blue whale, a thin whale, pods of fast moving and high jumping dolphins.
What I remember most about that day is how excited I was.
Few people in life are blessed with the sure knowledge of knowing exactly what they want most in life and even fewer get to experience that desire. For me, my most fervent wish was going to happen in a matter of hours. That's pretty heady stuff!
At around 3am, the engine shut off when we arrived at our destination. I went up top a couple of hours later and was not surprised to see other early risers. We attempted to wrestle our cameras into taking decent photos - - not an easy feat at 5am before the sun had even made a token appearance - - and imagined that the murky waters surrounding us were teeming with sharks, each hungry for the first shift of divers.
The shift happened to include me!
Our divemaster, Martin Graf, took me into the cage and had me try a regulator for the first time. I did okay with the regulator but before Martin would declare me dive-worthy, I had to flood my mask and clear it through my nose. I gave it a good effort but sadly, I panicked when my first attempt resulted in a nose full of salt water. I shot to the surface and for a brief moment, wondered if I was going to be able to succeed. Martin was extremely patient and knew exactly how much space to give me in to get over my fears. My second attempt was successful. The secret was to get a steady rhythm breathing through my mouth to gain confidence, close my eyes, and exhale through my nose while tipping the mask.
We didn't have to wait long. The first Great White appeared within a few minutes, circling the cage a few feet below us in its graceful way. That shark was followed by another shortly behind. Both sharks hovered below and made lazy trips around the cages and all too soon, our first hour's rotation was over. All of us were fortunate on this trip. Two people had to cancel so this meant we had 10 divers instead of 12. The cages fit four people each. This meant that we could effectively have as much dive time as we wanted.
I took an extra shift that first day so I had five hours in the cages. We saw seven different sharks the first day. Most kept a respectable distance from the cage but some ventured close enough to touch if we were really inclined to do so. No one was. :) We knew that they were different sharks as the patterns of markings around their gills and fins serve as a sort of fingerprint. These sharks are in turn named by the people who first see them. Scientists do this so that they can identify populations and measure data points such as the number of years that they have been coming to the island, how much the sharks are growing, and how many sharks are seasonal residents.
Some come every year while some visit more irregularly. For the record, the sharks we saw on Day One were Jacques, Bite Face, the Russian, Johnny, Cris Cross, and a new unnamed male. We don't know who gets to name that shark . . . the suspense is delicious. :) The highlight of Day One -- aside from the fact that I was diving with Great Whites! -- was a rotation where Jacques circled the cage for the entire hour. I was able to shoot forty minutes of video going from one side of the cage to the other. Some passes were within inches of my video camera - - I got some great shots!
The next morning, I took the first rotation of the day along with two other brave souls. We saw some sharks but they were far below. We tried a variety of tricks to attract the shark's attention - - stomping our feet, hitting the cage ladder with some of our lead weights, singing show tunes - - but nothing enticed the sharks closer that first shift.
Following shifts were much more productive. I spent the first three hours of the day in the cages and shot more video. I grabbed another three shifts after lunch for a total of six hours in the cages. There were two highlights on day two. The first was that I happened to be looking in the exact direction necessary to witness a full breach. This is when the shark completely propels itself out of the water while in pursuit of prey. The prey happened to be a seagull and it got out of the way just in time to escape the leaping shark. I was one of two people onboard who saw the breach and it was truly a magnificent sight.
It was a smaller shark - - maybe 6-8 feet - - but it was a full breach!! The second highlight was more ignominious. We saw a new shark -- Gunther -- who was kind enough to - - - well, poop - - - directly in front of the cage next to us. It was amusing to see and pleased the 10-year old children inside my cage mate and I . . . until the current pulled us directly into it. I can thus say that I was blessed enough to be pooped on by a Great White.
I only took half of the sharkwatch shift. It was okay - - nothing really when compared to the first couple of days. I took two more shifts for the day before we had to leave. We did get a great couple of close passes by Bite Face and Jacques. This was especially memorable for me as Bite Face was a featured shark on Expedition Great White, a show about scientists tagging Great Whites at Isla Guadalupe. It was fun to see the satellite tags that they had attached to Bite Face to track him. It is also cool to know that if they show his progress in a future show, one of the lines will cross where I saw him. :)
We left for home following the morning drives and have a rough patch of choppy water to look forward to. I'm writing this as we make our slow way north across the Pacific. I can honestly say that there are four events in my life that top my list. The first would be my wedding with really, a tied two and three being the births of my kids. Close behind would be this trip. I was a little worried that I'd be petrified of going into the water with the sharks but I didn't have even a lick of fear. The sharks are obviously curious about we monkey folks in the cage - why would they stick around if they weren't?
They certainly did not make any attempts to harm us and I didn't hesitate to hang my arms out of the cage to hold my camera for a better picture. That said, I wasn't stupid - - - no dangling legs over the side of the cage, for example.
Final Tally on how many hours I dove - - 15.5 hours!
My favorite Martin Graf quote - Sharks are like babies. There are only two types of items to a shark -- things that fit in their mouth and things that might.
Welcome to LionErects TM.
The basic concept behind any successful invasive species culling effort is to create a marketplace for the species. It's not a new idea, and it's one that's been floating around for a while now.
Watching the reaction to our post on Facebook and within the dive industry was telling. Overwhelmingly folks got it, unfortunately LionErects TM is just an idea.
Which gets us to an earlier post about shark conservations need for funding, and the idea of generating funds not seeking funds.
We can do this.
Tapping into established markets is an easy proposition and one that allows entities to enjoy long running revenue bases to work from.
In a perfect world the profits from one conservation effort fuels another.
LionErects TM is the perfect idea and business model to tackle a fish species that is devastating entire reef systems throughout the Caribbean. The other option is for some NGO to seek funds so they can pay fishermen to harvest lionfish with no real or lasting market incentive to do so.
Which model do you think will ultimately be successful in culling the lionfish invasion?
It's not magic folks. It's just business. Conservation needs to become engaged in the business world soon, or forever be on the back burner. We can only get so far with the programs in play today.
Tomorrow's answer to conservation will look a lot different.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Our progressive team of doctors, biochemists, and marine biologists have joined together to formulate the ultimate all natural sexual supplement.
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More about LionErects Tm here.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
This time he's highlighting Leslie Rochats lament about the lack of funding for sharks in South Africa, and what looks like the wholesale and unchecked slaughter of the top charismatic megafauna in the region.
Her post is titled Wanted Dead or Alive.
The issue at hand is funding for NGO's and a critical nexus that is coming down the pike faster than anyone in the conservation community will admit, or as I fear, even recognizes.
I have long said that shark conservationists are all "glorious beggars," using whatever minuscule funds they have to effect real and lasting conservation changes in a world dominated by well heeled for profit entities who, with a stroke of the pen, can send paid lobbyists to enforce their will with local and regional governments.
At hand are series of stunning announcements by nine governments to create large scale Shark Sanctuaries within their territorial boundaries. While shark conservation groups cry "victory for the sharks!," the bigger question looms, who will enforce and pay for all of this?
More to the point, where will the millions of dollars come from?
This is the next evolution for shark conservation.
Getting politicians to make grand pronouncements is a time honored game, getting them or their political successors to spend capitol treasure on these big projects is another game altogether and one that is played with hard won cash.
Leslie has highlighted the coming need for funds, and lots of them. In the next two to three years if all of the newly created Shark Sanctuaries are to be real havens for sharks and not just CINO's (Conservation in Name Only) where international shark fin vessels wait just outside territorial limits to harvest sharks thought to be protected - we will need to bankroll.
This is also one of shark conservations worst suits.
Conservation in general has always suffered from funding gaps or dependence on large endowments. It's a circular shooting gallery called the "funding season," where Directors of NGO's, some driving high end sports cars, run from one large fund to another seeking help for projects.
We can do better, and it is high time we started generating funds not seeking funds to help with the many millions of square miles of protected shark waters that now need park teams, vessels, and enforcement.
For once I do not have any viable solutions that anyone wants to hear about, that is until all the other solutions are played out. But let's start the process now shifting from Facebook petitions, to money solutions.
The game is in play, the clock is ticking...thanks to Leslie for pointing out we're already past the half-time mark on this one. Kudos.
Patric Douglas CEO
But I knew his work as a young kid in California, the crazy Laurel and Hardy antics of Gilligan and the Skipper, with the Howells, and the Professor who could build just about anything out of a piece of string and three coconuts.
Ahh, the halcyon days of after school programming.
And then there was Marsha, I mean who was not completely in love with her? The Brady Bunch introduced America to a family that was an idealized version of ourselves, and left a lasting impression of American family values with all of us.
Producers and writers walking in the footsteps of Sherwood copied him and his style mercilessly, as is the way with television, making the Schwartz brand a three decades long empire of television programming.
Sherwood passed away yesterday at the ripe old age 94.
As a 43 year old adult I look back to my days in front of the television and his shows with absolute nostalgia. God bless ya Sherwood, you were and remain a very big part of my life.
I hope your next gig has a need for television programming on "big tube color tv".
Patric Douglas CEO
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Nigel Barker, supporter and spokesperson for Shark-Free Marinas, is being nominated for a VH1 Do-Something award for his work on our recent PSA and non-profit advocacy. If he wins he'll have a chance to talk about wildlife and shark issues on VH1 National Television. Please help help him out and cast your vote.
From Nigel Barkers Blog
So I need your vote!!!! Last year I was nominated for the first time for a Do Something award in the Style category and I lost to my dear friend and fellow judge Tyra…… BUT I have been nominated again for my work as a United Nation’s Foundation Ambassador for Girl Up and for my work with the Humane Society Of The United States, specifically for my work on the Protect Shark campaign ( Last year it was Protect Seal campaign) You need to go to the Do Something Awards page and vote (for me..!) for your winner in the STYLE category and check out the other categories while your there. The Do Something organization are truly marvelous and I have been an admirer of their work for several years. I actually shot an ad campaign for them a couple of years back too. Their mantra is simple – don’t just talk about it but DO SOMETHING! They actively seek out and support young people the world over who are changing not only their lives but their communities and sometimes the world at large. Now is your time to do something…. for me…wait did I just say that? Most importantly cast you vote for the Do Something nominees who are out their motivating us all to make a difference
More info about the awards and the event click here
Thursday, August 18, 2011 @ 9/8c Location: Los Angeles, California
DoSomething.org and VH1 have once again partnered to present The Do Something Awards to honor young people’s commitment to social change. The Do Something Awards will be taped at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles and premiere Thursday, August 18th, 2011 at 9/8c on VH1. Emmy and Golden Globe winner Jane Lynch will return to host the star-studded Do Something Awards telecast for a second year.
Additional announcements regarding celebrity attendees and contest finalists will be forthcoming. Taping on August 14th, 2011, this year’s VH1 Do Something Awards are executive produced by Michael Dempsey and Lee Rolontz for VH1. Nancy Lublin and Naomi Hirabayashi oversee the awards show for DoSomething.org.
The final five nominees and grant recipients were announced Monday, May 23, 2011 during a star-studded DoSomething.org event at B.B King Blues Club in New York City. Each nominee was honored for his or her commitment to social action with a community grant of $10,000. Of these five nominees, Do Something, Inc. with the help of your votes will select a grand prize winner which will receive a $100,000 grant for his or her cause during the live VH1 broadcast of the ceremony at the Hollywood Palladium.
Since 1996, DoSomething.org has honored the nation’s best world-changers, ages 25 and under. The Do Something Award is the premiere national award for social action. Nominees and winners represent the pivotal “do-ers” in their field, cause, or issue.
DoSomething.org is one of the largest organizations in the US that helps youth rock causes they care about. A driving force in creating a culture of volunteerism, DoSomething.org is on track to get two million young people involved by 2011. By utilizing the web, television, mobile, and pop culture, DoSomething.org inspires, empowers and celebrates a generation of doers: young people who recognize the need to do something, believe in their ability to get it done, and take action. Plug in at www.DoSomething.org.
The official hashtag for the Do Something Awards is: #DSAwards
Monday, July 11, 2011
Over the years we have come to be known within the film and television community as the company that successfully pulls off challenging and unique productions with sharks. From Mythbusters to "walking on water with sharks," our teams always look at shark environment in new and truly unique ways to keep audiences interested and engaged.
That's not to say we take the animals we are fortunate enough to work with for granted, or treat sharks as just props. In fact the animals welfare, and the entire production design, starts and ends with the sharks.
We have turned down countless productions that fail to meet or exceed our policies towards sharks in this game there is only one way to do shark productions. Safely.
We are one of the few shark production companies that have designed a shark production protocol that has been approved and adopted by the American Humane Association.
In this behind the scenes look from Gillette you can see the entire team in action. There's no room for error and everyone works in tandem with professional speed and direction.
This recent commercial is now on nation wide television, seen in every market in the U.S and was featured at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.
Saturday, July 9, 2011
2011 is the Year of the Shark, can it get any better?
Hat Tip: The Dorsal Fin for the video find.
Welcome to United Conservationists.
What, another shark conservation group?
This one seem different, and it also involves Rob Stewart. His film Sharkwater was the first of what became many shark conservation films, and dare we say it proposed a white hot idea. That all of us had the power to make a difference and as we well know ideas are dangerous things.
The past three years since Sharkwater has seen a profusion of shark conservation groups and one shark conservation victory after another.
Congratulations Rob and Co, we'll be watching your space for good things to come.
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
We have also turned down many shark productions like Endemol's "Killer Shark Live" at Isla Guadalupe for reasons that ran the gamut from poor production value to the actual name of the show.
This year we have been busy once again on a series of shark productions in the Bahamas, most notably a Gillette commercial that involved a huge crew and a boatload of dignitaries from the Bahamas Film Commission. Getting to meet the "Queen of Productions," Donna Mackey in person and wrangling sharks together on the back deck was one of the many highlights of this amazing shoot.
When we got the call months ago with a "kernel of a commercial idea," it intrigued me.
How do you produce a main stream commercial that involves live sharks that is scientifically accurate, and commercially valid at the same time, without going over the edge into territory reserved for the moniker Shark Porn?
This was the challenge, additionally we wanted this high value production to benefit a local community as well, so we chose the Bahamas as the target site for shooting. In the end this production bought out 3/4 of a local resort to stage from, and involved many levels of the Bahamian government who had never seen a shark production in action and who were also very interested in the value of a live shark. They joined us on our last day of production to see how a production with sharks was done in the Bahamas.
The commercial value of a shark to ongoing conservation has been talked about a lot recently with several first rate studies coming out on the subject. The Bahamas just recently recognized this and declared all of the Bahamas a Shark Sanctuary a stunning development, but when presented with industry figures of a valuation of $80 million a year for live sharks you can see why.
Often left out of this discussion are film and television productions that drop many millions of dollars into local communities, keeping local business alive, and none more than the Bahamas West End on Grand Bahama, which has seen tough times as of late.
We always work with the same small production group and we tend to tackle projects that are technically challenging and at the same time exciting to work on. The premise for the Gillette commercial is absolutely "tongue in cheek," it's in the same vein as a recent commercials featuring white sharks and Snickers bars, or white sharks and Nicorette gum. The answer to the question of Shark Porn is to produce a commercial that is based in humor. The outrageous notion of two guys shaving in shark cages with one of them cutting themselves, is so far out there you discount it, until you see the actual sharks. That's the hook.
We were gearing up to do a live shoot and as the old saying goes, "never work with children or animals." You have to rely on the animals to be at the right place at the right time with the right conditions to make it happen. Sometimes it does not, and we know this first hand.
You can watch the Behind the Scenes Reel from this shoot and see the dedication and seriousness we all put into this production. It was always "go time" on the back deck while we were out there.
You also have to have the right crew in place, because there's no way a shoot like this involving as many folks mixing it up with large, wild, sharks has any room for "mistakes," and we take shark diving seriously.
After a decade in this game we remain "shark accident" free and it's one of the reasons productions seek us out time and again. I must say our DP was also one of the best in the field. Johnny Friday is based in La Paz, Mexico and shoots RED, and he's simply amazing. With the time we had on site he utilized every second and got every shot, he also one of the nicest commercial guys I have had the pleasure to work with.
We also had Luke Tipple on site as overall production manager and as one of the talent for this shoot. Luke is a marine biologist, and has been the driving force behind the Shark-Free Marinas Initiative, a conservation effort for sharks supported by the Humane Society, the Guy Harvey Institute, Slash from Guns n Roses and a host of fine folks from all over the shark conservation spectrum.
Day one saw as many as nine Tigers on site, and no Lemon sharks. This, as turned out, was too much of a good thing. By pure coincidence another shark boat three miles away was shooting a Spanish speaking documentary, we knew this after Johnny came up with his underwater comm gear and said, " I hear some guy talking about sharks in Spanish." It became evident that we had his Tigers and he had our Lemon sharks and both groups were in a mini shark purgatory.
Frankly, I am o.k with nine well behaved Tiger sharks on a shark production, but for this one, we needed Lemon sharks and lot's of them. As I like to tell folks on shark trips, "tomorrow is another day."
Day two was everything we had hoped it would be, thanks to Scotty and crew on the M/V Kate who kept our animals interested overnight, we acquired some 20 Lemon sharks the next day and that, with the Tigers, gave us the limited window we needed for the shoot. But time was running out as a boatload of Bahamian dignitaries was going to arrive that afternoon with the Vice President of BBDO, one of the largest advertising agencies on the planet who was paying for this.
We had to get busy and all we needed were sharks interested in cages.
It took time for the animals to "season up" to the two cages we had dropped the previous day, and as far as chumming we ended up using 20% of the total allotment we had on site. The idea was to appear as natural as this impossible scene could, and that meant limited chum. In fact we had submitted a complete shark site protocol written by Luke Tipple to the American Humane Association which they signed off on. No sharks were to be harmed in any way on this shoot, that meant animals getting into cages, caught on rigging, or any manner of production abuse to the wildlife.
We stand by that at Shark Diver, we're here for the animals first and foremost and it has always been the case.
It was the afternoon when the pure magic happened. For whatever reason, the current, the animals, our team pulled off the extraordinary and we got into a amazing rhythm of animals approaching myself on the back deck and then peeling off to investigate the crew on the seafloor with the cages. This fantastic production scene went on for two hours delivering everything we needed, just in time for Donna Mackey's arrival and her boatload of Bahamians who watched with some fascination at the scene unfolding in front of them.
I have wanted to spend some quality time with Donna on a professional level for several years, ever since we met her briefly in 2006 on a shoot. Donna is Bahamas Film, if you need anything to make your shoot work she is your go-to gal, and the reason why the Bahamas works so well for film productions involving sharks.
She and I ended up wrangling a few sharks on the back deck while we chatted about productions with sharks in the Bahamas and how, one day, the Bahamas might in fact become a Shark Sanctuary, that day has come, and it is thanks in part to the value of live sharks to the Bahamian community.
The final shark commercial is now on national television and we like it. It's a fine line that you tread when you get involved in shark productions. But over the years we have managed to tread that line well, and often, and this commercial is one in a series of shark productions you'll be seeing from us as time moves forward.
As for the crew, I have to say once again guys, from Scotty and the M/V Kate with Blue Iguana Charters, to Luke, Moondog, Johhny, and the L.A based production staff who were top notch, it's been an amazing few years doing magic with you, let's do it all again.