Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Guadalupe Island, 10 years of staring down Great White Sharks

 My name is Martin and this is my story

10 years ago, I boarded the "Ocean Odyssey" in San Diego, heading down to Isla Guadalupe to see the Great White Sharks. I was working as a deck hand and had no idea what to expect and couldn't have imagined how that trip was going to change my life.

Once we got to the Island, we started to put our cages into the water. Back then I had to lean over the rail and pretty much hang upside down, my face just a few feet from the water, in order to unclip the cage from the hoist cable.  That was when it happened! An enormous Great White Shark (OK, so it was only about 11ft. long) swam right by me and looked straight into my eyes!

After changing my shorts, (just kidding) I worked on deck all day. We had sharks swimming around the cages and even had a breach.  The following day I got to go into a cage. Within minutes a shark swam right by the cage and again, looked me straight in the eye. I thought I was going on this trip to check out Great White Sharks! I didn't know they were going to check me out! Needless to say I was hooked.

I only got to go to Guadalupe 3 times that first year, but by the end of the 3rd trip I knew I wanted to go back for more. Just before we returned to San Diego, I talked with Patric Douglas from Shark Diver about working the following season as the Dive Operations manager.

Martin Graf, hard at work at Isla Guadalupe!

That was 10 years ago. We have moved the dive operation over to the MV HORIZON and I no longer have to dangle over the rail to launch the cages. That first shark that checked me out that day is still around and has become my favorite. His name is Shredder (you just have to come out on a trip and I'll tell you how he got his name) He's been there every single year since we first saw him.

Shredder the King of Whitesharks!
I've gotten to know Mauricio, the local scientist and over the years have worked with him on tagging and DNA sampling the sharks. With the assistance of our shark divers, I also helped Nicole Nashby to expand a photo ID database to over 120 individual Great White Sharks. It's a really rewarding experience, not just for me, but for a lot of our shark divers, to be able to assist in the research, all while having the time of our lives. We found out that some of the Sharks leave Guadalupe in the summer and go to Hawaii (Who can blame them!) and always come back to Guadalupe in the fall. Every year I'm anxious to see if all "my" sharks have made it back.

I can't wait for August to go back!

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