Monday, February 11, 2019

Get to know "Lucy" a Great White Shark at Guadalupe


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I love "Lucy", and I'm not referring to the popular TV show of the 50ies. "Lucy" is a large female Great White Shark, that is regularly visiting Guadalupe Island. Most mature females are only seen every other year. They mate at Guadalupe Island and then stay away from the Island until after they give birth off the coast of Baja and in the Sea of Cortes, about 18 months after they get pregnant at Guadalupe.



In 2008 she suffered and injury to her tail, most likely from a bite by another shark. Her tail is pretty much mangled and it probably affects her speed. Even though she is definitely a mature female,  we saw her every year until 2014, which meant that she didn't get pregnant, since pregnant females stay away from Guadalupe for a season and return every other year. I don't know if the mangled tail was the reason she didn't seem to get pregnant for all those years, but fortunately she has started showing up every other year since then. Hopefully this means that she is indeed getting pregnant now. We last saw her in 2018, so most likely we won't see her again until 2020.


"Lucy's" tail makes it very easy to identify her. Usually we identify the individual sharks by their coloration. The transition from the white underbelly to the grey top is unique for every individual. Some people try to identify the sharks by their scars. That is how "Bite Face" got his name. The problem with scars is that they heal and if that is the only identifying characteristic you have, you would not recognize that same shark when it comes back the following year. Mutilations, like Lucy's tail don't change and can be used in conjunction with the markings to identify her. We have a photo id database that is managed by Nicole Nasby-Lucas from the Marince Conservation Science Institute, with over 220 individual sharks in identified.

If you are coming out on one of our "science" expeditions, you'll get a chance to learn how to identify these sharks from Nicole herself. You will also get the complete photo ID database, so you can identify all the sharks you encountered and what's really cool, you will then be able to identify the sharks you see on TV. How awesome will it be, when you see a shark on TV and realize that this is the individual that swam inches from your face at Guadalupe?




Even with her tail slowing her down, she seems to be healthy in every other way. She is definitely getting enough food and is holding her own among all the sharks at the Island. Lucy is a very curious shark and she swims very close to the cages, making eye contact with our divers as she is gliding by slowly.


I hope to see Lucy when we return in the fall. I do have mixed emotions though. While I would love to see her, it would of course mean that she didn't get pregnant last season.

If you would like to join us, or just get more information, call 619.887.4275, email crew@sharkdiver.com or visit our website www.sharkdiver.com

Let's go sharkdiving!

Cheers,

Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at staff@sharkdiver.com.
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Sunday, February 10, 2019

Get to know "Scarboard" a Great White Shark at Guadalupe


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"Scarboard" is another one of my favorite sharks. You're probably beginning to see a pattern here. I have a lot of "favorite" sharks. It's is amazing how all these sharks have different behaviors. Some are a bit skiddish, others are seemingly relaxed without a care in the world. Observing them for 16 years, I have grown attached to these guys and girls. However, as I always point out, I absolutely love these sharks, I'm crazy about them, but it is NOT a mutual feeling. As much as some people want you to believe that they just want to be hugged, they really don't. They are awesome predators, not out to get us, but they are not harmless pets either.

"Scarboard"

Scarboard is a massive female shark, one of our biggest at Guadalupe Island at around 19'. When we first met her in 2002, she was already huge. Like most of our adult females, she shows up at Guadalupe Island every other year. After getting mating at Guadalupe, she is spending the year in between offshore, before giving birth off the coast of Baja or in the Sea of Cortez. She doesn't have any mutilations, like "Lucy" and so many others, but she does have a very unique characteristic that makes identifying her easy. She has a very distinct line from her nose halfway to her dorsal fin. Where most Great White Sharks' lines have a continuous curve, Scarboard's is straight.

"Scarboard"
After we first encountered her in 2002, she came back in 04 and 06, but then we didn't see her again until 2011. We don't know, if we simply didn't see her, or if she stayed away from Guadalupe for 5 years.

When we don't see a shark during the season we expect to see them, we always worry that something might have happened to them. Luckily, sometimes, like in Scarboard's case, we worry about nothing. Where do they go during that extended time away from the Island, what do they do? There is so much we don't know about those sharks.


The first time we saw Scarboard, after her 5 year absence, I was in the middle of our 2 cages, she slowly swam by the first cage, checking out each individual diver and when she came to me, she looked me straight into the eyes, stopped and did a 180 degree turn, looked at me again, swam off, turned and swam back at me, stopped again, turned and swam off. It looks like that she recognized me, even after a 5 year absence.

2 seasons ago, "Scarboard" was being used for protection by some bait fish. I've never seen anything like that before. When she swam by, she looked like the "Bearded Lady".

Scarboard the "Bearded Lady"
 
A lot of people are surprised to learn that Great White Sharks recognize individual divers. The fact that they do is not as strange as it seems. We know of lots of fish that recognize divers. Groupers that have a favorite individual they follow around, moray eels that come out of their holes when they recognize a diver, Wolf eels that wrap themselves around the neck of an individual etc. It's important to remember though, just because White Sharks recognize individual divers, doesn't mean that they "love" us, want to be petted, or have any feelings towards us. We need to respect them for what they are, amazing predators, neither mindless killers, nor harmless pets.


For me there is nothing quite like seeing a familiar shark and realize it recognizes me as well. It still amazes me that we keep seeing the same individuals on a regular basis. They migrate thousands of miles, but come right back to the same spot.

If you want to find our for yourself what it's like to come face to face with a great white shark and want to learn how to identify these sharks, join us on one of our "science" expeditions. We do have some spaces open and would love to introduce you to our sharks.

Call 619.887.4275, email crew@sharkdiver.com or visit www.sharkdiver.com for more information.

Let's go shark diving!

Cheers,

Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at staff@sharkdiver.com.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Meet "Slash Fin" a Great White Shark at Guadalupe Island.


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Meet "Slash Fin",  #213 in our Photo ID database. She is a very active shark, swimming around normally and exhibiting all the typical white shark behaviors.


There is however something very different about this shark. Aside from a big lump on her side, she only has 3 visible gill plates on her left side. When looked at from the top, the left side of her head is pretty straight, while the right side curves out around her gills. It doesn't look like she is getting much water through her left side gills either and she seems to be breathing mainly through her right side gills.


Check out the video below. Aside from a nice bite injury she has, there are only 3 visible gill plates.


When you look closely, you can see that she has 5 gill slits, but 2 of her gills are completely covered by another gill plate. The bite on her gills has nothing to do with this oddity, since she has looked this way since we first met her and the injury is new.



Aside from her gills, she also has a deformed dorsal fin, with the trailing edge looking all ragged. It could be due to an injury, but I don't see an obvious signs of a trauma there.


On her right side, just behind and below her dorsal fin, she has a growth that is sticking out at least 6 inches. Is it a tumor, or is something embedded in her body?

Watch the video below and check out that growth for yourself.



Slash fin is a subadult female and about 13' in lenght. Despite her deformities, she doesn't exhibit any signs of distress and seems to be doing well.

The longer I dive with these sharks, the more I'm amazed by the new things we discover and learn about them. Are her deformities genetic? Is it a birth defect? Or....? I don't know, I'm just reporting my observations. Any scientists out there want to take a look at this?

Come join us on one of our expeditions to Guadalupe Island and meet our sharks face to face.

Let's go shark diving!

Cheers,
Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at staff@sharkdiver.com.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Meet "Tryss" one of our Great White Sharks at Guadalupe.


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The 2018 season at Guadalupe Island has been phenomenal. Thanks to Nicole Lucas from the Marine Conservation Science Institute, we have a way to identify and keep a record of all the sharks seen at Guadalupe Island. This is how we know that on one of our expedition we encountered a record breaking 52 different individuals, including a whopping 16 sharks that have not been previously identified. This shattered our previous record of 34 individuals seen on a single trip.




It's not just the number of sharks we encountered that was unusual, it was also the behavior of one of the new sharks. Meet "Tryss", or crazy Tryss as I like to call her!  Tryss displayed a very unusual behavior for a Great White Shark. She came to the cages multiple times, without any bait attracting her, sticking her nose into it,  bumping the boat and squeezing through narrow gaps. She did all that in slow motion, never freaking out  like other sharks would, when they touch the cage, keeping her eyes open, totally aware of her surroundings.

Check out the pictures and videos of her.


"Tryss" coming between the cages and the boat.


"Tryss" sticking her nose into the cage.

Checking out the boat.


Sticking her nose into the cage.


Hello there!


Hey, anyone up there?



See ya guys!

In 18 years of diving with these amazing animals, I have never witnessed a shark behave quite like this. It just goes to show that they will never stop surprising you. That's why I love my job and am completely fascinated by these awesome creatures.

Shark Diver proudly supports the Marine Conservation Science Institute through our MCSI hosted expeditions.  Joining us on one of these expeditions is  a great way to learn about our sharks and support the research. Maybe you'll even get to name a shark, like the ones who named "Tryss" last season.

Let's go shark diving!

For more information, visit  www.sharkdiver.com, email crew@sharkdiver.com, or call 619.887.4275

Cheers,
Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at staff@sharkdiver.com.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Meet "Bruce" a Great White Shark at Guadalupe Island


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The world is full of celebrities, but how often do you actually get to meet them and spend some quality time with them? Over the past 18 years, I've been privileged to do just that. I've met many stars of film and TV at Guadalupe Island. Stars like the incomparable "Shredder" "Bruce" "Jaques" "Lucy" "Scarboard" etc. All of those sharks have been featured in countless shark week episodes and their pictures are all over the internet. They truly are the rock-stars of Guadalupe Island.

I want to introduce you to a few of these Rock-stars, before our season begins in August.
 
Today I want to introduce you to "Bruce", another regular at the Island. Bruce has been around since we started shark diving at Guadalupe in 2001. When we first encountered him, he was just a "little" teenager, probably not much longer than 11-12'. Of course we had no idea that we would see him year after year and that he would grow into one of the larger males at the Island. He is now on the north side of 16' and one of the dominant shark at the site. Despite his size, he is one of the more mellow sharks around. He keeps swimming around with, what seems to be, a grin that looks like he stole something and got away with it.

Bruce saying hello to Whitney, one of our divers!

Bruce is also the shark who got me interested in shark research. I have to admit, that reading scientific papers held about as much excitement to me as watching grass grow. It simply wasn't my thing. When Dr. Domeier tagged Bruce with a satellite transmitter and used some of the data it produced for his paper on white shark migration, Nicole Nasby-Lucas, who works with Dr. Domeier and is responsible for the Guadalupe photo ID database, gave me a copy of the research paper. I started reading it, and realized that this paper was not just a research paper, but more like Bruce's travel journal. It was exciting to find out where he was going, when not at Guadalupe and what he was doing. Who knew that he was vacationing near Hawaii?! I mean, who wouldn't want to vacation there? Did you know that Great White Sharks can go deeper than 3000'? Well, I didn't, until I read that paper.

Even though he is one of the more mellow sharks around, being a great white shark and male, Bruce was not averse to a little fighting here and there. I remember one particular morning. I was just getting into the cages to sort out all the regulators, when I noticed some movement behind me. I turned and saw Bruce who looked me straight into the eyes. He sported a huge bite injury, just in front of his gills, with a hole that let me look straight through it and out his mouth. The amazing thing was, it didn't seem to bother him. He just kept swimming around and stayed active, like nothing had happened.

Bruce about a week after the bite.

Just like Chugey, when he came back the following year, his wound was closed and there was barely a scar to indicate that he was ever injured.

Bruce with his closed bite injury.


So that is Bruce.

Since we started shark diving at Guadalupe Island, we have met over 300 different individual sharks. Who is going to be back this year? Who is going to make their first appearance? Come join us and find out! This is your chance to meet these celebrities up close and personal. They do pose for pictures with you! Next time you watch shark week, you can say, "Hey, I know that guy!"

We run our trips from August through November and have a few spaces left for this coming season. We even have a couple of spaces open on our research trip on November 4. On that trip you'll get to meet the researcher who knows all about those sharks, Nicole Nasby-Lucas, along with all the rock-star white sharks of Guadalupe Island. Call us at 619.887.4275 or email crew@sharkdiver.com for more information.

Let's go shark diving!

Cheers,
Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at staff@sharkdiver.com.