Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Shark Diving Trip Report - Guadalupe Island 2010 "White Shark City"

When we got the phone call from Jan Millhauser this year, we knew we had a special mom on the phone.

She was interested in taking her 19 year old daughter shark diving.

What a mom!

Even rough seas could not keep this NY mother daughter pair down for too long when it came to meeting the "Man in the Grey Suit."

This is Jan's 2010 Shark Trip Report:

Ariel wanted to go dive with great white sharks for her graduation from high school. We researched for many of hours till we found “Shark Diver” and they were rated 5 out of five. I have to say the rating was accurate.

We flew on Jet Blue from JFK on an 8:30 am flight that got us to San Diego around 11:30am, after wrestling with local hotels and a mean front desk clerk and a quick trip to the Gaslamp district we got our ride to the dock where we were greeted by a friendly and kind “Horizon Charters” crew who were totally in control and knowledgeable. My fear of claustrophobia and not being able to get to the head (bathroom) in time in case the sea sick patches were not sea worthy was on my mind.

As we were walking to the “MV Horizon” (boat’s name) the crew Mark and Kyle were joking with Ariel and I making me feel like all was going to be just fine. I took my valium on top of the anxiety pill (which did not seem to be working) to get calm, did I mention I was a bit nervous?

This was the first time either of us had been diving, let alone 210 miles off the coast with white sharks!

The 80 foot Horizon had two very large cages on the deck. Upon boarding we met some of the other crew and passengers. Everyone was friendly and supportive. There were a few others with the same fears as I had.

There was Alec (whom I kept calling Eric, he took it in stride) and Lisa his wife from England, Marcus from Ireland, Mark from Canada, Jeff from Tennessee, Steve from Maryland, William from San Diego (who was originally from Panama until he moved to CA at 16; army brat), John from NY with his father Bob from Chicago and Ka-Hay from Hong Kong (best line “I was like what the f@!% is this shit?) That broke the ice for all.

Customs came on the boat went through all the official stuff and then took off for the 16 hour journey to the Guadalupe Islands. Mark and Beth the kitchen crew made us delicious pancakes for breakfast. On the way there we saw whales sprouting but we couldn’t find them so we continued on after a few minute detour whale watching. Spinner dolphins joined us for a while playing in the wake of the Horizon. Two more meals, diving lecture, getting fitted for our wet suits, a few laughs with the rest of our dive partners and of to bed.

We woke up with cages being put into the water and Mark and Beth were taking breakfast orders we had arrived after months of preparation to Isla Guadalupe.

All of a sudden we hear “White Shaaaark”(Ariel was the first person to spot the shark) everyone darted out onto the deck to watch a beautiful great white shark swimming around the boat. It took all the energy of the boat crew to keep all 12 of us from jumping in the water to swim with the shark. His movement in the water was so graceful it was like watching a ballerina dance at Lincoln center. We ate breakfast, lectured on safety rules of appropriate cage entry, exit, picture taking and NO hanging out of the cage for pictures which I must say only a few of the divers actually followed that rule (not Steve, Ariel or myself; we were a naughty shark cage team.)

Martin the Dive Master made a scheduled one hour in the cages one hour out with a half hour for lunch so we got in the cage several times on the first day.

We saw 14 different great white sharks over the 3 days of cage diving.

On my second dive a large great white was coming head in to me and I was just about to do the most “not allowed move” by kissing his snout when my regulator hose broke off my mouth piece and I had to get out of the cage till it was fixed. After I got out Kyle and I were on the side of the boat talking when two sharks had a fight and both breached right in front of us. Of course neither of us had a camera to get it on digital but it will be in our minds eye forever.

I had a few more really close encounters with a few white sharks but none close enough to actually kiss. Most of the sharks came within 1 – 2 inches from the cages.

We were allowed to get in the shark cages before our rotation if we got up early enough. There were a few seagulls swimming in front of our boat when a great white shark came up from underneath it and lifted the bird and its nose right out of the water that someone got video of!

Very cool.

We saw a few sharks 10 – 20 feet below our cages swimming around. We spent one dive where all we saw were mackerel while we prayed for a shark but none came. Steve our dive mate fixed our hoses when they got tangled; we took pictures of each other and played hand games while we waited in the cold water -down time after a hot shark first day. We ate dinner exchanged memory cards to see each other’s video and pictures. The camaraderie was at an all time high and no one refused to share their amazing shark pics.

I got up early to get into the into the cages early and got a wonderful show. A sea lion came up under the boat and to visit our cages. Then he got a visit from a young great white about 9 feet and the seal and shark where playing tag with the seal doing most of the chasing it was amazing. After my allotted time and the first rotation came in a second great white shark came to join the game and we saw a little bit of the play looking down into the water from the boat deck. On our rotations first dive we saw a few great whites not close up but not far either. The second dive we saw nothing and the third dive Ariel and I decided to shower and just watch from the deck, read and relax. It was a very smart move because some rough current was coming in and the cages plus boat started to rock.

Before we left Captain Spencer said we were going to be heading into rough waters. A few of us loaded up on the bonnine and other sea sick pills plus vied for position on the rear deck for a view of the horizon. When we left Captain Spencer drove by the shore so we could see the sea lions and elephant seals then headed back to Ensenada Mexico to go through customs.

As soon as the boat left the cove where we were anchored we ran into huge swells and the boat was getting tossed around. I did not know that a boat could move in so many directions at one time and stay erect. The preventative motion sick patch did not help so we added a 5 mg valium that helped for a little bit but we could not get off the back deck being afraid of losing my cookies.

Ariel suggested we go to our bunk and try to sleep, after being in our bunks for about 10 minutes Ariel grabbed the garbage pail off my bed and put it to good use. Ariel lost it 3 times over a few hours and wound up doing the most puking for the trip. I got sick in between Ariel’s illness and Alec stood by me offering verbal support while his wife Lisa was loosing it down below. However 9 of the 11 of us got seasick and one of the crew did too.

It took us 17+ hours in rough-ocean to make it back to Ensenada, Mexico and boy were we all grateful. Only one person stayed ill the entire trip back but for the most part the ride from Ensenada to San Diego the waves were mild but then again so was our entire food intake for fear of a repeat performance.

Overall we had an indescribable experience that words cannot do justice to. Great white shark diving is an experience that must be done first hand to understand the feeling of euphoria.

Jan and Ariel 2010 Official Shark Divers!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Caught on Tape - Thresher Sharks Hunting

On a scale of cool shark videos this one ranks up there. Purported to have been shot off Pescador Island, it features a Thresher shark hunting with its tail, a unique adaptation and one rarely seen by divers.

Explains why fishermen on the west coast of the U.S, especially off La Jolla shores, often report tail hooking these animals:


Caguama Beer - Misses the Marketing

As the CEO of a shark diving company I have, over the past decade, become a conservationist. Mainly because I have seen first hand the loss of Blue sharks on the west coast off California.

It is not hyperbole, they have gone from waters once teeming with them, finned never to return.

As a conservationist I often play a role in changing perceptions. I am also frequently amazed at lost opportunities both in the conservation world and within the business world to effect conservation change.

Case in point this beer. Called Caguama, it is made in El Salvador and marketed and imported into the U.S.

I was going to try a case yesterday because of the turtle on the bottle and the write up about the beer, until I read it:

"Legend has it the fishermen of Central America sought the Great Loggerhead Turtle in warm tropical waters. It was tribal belief that this powerful turtle also known as the "Caguama," symbolized good fortune for the fisherman's village. It is our hope that you too will experience the good fortune of the Caguama when you experience this award-winning Latin beer. "

Now in the parlance of fishermen the term "sought" is kinda like the bibles "begat". As a fisherman you do not seek wildlife in the ocean to pat it on the head, put a garland of flowers around it, and let it go. In fact Latin America has a long and destructive history of turtle fishing and habitat destruction.

With Loggerheads endangered, I had hoped the side of this beer I was considering purchasing might have said something to that effect, even offered a small donation to one of the many South American NGO's trying to save these critters.

Would I purchase that beer? You bet.

Would it be too preachy or would the consumer be turned off by simple messaging? I don't think so.

Try this:

"Legend has it the fishermen of Central America sought the Great Loggerhead Turtle in warm tropical waters. It was tribal belief that this powerful turtle also known as the "Caguama," symbolized good fortune for the fisherman's village. Today, Caguama Beer is saving Loggerheads for future generations by supporting Central American NGO's who are resorting habitat, and providing safe sanctuaries for eggs and hatchlings. It is our hope that you too will experience the good fortune of the Caguama when you experience this award-winning Latin beer."

Small changes make a difference in the minds of consumers, and small changes like this one would also have turtle NGO's in the region promoting this beer above all others, free marketing, and a win for both conservation and the turtles.

Sadly, I bought a case of Corona instead. Corona does care about wildlife, and they are not trying to market anything but a Mexican beer with a slice of lime in it.

At the end of the day, if you're going to do something, do it right, and don't market endangered species with the hopes that folks like me will buy into it.


Cheers,
Patric Douglas
www.sharkdiver.com
www.sharkdivers.com
www.sharkdivers.blogspot.com
www.guadalupefund.org
www.sharkfreemarinas.com
415.235.9410

Daniel Botelho - Hunting Blues

Da Shark had some fine praise for underwater photog Daniel Botelho last week via Marty Wolff.

When I read his post I had to agree. I met Daniel a few years back at Isla Guadalupe when he came to shoot our whites.

What struck me about Daniel was his quiet grace. Here is an underwater photog that takes his time, chooses his moment, and get's the shot. He's also a first class guy to hang around with and our crew came to respect and love the guy during the week we spent with him at 'Lupe.

Yesterday another series of Daniels was revealed on Facebook, this time Daniel tackled Blue whales.

Hard to find, even harder to capture on film and yet, Daniel, swimming in a cloud of Krill, manged to capture these magnificent animals.

Well some of them. In a way part of the majesty of these critters is their elusiveness and their wraith like ability to hide their impressive bulk in the mysterious deep blue of the oceans.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bada Boom - Greatest Show on Earth Right Now

The greatest show on the planet right now is in Indonesia and Mt. Sinabung which is spewing forth white hot lava and massive plumes of hot volcanic debris.

For volcano watchers worldwide (Frank and Jenny) Indonesia is known for especially "primeval" volcanic events.

RT Flights from San Francisco will set you back about $1200 USD. The last time this old gal went Pleistocene was back in the late 1600's. Should be an interesting couple of weeks.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Corkscrew Killers Wine Challenge - Gauntlet Picked Up in U.K

Our Transoceanic Wine Challenge to U.K researchers working on the Corkscrew Killer Mystery has been picked up this week.

With a twist.

From an undisclosed and secret research lab location in the U.K this morning:

Hi Shark Divers,

Well, you have thrown the gauntlet and we have picked it up! Good idea!

We will keep you informed of any progress we make.
One issue you might consider is whether there are two different causes in the two areas. We have always agreed that some of the Canadian animals were definitely taken by sharks, without any doubt.

We do not believe any of the UK seals were and we very strongly suspect that some of the Canadian seals were not, either.
Just want to make absolutely clear where we are right now, with nothing hiding behind curtains to be revealed in the future!

All the best and thanks for the continued interest, it really helps us!

With a bottle of fine wine at stake we're pretty sure The Corkscrew Killer is in fact largely a shark based phenomenon based on the two images presented in this post. The first image is Sable Island, Canada and a fresh kill from 2002/3.

The second image here is purported to be from a recent 2010 Corkscrew Killer death in the U.K.

The similarities are striking with only the fat layer being removed from both animals and a head to mid thorax spin as the Corkscrew Killer removes the fat leaving behind exposed rib and lean muscle tissue.

But what of the U.K teams admission that some but not all of Sable Islands Corkscrewed seals are taken by sharks?

Curious indeed, making the Corkscrew Killer Mystery an enduring one and begging the question, what mechanical variables exist on both the shores of the U.K and the extremely remote Sable Island?

Time for the reveal. Apparently the U.K team is close to providing the proof of the Corkscrew Killers origins in the U.K.

A signed bottle of 2005 Floodplain Proprietors Red wine from Napa Valley in California awaits their findings....or perhaps not.

Further reading Corkscrew Killer Blog.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Corkscrew Killers - U.K Ducts vs Greenland Sharks

There's an ongoing Battle Royal between U.K and Canadian researchers with completing theories over corkscrew deaths of seals.

Canadian researcher Zoe Lucas who works on Sable Island has conducted an eight-year study of "corkscrew" seal injuries.


She maintains Greenland Sharks are capable of inflicting such wounds.



However, scientists at the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) at the University of St Andrews, U.K have ruled out the possibility of the deaths being caused by sharks. They claim mechanical ducts are causing these wounds.



Having a shark blog that goes back over three years allows us to cover the stranger side of sharks and this enduring predatory mystery.

Underwater Thrills Corkscrew Killer Timeline

April 26 2008 The Mystery

August 8 2008 More from Sable

August 17 2010 UK Corkscrew Killer

August 20 2010 Sharks Ruled Out

August 25 2010 Canadian Researchers Say Shark

As we posted last week, "unless the same set of mechanical variables is present on the remote Sable Island in Canada, their efforts (U.K) leave much to be desired as does the removal of a biological answer to the mystery of the Corkscrew Killer in the U.K"

The Challenge

Underwater Thrills is officially offering a fine bottle (signed) of 2005 Floodplain Proprietor Red from Napa Valley, California to any U.K researcher who can prove without a doubt that the Corkscrew Killer is in fact a man made object or machine.


Further reading Corkscrew Killer Blog.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Karl Stanley Shark Video - Honduras

When you own your own submarine, life at depth can be pretty sweet:

A 10 foot long Smalltooth sandtiger shark charges the Idabel submarine at 900' depth off Roatan, Honduras on Aug 15, 2010. Passengers are Peter Etnoyer and Fred Boltz.

Pilot is Karl Stanley of Roatan Institute for Deep-sea Exploration.


Hunting Poachers Mission rECOn - Aug 2010

Image by Christy Fisher.

One of the more interesting members of the conservation/film and television community is, without a doubt, Scott Cassell.

Recently he's been involved with a front running conservation project called rECOn.

rECOn changes the way the public views conservation initiatives by documenting and then putting in jail poachers in regions where enforcement is non existent.

This is boots on the ground enforcement to effect conservation change.

Scott just got back from Baja with this after action report from his team.

What they discovered in Baja shocked them and will shock you as well.

Warning: Contains language and heartfelt emotion:

Dale and I have just returned from our latest rECOn mission hunting poachers which ran from August 15th to the 20th. This time we were joined by cameraman XXX whom was filming our operation for consideration to produce a series for XXX.


XXX had expectations but he expressed they were exceeded by what he saw and now is a firm believer in what Dale and I do as we hunt and film some of the the worst of humans.



Weeks ago Dale had a tip that somewhere near the city dump was a pile of shark heads. Intrigued we searched around and in short order we found what we were looking for. Frankly, none of us were ready for what we would find.



The first few shark heads we found were tiny. Barely 2.5 inches across indicating the (Silky) sharks were only 10 inches to one foot long. These were just babies! We found 27 heads (20 silky, three hammerhead and four dogfish) and were disgusted with the cowardly act of slaughtering baby sharks for the export of their tiny fins to the Asian markets and the tiny fillets being sold at the local markets.



We decided to lay them all out in neat rows to film them and as I maneuvered to make the line straight my foot slipped into a burn pile opening up the charred surface exposing underneath. Dozens of tiny shark heads showed through... and as Dale, xxx and I looked around with our eyes calibrated to what to look for we began to realize what was all around us. We found an old plastic box-crate and began loading it up with all of the tiny shark heads and the deeper we dug the more we found... then I found the worst of it. A huge pile of of horse shit covered hundreds of baby shark heads.



I love sharks. I love sharks like many folks love dogs and cats. For years I have hand fed and admired sharks. I have tagged them, saved them for net entanglement, and reached out and touched ‘one ton’ white sharks and tigers as they swim by in their full majesty... and my life is greatly enriched because of these unique encounters.



To discover over one thousand disembodied heads of babies in a dump covered in horse shit was almost too much to endure. All of this suffering for sushi and shark-fin soup.



XXX found the heart to keep filming and despite his own emotions... he kept asking me to talk to the camera in order to record my reactions to this display of ‘humanity’. I found myself on the verge of tears as I dug out tiny lifeless heads of shark pups with their vacant eyes staring into man’s world of trash. The anger welling up inside of me had to be focused as I inhaled the dust composed of murdered babies, horse shit and human filth. This illustration of man’s complete lack of respect for the sea and indeed for life itself lowered my faith in Mexican fishermen and mankind overall.



Dale called out to us with another sickening discovery... but at least this one offered a recourse I very much wanted. “Dude! Here are about 25 to 30 poached Totuaba! XXX and I came over to see for ourselves and confirmed his discovery. Dale had carefully laid out about ten of the dozens of filleted fish carcasses for positive identification. The tell-tale rounded Caudal fin and skull shape offered the positive ID we needed to present as evidence and we carefully video recorded it.



This has special significance to us because the Totuaba were fished to near extinction and are now protected by Mexican law. Having a Totuaba in your possession regardless of how you obtained it is a mandatory 8 year prison sentence. So, if we can find out where the poachers fish the Totuaba we can find WHO they are and bust them.



XXX, Dale and I gathered at the tail gate of the truck and reflected for a moment on what we just found and I glanced across the dump at a strange shape propped-up on a rock. At first I thought it was just a piece of junk like a trash can lid... then I saw a familiar shape along the edge of it. “No Way!” I jumped up and set to look at it with a quick walk. What I thought was junk was a Green Sea Turtle shell with the center kicked in by a poachers boot-covered foot. What I did not know is that I had just found the best way to catch these sick bastards. Dale had a network of friends in the area and they know everything that goes on nearby. They know Sea Turtles are easy to poach.



The next morning we set out on Dale’s panga to the islands we selected to explore for Poaching activity. Upon arrival to Lobos Island we noticed the Sea Lions were afraid of human approach and scrambled off rocks at the sight of us. This behavior is learned, not instinctual. Here humans kill Sea Lions. As most Sea Lions scrambled into the water I noticed on was hesitant to leave her rock perch. We slowly worked our way closer to her and noticed she had a dark ring around her neck. I trained binoculars at her as XXX focused his camera’s long lens on her and we both saw she was gravely injured from a Poachers net fragment cutting through her skin, blubber and muscle into her throat. I took out my knife and asked Dale to close it so I might try to jump-tackle her and cut the net off... but she dove in at the last second closing the window of opportunity on her survival.



Under permit, we landed and began our survey for poaching activity and didn't have to look long. XXX, Dale and I found several dead Sea Lions with either nets on entangled on them, or stab wounds on their head and necks. But the real heart breaker was when Dale discovered a baby Sea Lion corpse with a suspicious head wound and called me over. Upon inspection I discovered it was blunt trauma induced skull fracture. The baby was killed by a rock strike at the base of the occipital of the skull.



Poachers murder the innocent.



We left the island with heavy hearts.



As we arrived back to the storage location for the Dale’s panga we unloaded the gear but Dale quietly disappeared with an old friend of his to chat with him. XXX and I finished unloading the boat and waited in the truck. Upon Dale’s return he looked visibly upset. “GUYS!” He demanded, “You cannot even F___KING believe what just happened! I just got a tip on the Sea Turtle Poachers!” “Some guys want to sell me Sea Turtle meat!”



We unloaded our gear and prepared for what was about to happen. XXX assembled his long-lens with a Night Vision intensifier and I set up a small camcorder to give to Dale. The mission was simple although potentially very dangerous. Dale was going to go into the poacher’s campo and film the Sea Turtle while pretending to want to buy it.



With XXX set up on an observation point to film Dale at long range and Dale’s tiny HDV camcorder ready, Dale jumped into the truck and drove to the Poacher’s campo. XXX was able to film Dale’s entire drive into the campo and even captured outstanding images of him walking to the Sea Turtle’s remains (on a table). At that point it was all up to Dale to film the Sea Turtle’s body and what the Poachers were saying. Much to Dale’s credit he filmed the Sea Turtle, the poacher’s faces and even recorded them saying how they kill up to two Sea Turtles per day, how to cook the meat and even the methods of how and where they set nets to catch them!



Dale politely declined purchasing the dead Sea Turtle and chatted with them about weather, fishing, a cut on a fisherman’s hand and eventually left safely.



So: How much is a Sea Turtle worth? The Sea Turtle was offered to Dale for $100. We decided it would have sold for much less to a Mexican.



Upon his return we watched the film Dale captured and it was incredible! Now we needed to film them in the act of fishing for turtles and (thanks to Dale’s film) we knew exactly where and when to set up the surveillance. Almost on cue, a Poacher carries a huge net on his shoulder to the shoreline in complete darkness... all the while being filmed by XXX’s watchful eye (complete with night vision camera). Once the Poacher dropped the net Dale and I set out on the beach to get close up images of the net to be certain it is the kind used to kill Sea Turtles. Dale set up an over-watch position with an Electrophysics Thermal Camera and radio to keep me informed of Poacher movements, especially if he decided to return to the net while I was there filming it. I used my Sony Z-1 with an Electrophysics Night Vision 9350BRAC Module to film in the darkness like it was daytime. I worked my way out on the beach to the net in a low a profile to avoid detection while Dale looked out for me. XXX was filming us both from a higher more distant vantage point using his night vision module and long lens.


After some sneaking around I found the Poacher’s net and confirmed it was the kind used to kill Sea Turtles. A surge of anger rushed through me and I wanted to destroy the net and wrap it around the Poacher’s neck like the condemned female Sea Lion we saw earlier... but I stayed on the mission profile and departed the area. As soon as I found Dale’s over-watch position and joined him the Poacher was half-way to the net. I luckily missed the Poacher’s return by less than a minute! In my heart I felt it was more lucky for the Poacher than me we did not meet alone in the dark.



We silently filmed the Poacher deploy the net over the course of 45 minutes in the darkness. I felt good about the footage we caught but was seething inside about the innocent creatures this drug-hooked-miserable-excuse of a human was responsible for killing for a few pesos. He was not a man. He was a coward.



The next morning we all loaded Dale’s panga and we went around the point to where the Poacher’s net was set. Dale passed by the cove a few times in order to give me amble opportunity to get a compass course set with my TAC board. I finished putting the Ghuille cover on my O2 rebreather and I donned my new Riffe Cryptic Camo Wetsuit and combat dive gear and slipped into the water. On my TAC board was a HERO HD Camcorder facing me to record my actions during the dive and another was mounted on my helmet facing forward to record what I saw. I descended to 20 fsw and noticed how my body blended perfectly into the water thanks to the Riffe suit. I made a communications call to Dale and then followed my pre-determined course and counted kick strokes right up to the net (which was in full view of the Poacher’s campo... hence the need for stealth). The net was already indiscriminately killing fish while it waited for the illegal targets (Sea Turtle) to wander to close. I filmed the full length of the coward’s technology and called Dale to let him know I was safe and departing the net back to the boat. Once back onboard we left the site to set up another surveillance site to wait for the poachers to recover the net. They never came. Did they get tipped off to our operation? Were they just too high to care about getting their illegal catch out before it spoils? We may never know... but we did collect several nets and placed them into our little bonfire ring. It feels really good to destroy these nets and I hope it financially cripples these bastards so they find it harder to Poach.



Dale, XXX and I were lucky enough to meet with our ‘client’ in Baja as we headed back to the US. We showed him some of our evidence and explained in detail what we found. He was quiet at first... then he offered us some insight to his vast wisdom and experience. He told us he would be able to take our evidence and show an exclusive audience what we have discovered. These powerful people will influence other leaders to design change and encourage new directions of protection. But... before that he will take our evidence and show it to the Mexican District Attorney so he can open an investigation, make arrests and remove these people from the equation.



As of today, four Poachers face 8 years in prison each. A Mexican prison.



Although this is a good result... I am haunted by the vacant eyes of a thousand baby sharks, the dead baby Sea Lions and the complete lack of respect for life and the ocean these Poachers demonstrated.



As my friend Dale put it:

“The poacher is an international fugitive, not just a mexican one. The mind of a poacher transcends borders and morality, they are of the same mind no matter where you go. Out for fast easy money with no regard for the law, or the world for that matter”.

I will never stop Hunting Poachers. The rECOn Mission has just begun.



Scott Cassell

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Guadalupe Island 2010 Shark Diving Report


Aug 16 – 21 2010 Isla Guadalupe Shark Diver Trip Report

MV Horizon Crew

Captains Spencer and Cary

Deck Hands Kyle, Mark and John

Dive Master Martin

Galley Mark and Beth



Adventurers

John, Bob, Steve, Jan, Ariel, Ka-Hay, Jeff, Alec, Lisa, William, Marcus, and yours truly



On the evening of Aug 16 at around 9pm 11 others and myself boarded the MV Horizon with Shark Diver at H&M Landing in San Diego in search of adventure, Great White Sharks, and in some cases in search of ourselves. We came from Ireland, London, Hong Kong, the U.S. and in my case Canada. It truly was an international trip!



The crew introduced themselves as we all got to know each other through the course of the evening. The crew is simply unbelievable! The level of care, service, and friendliness is top notch. Throughout the entire trip they displayed and executed some of the best customer service I’ve ever experienced. Easily rivals that of Disney’s legendary service and in some cases bettered it. Kyle and Spencer will have you laughing, both Marks and John will make you feel at ease with their easy going salt of the Earth nature’s, Martin and Cary will fill you up on knowledge and information, and Beth will make you feel right at home with that outgoing bubbly personality.

The accommodations aboard are obviously on the small side but are surprisingly comfortable. More than enough comfort throughout the boat whether it be in your cabin, the galley or the decks to get yourself some space when you feel the need. In those rare times I wanted to be alone in my thoughts I always found it. But you’ll be having too much fun with the crew and fellow travelers for too much of that.



I will give a heads up, the nights can get surprisingly chilly and I wish I had brought a couple more long sleeve shirts over short sleeve. Also make sure to bring some seasickness remedies. Bring more than you think you’ll need. The going there was excellent, very smooth. The way back however got pretty rough and I did get sidelined to my cabin for about 20 hours or so and missed out on some of the best damn food you could ever eat and fun times with new found friends.

And that food I mentioned, well it is incredible. Mark and Beth know how to put together a menu! I miss it already especially Mark’s raspberry chipotle sauce! Kyle warned us at the beginning of the trip that they would keep us well fed to the point that we’d beg them to stop feeding us. He wasn’t kidding. We all began to worry about our waistlines.



Enough of the boat and the crew and food. It’s the sharks you want to hear about. So lets have at it. One day after we left Ensenada Mexico with a pod of dolphins and later a pod of pilot whales leading the way we arrived at Isla Guadalupe in the early morning. According to my journal it was around 5am that it began to appear out of the darkness and cloud cover with the anchor dropping around 6:30am. Oh one more thing, do yourself the favor and set an alarm for that experience. As the resident early riser aboard among the passengers I can’t begin to describe how incredible the sunrise at Guadalupe is. It’s so picture perfect that if you saw it on a postcard you’d think it was photo shopped.


The cages had been in the water for all of about 30 seconds and the first group not yet suited up before Ariel shouted from the back deck “SHARK!” We all scampered to the back deck rails and there it was. A beautiful Great White Shark cruising past the cages leisurely making its way around the boat. We all ooohed and ahhhed at the size and then laughed as Martin said he’s just a little guy only about 9 feet long!


Well you never saw 6 people put on wetsuits so fast in your life! I was in the first rotation and first in our cage. I did slow things up a bit as having no previous scuba experience I got nervous and a little panic’d once under water. I found breathing difficult and had a claustrophobic feeling and had to surface. Thankfully Martin was in the cage with us for first rotation and he quickly explained that what just happened to me was normal for first timers and gently and calmly reassured me. I can’t say enough about how well Martin calmed and re-instructed me. Within 2 minutes we were back underwater and I was doing fine.


In the first hour of our rotation we had the shark that Ariel had spotted and shortly thereafter Bite Face who was sporting his tag from Operation Great White joined him. Bite Face loves to swim close to the cages and make eye contact with you. Let me tell you, when you look millions of years of evolution in the eye and it looks back at you making eye contact with you it changes you. Your life and the way you see the World won’t be the same.


Throughout the entire first day every cage rotation there was always 2 – 4 sharks of varying sizes nearby. Not one rotation went by without divers able to get up close ands somewhat personal with a shark. Martin was so excited to see Bite Face and perhaps Bite Face was excited as well. He never did leave the area. He continued to make visits throughout our 3 days of diving.


Over those 3 days we saw either 14 or 15 different sharks anywhere from around 5 feet to 14 feet in length. We saw Bite Face stalk and try to have a snack of sea gull. We watched a game of cat and mouse play out for over an hour between a sea lion who ventured out to the cages and the 2 sharks that came to investigate said sea lion. It was fascinating! The sea lion would constantly swim upside down so it could look below for potential attack runs. It would position itself behind the sharks so it could nip at their tails. When it would get caught by surprise it would swim to the boat hull and Spider-Man style perch upside down and crawl along the hull to hide in the props. All of us were of mixed emotions of the event. None of us were sure weather we wanted the little fella to evade being lunch or not! He eventually did return to the safety of the beach by eventually pestering one of the sharks so much it left the area for a while.


I can’t recommend this trip enough. Even if you’re not that fascinated by sharks it’s an amazing adventure. The crew is amazing; I miss all of them already. Not waking up to Spencer’s cry of “White Sharrrrrrrrk” and Kyle’s one-liners makes me sad. Not to mention Mark and Beth’s food, fantastic conversation with John and Mark and the wealth of information that Martin and Cary are able to provide about the ocean and the animals in it.


As I sit a few days removed from the experience I can’t help but feel a little sad. It was bittersweet coming home. While it was nice coming home it almost doesn’t feel quite like home. As I said at the beginning of this some of us came in search of ourselves as well as White Sharks. Well that would be me. I’ve been on a road of some self-discovery the last year or so in hopes of making some changes in my life and the way I approach it. I did just that on this trip. I discovered a part of me I had lost a long time ago as well as found some new things out about myself. I told deck hand Mark this through tear filled eyes as we approached H&M Landing as the adventure rapidly came to a close. I won’t share his words here as they are for us suffice to say his kind words and warm handshake and embrace went a long way and I know I’ve made a new friend. So while I’m back home in Canada there’s a part of me that’s still in the deep blues of the ocean. I fell in love with being in that endless blue water and it’s varying shades. The rays of sunlight dancing down from the surface as far as the eye can see. The peace and serenity I found under the waves was as awesome as the White Sharks. I will be getting my SCUBA certification. I also rediscovered my love of photography and will be getting back into that as well.


I look forward to seeing my new friends aboard the Horizon again in the future; I will be doing this trip again! Several times! I also look forward to keeping in touch with my fellow adventurers. I’m sure once you take this trip you’ll find you will want to do the same.


Many thanks to Patric and Shark Diver and Greg and Horizon Charters. To the crew of the MV Horizon and my fellow travelers on this trip, happy trails to you all until we meet again.



Shark Diver - Mark Denstedt



P.S. Kyle mentioned sharks love AC/DC. He is right. Anytime he found AC/DC on the radio sharks showed up within seconds of it being turned on. I recommend bringing the AC/DC discography on your iPod.

White Shark Snacking Video - East Coast

The Dorsal Fin Blog got the scoop on a white shark and seal predation story this week:


Monday, August 23, 2010

3944 Animals over 20 Years? Wonky Shark Net Math

The Australian Gov just announced that, over the past 20 years, shark nets designed to keep swimmers safe off Australian beaches have entangled an additional 3944 animals from rays to whales.

3944 animals over 20 years?

Somehow this number seems a bit low. Granted these nets are up on a seasonal basis September through April, but one might assume many more animals have been caught given that some 47 nets are in place.

We're going to look into this, contacting the actual vessels involved in netting operations and the conservationists on the other side of this issue who are calling for a take down of the nets.

If there's one thing we have come to discover about government statistics, wonky math tends to rule the day one hard data gets filtered though politico's.

Let's see if there's a story behind this story.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Shark Operators Plan To Challenge Law - Hawaii

Shark Industry Watch 8.21.2010

Shark tour operators who were cited for allegedly chumming off the North Shore say they will challenge the law.The case will likely cost more than the cost of paying a fine because it will raise some complex issues in court.

"It's basically a ridiculous charge and we are going to fight it all the way even to an appeal," attorney Ken Kuniyuki said.Five employees of two Haleiwa shark tour companies were charged with illegal chumming last week, nearly a year after federal investigators collected evidence.

The charge is a petty misdemeanor with up to a $1,000 fine, but an attorney for one of the men said state game wardens treated the defendants like felons.

The Story.