Monday, February 23, 2009

Sylvia Earle TED Prize Speech

Exceptional speech by Sylvia Earle at the TED Prize. She delivers a strong message and the need to develop protected areas in the ocean as have been done on land...Definitely worth a close attention to her wish at the end.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Shark of a Dinner

Wolf Leander, Felix Leander, Samuel Gruber

Last Thursday the Grubers invited my dad and me to their home and dinner. While initially the conversations were mostly about sharks - they quickly went into all kinds of directions and topics which actually was very pleasant. The Wolf and the Doc have a lot more in common than just sharks.

Wolf, Felix, Marie, Doc

After dinner, the Doc was kind enough to give us a tour of his office (not the ocean one) - every photo and book has a great story in that room - and it is a sharky room. We had Japanese tea (Genmaicha) and cookies to end the night. Marie gave me a bag of the tea to take home - it was that good.

Wolf, Felix, Doc

Marie, the Doc's wife, is extremely warm hearted, fun, and full of energy. I spent most of the night talking to her - was great listening to her stories about the shark lab (in Bimini), the old Miami, and her family. I knew her son-in-law at a previous employer - at the time Brett mentioned to me that he was dating Marie's and Doc's daughter Aya, a law professor AND a talented musician. I had shown Brett OceanicDreams - never did I imagine then that I would actually meet the Grubers.

Just wanted to thank Marie and Doc again for everything...

On another note, my dad left for Nassau yesterday for a memorial service for one of his best friends,
Guy Meeker.

Next week Doc will meet up with the Wolf there...more to come on that.

Felix and Doc

PS - have a look at Fallz (Aya Gruber's and Brett's music project) and if you ever need any search engine optimization (SEO) be sure to check out The Hits Doctor.

Friday, February 20, 2009

We are the children we always were...

Analyze yourself in all honesty - do you think you have 'grown' or even 'matured'?

I haven't.

Between age 7 and 68 I had a life; and it was one that wasn't really boring or monotonous, to sum it up.

I have seen things, done things, done
many stupid things, especially when it came to managing my own affairs. However, professionally I wasn't too bad.

For instance, I always told my private banking clients:
"Invest only in stuff that you fully understand."

Unfortunately, I myself didn't follow that very sound advice which is why I lost about half of my lifetime savings in a matter of less than 6 months. I relied on the investment recommendations of smart private bankers - and got screwed over. And that happened only recently...

The problem is that nobody in the international banking industry, not even the sophisticated top investment bankers wearing dark blue pin-striped designer suits had the
slightest notion of the risks they were supposed to manage. Inevitably, this leads to a basic question: Isn't risk management what banking is all about?

Who said you get 'wiser' as you age?... That is a whole pile of BS, and is only true of the very few people who were already wise when they were young.

The most frequent question I heard from my wife during our marriage of 33 years is:
"Zewulf - when will you finally mature?"

A former colleague of mine, a real asshole but probably a really wise asshole by now, wrote me only a few days ago, literally:
"You ludicrous dickhead still behave like a 18 year old one - grow up!!"

Maybe the wise asshole and my patient wife have got a point after all.... :-).


What I wanted to say is that it is the early impressions that mark us for life.

At age six I already had four passions that never left me: Women (appropriately, they were four or five years old back then), diving, drawing, and sharks.

While I love and admire women to this day,
even if they are a few years younger than myself, and drawing eventually made way to photography, my passion for diving and sharks stayed with me all these years, pretty much unchanged.

Here is the proof:

John Wayne fighting a giant octopus (1947)

Mako Shark (1948)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Lost Generation

This may have nothing to do with sharks directly, but it has everything to do with them...the video below was created for the AARP U@50 video contest and placed second.  Generation Y is more concerned about global issues, particularly the environment, than we think.  They are growing up in a time where words like green, environment, sustainability are part of their everyday vocabulary (unlike older generations)... 

Video has a great twist - watch until the end.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Discovery Shark Week - get a clue...

A promo clip from BBC's Nature's Great Events - Sardine run...a world of difference in programming and show quality compared to what The Discovery Channel has lately done with Shark Week. How would the BBC do Shark Week? My only recommendation to Didier - don't wear fins that are the same color as the fish in the bait ball :)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A good photograph should be in your head before you squeeze the shutter....

Mutual respect
Click on image to enlarge

.... but in order to get a perfect shot you need luck, lots of it.

I think I was extremely lucky to have captured this minimalistic image.

It is the most harmonious graphic composition of
mutually respectful interaction between man and shark I have ever managed to record on film.

The elegant freediver is my buddy Roger Horrocks, and the shark is one of the many playful black tip sharks of Aliwal Shoal (South Africa).

Have a look at Roger's new website, and enjoy his fabulous photographs.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Shark conversation for the little ones

Amanda just posted about a shark conservation organization that actually also focuses on an important audience: kids.  IEMANYA OCEANICA is a non-profit that is dedicated to sharks and rays.

Prominently on the homepage is a link to their kids area - site becomes interactive - includes games, education, and shark adoption - take a look and if you have kids, have them check it out.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

15 minutes of transitory fame

Very funny, huh??
Photograph: Roger Horrocks

Some people get much more - and some much less...

My old man got only about 15 seconds, on radio, and the BBC comedians were making fun of him. BBC Radio 4 has a segment called "Friday Night Comedy" - and for some odd reason they spoke about the Wolf diving with tiger sharks in Aliwal Shoal.

The punch line was that despite having been bitten by a shark (which was not a tiger shark, and the bite wound was really just a superficial cut that required out-patient surgery), the Wolf still swims with these animals. I don't think it's that funny, or else funny at all - but then again, I am not really familiar with the subtleties of the famed British humor...

Have a (canned) laugh

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Feeding Sharks - a Battlefield of Opinions. Finally a Voice of Reason and Authority...

Dr. Samuel Gruber in his element
Photograph: Wolfgang Leander

... the voice of "Doc", Dr. Samuel Gruber, one of the most experienced shark biologists of our time.

Very kindly, Doc gave me the permission to quote a letter he wrote to a TV producer who wanted an expert opinion on the subject of diving with, and feeding, 'dangerous' sharks; specifically, how it does affect or else alter shark behavior, and also whether Dr. Gruber would consider cage-free shark diving a "hazardous" activity.


Hi ................. :

I am a proponent of shark diving. While it does affect a few
sharks, when compared to the approximately 100 million killed annually for fin and flesh the minimal impact of this human activity pales in comparison.

I feel that shark dives produce several very beneficial outcomes for humans and sharks. First exposing divers to sharks, safely and professionally - and in a beautiful environment will inevitably turn fear into fascination. Quickly these people become ambassadors for shark conservation. Further it produces jobs and income for areas and folks that need the work - especially in an economy such as the Bahamian one. Tourism in the Bahamas is the country's life blood, and sharks are a draw!!

As for hazard - tens of thousands of divers worldwide have safely enjoyed professional shark encounters ever since they were established in the Bahamas nearly 40 years ago. It is true that some people have been injured and there was even one fatality, but compared to other water sports this is a pittance.

Nearly a decade ago the World Health Organization estimated that over 400,000 people drowned in year 2000 making this the second leading cause of unintentional death after highway accidents. So shark dives turn out to be a very SAFE form of water activity when conducted in a professional way.

Dr. Samuel Gruber using his "magic wand" to lead a lemon shark, Bahamas *)
Photograph: Matthew D. Potenski

What I have written is controversial. Animal lovers think that humans have no right to interfere with non-human creatures. This is their opinion, not mine. Biologists always say "don't feed the animals." But I have been feeding sharks at my field station for over 20 years, and have observed their behavior carefully (my degree is in marine animal behavior and sensory physiology). I know for a fact that our shark encounters do not greatly affect the Caribbean reef sharks we feed.

- They do not become habituated to humans such that they completely lose their natural fear.

- They do not begin to consider us as food.

- They are very focused on what we do and learn almost instantly what the feeding situation means.

- They do not depend on us for food but hunt normally and supplement this ordinary behavior with our feedings.

- New individuals join the colony all the time, learn what we do and do not pose a danger. These reef sharks leave the area during breeding season in August and go about their normal reproductive activities. They return about three months later.

My favorite dive site is Tiger Beach in the Bahamas, and I would be very pleased to take you there (on your nickel) to show you amazing sights that should make you a believer. We are planning a trip later in the month.

"Doc" freediving at Tiger Beach, November 2008
Photograph: Wolfgang Leander

Remember many sharks are headed toward extinction which will have very deleterious effects on the Ocean ecosystem. We call sharks the "Lords of Time," having survived multiple extinction episodes for half a billion years. We really need sharks more than they need us! An ocean free of sharks will be a sick ocean. This is the story that shark dives engender - not the tired old monster jaws images.


Thank you very much, Doc - that's certainly good enough for me!! :-)

Doc's "magic wand" is a bi-metallic rod that stimulates the sharks' ampullary system so that they think the end of the pole is a living prey.

Monday, February 02, 2009

In Shark Eden, you get to meet the same sharks year after year...

Photograph: Wolfgang Leander

Photograph: Brian Skerry

..... if they are not killed by some mindless "sport" anglers.

Brian Skerry must have photographed this tiger beauty in 2006; I took my black and white shot in November 2008, so did my dear friend and photographer extraordinaire Amanda Cotton.

How do I know it is the same shark? Well, look at the markings on the belly.

When I photographed the tiger girl, I realized that she had a hook in her mouth. I held on to her trying to take the rusty hook off, but she wouldn't let me.

Photograph: Amanda Cotton

That is what makes going back to Tiger Beach again and again so thoroughly gratifying: You establish such a deep bonding with the resident sharks that you feel like meeting friends when you are back.

I know one thing for sure: I will be diving at Tiger Beach at least once a year - until the end of my life or else when I am no longer able to hold my breath for more than 10 seconds...

Sunday, February 01, 2009

An Eden for Sharks, not Competitors

Tiger Shark - Photo by Brian Skerry

You may all remember the National Geographic story: "An Eden for Sharks" (March 2007 issue) written by Jennifer S. Holland and featuring photos by Brian Skerry. I just finished watching a slide show narrated by Brian - what got me to post about him were not just his stunning images, but what he said about shark feeding / interactions.

Says Brian: "Is shark feeding a good thing? - I will leave that up to other people todebate but I certainly think that in this transitional period it is a heck of a lot better to having sharks being fed and appreciated and alive than being killed"

Listen to the complete slide show - it is a very positive message...

This also made me think about Sea Stewards somewhat critical comment on the "Gimme A Hug" video. It is just a constant reminder of BIG egos prevailing over the basic mission, and this was a blatant example of how "colleagues" and industry "peers" really see one another first and foremost - as business competitors even though the others' work is for the benefit of the cause.