Saturday, August 28, 2010

Inside a Shark Bite without risking Life and Limb...

Last year Felix and I had the kind of friendly encounters with tiger sharks we both love: Just hanging around with the babes of Tiger Beach, swimming and diving freely with them.

Felix put together a nice video clip we thought you would enjoy watching.

At the end of the clip you will see one of the tigers g
etting very interested in Felix' camera.

We were both at the surface when the shark grabbed the camera, and already had it inside her cavernous mouth. Felix held on to his camera and managed to get it out of the tiger's jaws without hurting himself. It was easy as the shark's bite was rather gentle.

Felix filming the last sequence of the video clip.
Photo: Manuel Lazcano (2009)
Click to enlarge

I was right next to them, and can testify that Felix did not risk "life and limb" going into the mouth of the tiger girl - definitely not the stuff "Shark Week" is made of.... :-)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Jim Abernethy - a man with his heart in the right place

Jim is one of those shark operators who passionately love sharks; not all feel the same - many are into sharks because it's good business but don't really care for them, not the way Jim does.

A few days ago, Jim witnessed the senseless killing of a hammerhead shark in Florida. He was outraged at what he saw and decided to denounce the incident publicly.

Here is Jim's urgent message:

Good Morning Friends,

I need your help please! I am trying to stop the needless shark killing here in my home town. Although this has happened many times at this marina, it was the first time I was in town to catch it, thank God!

Please vote for the video above so this needless killing of an endangered scalloped hammerhead shark, will have more impact! If enough people vote it may go to national news which means more support for stopping the needless slaughter of these beautiful creatures that are so vital to the health of our oceans!

At this moment I am very sad to say that the fisherman, Capt. John Krohn of the "Boomerang", that did this will not be penalized in anyway, because of a interpretation of the law that makes no sense to me whatsoever!
Many of you know me very well and know that because I live at sea, swimming with these beautiful creatures everyday year round, I see this the horrific act the same way most people would look at your pet dog, left on a cart to die and bake in the sun, as if no one gives a dam!

I do give a dam and I hope you do too!

Please make this count and make a difference! This type of behavior infuriates me and needs to be stopped!

Thanks so much for your help!

Save The Sharks,


Captain John Krohn, yes - YOU:



Saturday, August 21, 2010

BIG tiger shark mamma "Scarface" doing what tiger sharks are "supposed" to do....

Beqa Lagoon Queen "Scarface" getting up close and a bit toooooo personal with
Mike Da Shark

Photograph by Doug Perrine

Click to enlarge

.... trying to eat, at least bite, cameras or other metal stuff.

I have only seen tiger sharks doing it, although it is a fact that Great Whites, and other sharks, are known to bite the bars of dive cages, and mouth propellers of smaller boats.

As tigers are scavengers, and would test-bite almost anything that triggers their gastro-curiosity, I always thought that only cameras with serious electronic components would send out sufficiently strong electric signals the sharks could detect with their ampullae of Lorenzini.

My dilettante deduction was based on the simple assumption that my small, basically mechanical Nikonos V does not emanate enough electric impulses f
or tigers to excite them, and that my camera was, therefore, unattractive to them, sharks in general.

However, my friend Jifa had an experience that proved my "theory" wrong.

Sijmon de Waal, another South African friend of mine, was not as lucky as Jifa. A large resident tiger shark of Aliwal Shoal, "Karin", aka "Dartboard", used to being photographed a lot, one day unexpectedly snapped at, and literally got away with, Sijmon's underwater still camera.

Sijmon, an athletic 2m man, didn't give up easily, and kicked "Karin" vigorously on its nose - to no avail. "Karin" was stronger and absolutely determined not to let go. The shark eventually swallowed the camera after breaking the attached strobes, and that was that.

As anybody else would have done under the circumstances, Sijmon followed "Karin" frantically to see whether she would regurgitate the 6.000 Dollar equipment but the big lady quickly disappeared rocking and rolling into the greenish-bluish mist of the open sea.

During the following days, "Karin" kept coming back; the camera, however, was gone, resting peacefully somewhere in the unfathomable depth of the Indian ocean...

So, when you photograph or videograph tigers, and if one of 'dem' babes ever feels like tasting your camera - don't think of Sijmon, think of Mike Da Shark: Don't panic, be calm, be gutsy, and just hold on to your valuable equipment.

Look at the image once again to see how Mike did it.
Here is a little secret: While intimidatingly tall Mike appears to be super cool and brave fending off "Scarface" with his camera, rather than giving it to her as a ritual offering, you can't tell that he almost 'soiled' his wetsuit in the process!! *)

*) On his own confession, just for the record..... :-)

Last year, Felix, my son, almost lost his underwater video camera to a curious Tiger Beach tiger girl. Felix held the housing with a firm grip, saved it but forgot to turn off the camera, and got, thus, a very captivating inside view of the tiger's teethy mouth. So far, Felix has been adamant to post the video clip - too bad. Let me talk to him again - he might change his mind.

Tiger Beach - undoubtedly the best underwater beach in the world.

Beach-bumming around where I feel completely relaxed...
Photograph: Paul Spielvogel
Click to enlarge

A suntan you won't get there. Instead, you can expect lots of incredible tiger shark action hardly matched anywhere else in the world.

The other destinations for tiger sharks are Aliwal Shoal in South Africa, and Beqa Lagoon in the Fiji Islands.

All these places have their celebrities: "Emma" (Tiger Beach), "Ella" (Aliwal Shoal), and spectacular "Scarface" (Beqa Lagoon), the largest of 'em all, measuring some 5,5 meters.

"Emma" - as you can see revered by all who meet her.
Photograph: Wolfgang Leander
Click to enlarge

These sharks are all dignified and very self-assured ladies - I was privileged to have met "Ella" and "Emma", and I hope to be able to get to know "Scarface" one day...

My friend Mike Neumann of Beqa Adventure Divers*) filming mamma "Scarface"
Photograph: Tim Rock
Click to enlarge

For now, I am looking forward to a well deserved Tiger Beach vacation from the rigors of retirement... :-)

Those who know me will understand that I can hardly wait to board Captain Scott Smith's Dolphin Dream on November 6 for three back-to-back trips to "my" underwater beach!!!

*) Beqa Adventure Divers - click here to see who they are; also more images of "Scarface".

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Do you want to watch a con movie?

The shark world has been pretty quiet this year and there seems to have been a shift in conversation, people accepting people for who they are and what they do, and somewhat of a harmony.  Chatter on Shark Week was minimal compared to last year - I have to confess that I still have not seen one episode, they are saved on the DVR...pretty sad, but that is what a few years of bad programming can do...

But now there seems to be something people are talking about - a movie called "The Shark Con - A new Controversial Film" - it actually came up towards the end of last year.  I do not know what to make of it from watching the trailers and it all strikes me as very one-sided without any credible voice from the scientific community on a subject that deserves that type of input.

Shark Diver recently posted a good read about it...

"As predicted it has aroused quite a L'orage du merde among members of the shark diving and shark conservation community.

If the litmus test for industry anger and backlash could be measured in email terabytes, then this "documentary" would win all manner of awards.

Having not seen the film but watched the evolution of it within the industry I am struck at how fast some of those involved with the film are running for the hills. Disavowing their on screen presence and soft pedaling their way out the back door..."

Stefan Wiessmeyer - Master Jeweller and Goldsmith.

Stefan is also an avid diver and a committed conservationist. His work reflect his passions, and is truly outstanding. I have never seen dive and ocean related silver and gold jewelry that comes even close to his art.

To become a master goldsmith in Germany, you first have to undergo a rigid apprenticeship of three and a half years to obtain a professional license.

It is only after having acquired a few years of working experience that you can then apply to a goldsmithing institute or a jewelry and art design school to graduate as "Goldschmiedemeister" (= master goldsmith) which will also qualify you to train apprentices.

In other countries there are less demanding training methods to become a professional goldsmith - but then again, "Made in Germany" is still what is always was: The best, or almost the best, you can get...

Have a closer look at Stefan's Tiger Shark Tooth - it is a Special Edition which really honored me as I have to admit...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

To feed or not to feed - that is the question.

Just touching, not feeding.
Photograph: Sijmon de Waal (2007)

Click on image to enlarge

While I have only occasionally offered a shark a fish carcasse, I normally caress sharks as gently as possible, and never hold on to a fin to get a ride or perform stunts for others.

I am very well aware that touching sharks or other wild animals is debatable, and not everybody accepts my explanation that when I feel attracted to a being, human or animal, I just have the urge to stroke it. Thus, touching a shark is to me no more than a tactile expression of love.

One shark diver who would never interact closely with large tiger sharks, and saw me doing it a few times, has not only gone beyond touching tigers, but keeps hand-feeding them to see how far he can push the envelope to impress fellow divers and especially marveling media folks.

All I can say is that hand-feeding a tiger shark is neither difficult (potentially dangerous - yes) nor necessary. I have decided to quit doing it, also in order to not put my dive shark operator in a compromising position should anything bad happen.

Here is a blog with a magazine article on the subject I find not only very well written but highly informative and as balanced as any report on such sensitive issue can be.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Paddle Surfing with White Sharks

Some interesting footage from Chuck Patterson of white sharks while paddle surfing...

Video description:
"the day before I shot this video, i was SUP surfing with a couple friends and 2 sharks circled us for about 15 minutes. the next day, i decided to go back out at around the same time and take my GO PRO HD camera mounted on a 10 ft pole and do some exploring.

Sure enough within 5 minutes a 9 ft shark came out of no where and circled twice and slapped his tail on my board before disappearing. then a minute later a 7 ft young juvenile Great White swam circles around me for 12 minutes."

Me my Shark and I from Chuck Patterson on Vimeo.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Surfer tries to save beached Great White Shark

For all the idiots that we have covered in this blog (shooting sharks with guns, spearing tigers and cutting out jaws, etc.) it is always refreshing to find a story of people trying to save sharks.

This post comes from OceanicDefense:

"IT TAKES a brave soul to race to the rescue of a stranded great white shark.

There are those teeth for one thing - large and sharp enough to take off a man's helping hand, even out of the water.

But Andrew Eckersley didn't think twice last Friday morning when he spotted one of the fearsome predators washed up on a beach on the Mid-North Coast in New South Wales.

Mr Eckersley and a lone surfer rushed to the 3m shark's aid, treating it with the kind of care and compassion usually reserved for beached whales...

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Idiot shoots shark

The Dorsal Fin posted this video - idiots on a boat, caught bull shark on rod, shoot shark with gun around a lot of kids, laugh...ah yes, the human race has come a long way and we are definitely on the right path - evolution is a bitch.

My Thoughts on Discovery's Shark Week 2010...

I do not have any...yet.  Usually I would drop everything I do to watch the show, but as the years have passed and the programming has worsened, I find myself recording the episodes and forcing myself to watch them.  

So far two episodes are on my DVR - tonight I will watch the first - which from title and previews seems to be on the right path - but the second episode - title-wise is already throwing me off.

Reviews to come soon... 

Monday, August 02, 2010

On Shark Week 2010 and South African Shark Amazones

I was about to write a blog about this year's "Shark Week" when I came across Lesley Rochat's thoughts on the subject that are, in my opinion, absolutely spot on.

So, rather than adding my views on the controversial Discovery Channel yearly program, I invite you to read what Lesley had to say.
Lesley Rochat is one of those individuals in the shark world I highly respect. Unlike others who pretend to be concerned about the welfare of sharks but actually consider them a mere business, this petite and strong-willed lady cares deeply for sharks, and will not bend her integrity for selfish purposes under any circumstances whatsoever.

There are others like Lesley in South Africa: Fiona Ayerst, Sophia van Coller, Olivia Jones-Symcox, Hanli Prinsloo - all admirable 'Shark Amazones' who prove that when it comes to tenacity, commitment, and mental toughness, they do not belong to the "weaker" sex at all....

Mike da Shark on Erich Ritter

Mike Neumann runs a very successful shark dive operation in the Fiji Islands. He is a man whose intellect and professional integrity are far above average.

Mike's blog on Erich Ritter is "interesting", to put it - well, diplomatically... :-)

While I have had no problems with Erich Ritter except for a strong disagreement on one specific issue - his self-serving public comments on the death of Marcus Groh -, I know that he has a rather questionable reputation in the shark world.