Monday, November 16, 2009

Shark Chronicles 062 - A brand new day


Mossel Bay had turned into a ghost town with no sharks to be seen for about one month. The Oceans Research team were starting to get worried, with the occasional 2.5m passing through Grootbrak but no sign of shark activity at the island since September 29th; where have they gone?! Whilst watching the seals play around in ‘shark-free’ waters on a seal survey, the team suddenly jumped with joy and screams of delight could be heard everywhere as the first predation in over a month was witnessed close to the boat. Feeling desperate several other interns got up at the crack of dawn in hope to see the sharks at the island on a chumming trip with their intern manager Jonathon. With no real hope the omni directional hydrophone was lowered into the water at 6.30am and to everybody’s surprise onboard a ‘ping ping ping’ was heard, 3xe was back! Chum slick abandoned the team pursued the shark across the bay as she headed to Kleinbrak. Interns back on land were alerted and started preparing for the long tracking shifts ahead.

Jonathon’s team remained at sea for twelve hours in glorious sunshine, for what turned out to be a beautiful day for tracking. In addition to 3xe the tracking team were delighted to see several sharks circling the boat, of which two were bigger than any they have seen since September, measuring nearly 4m in length! Mid afternoon the second tracking team, skippered by Stef, came to relieve the first shift and started to chum in hope of feeding 3xe a replacement stomach tag because she had regurgitated the original one some time in September. Unfortunately she showed no interest and did not go up to the boat, so Stef decided to pull up anchor and begin to track. Shortly after the second team were forced back to harbour as the winds picked up. Not wanting to desert the tracking, Amy and her team went back out to sea as soon as the wind died down that evening. Once 3xe was relocated the third team started tracking her as she swam circles at the Kleinbrak river mouth. Being on the only stretch of coastline in Mossel bay with no lights onshore and the sun long gone, the only light available was that of the bioluminescence and the GPS.

For almost two days, 3xe remained at the river mouth and tracking continued successfully until late Thursday night when winds picked up again and a storm was brewing. With the numerous sharks viewed swimming through the breakers by the daytime tracking shift chum trip have restarted with a new hope of collecting data on the sharks that have returned to Mossel bay!

Rachel Walls and Chelsea Bradbury – OCEANS Research Mossel Bay interns

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