Pinocchio was the first shark that we tracked, so it was exciting to see where she went when she was not at Seal Island trying to steal our bait, whilst chumming. We had to stop tracking her since Enrico decided to tag another big shark. Enrico found and successfully tagged a shark about 3.5 meters long and she was nicknamed Sparta by one of our fellow interns.
Once tracking commenced we were on the 6pm till 2am tracking shift, which was cold and very swelly, which made it even more difficult to skipper the boat, and made it a very nerve wracking experience, constantly looking out for swells if you got close to the beach and also looking out for whales. We each took it in turns to skipper the boat, track, take data and rest.
It was good to see that Sparta’s behaviour was alot different to Pinocchio’s as she stayed mainly at Groot Brak (another white shark hotpot), which is about half an hour to an hour boat drive from Mossel Bay, staying mostly in the same area and very shallow. It was frustrating at Groot Brak because of the reefs which she liked to hide behind so the signals from the tags were weakened or lost altogether sometimes. Then she headed away from the river mouth and past Groot Brak. It was interesting to try and figure out where she was heading and why. After a few hours of tracking we had to stop because she swam to far out and unfortunately we couldn’t follow, which was frustrating because we didn’t know whether she would return. The next day a chum trip went out and they could not find her. However the next day she was found, so tracking commenced again. However after a day and a half of tracking Sparta again, tracking was called off because very bad weather was approaching.
The experience that we have had here working with white sharks will be one that we will never forget. We have had the most amazing time going out on the boat and seeing sharks and even dolphins and whales on a daily basis. We would definitely love to come back again in the future and do it all over again as we have loved every second of it.
Natasha Riches and Alexandra Rosskopf– Mossel Bay Marine Lab interns