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Bahamas 2007 Group Photo
Wetpixel Bahamas Sharks and Dolphins Expedition Group Photo
(Photo by Jim Abernethy)

Passengers: Bill Volk, Willy Volk, Julie Edwards, Cor Bosman, Scott Marshall, Siobhan Jackman, Bruce Yates, Eric Cheng

Crew: Jim Abernethy, Don Kehoe, Scott, Ed, John

Comments on this travel journal? I'd love to hear from you!

Palm Beach, Florida - July 21-22, 2007

I had an enjoyable two-day layover in Palm Beach. Jimmy took me up for over six hours in his ultralight (a.k.a The Flying Boat) along with Gary Lickle (in his own machine). I love flying boats. We buzzed a large pinisi schooner full of military folks, which was a lot of fun. As the boat prepared to enter the harbor, all of the people on deck climbed up the three masts and fanned out in formation along the wooden beams at the top. I had never seen anything like it. We spotted sharks, manta rays, eagle rays, manatees, and bait balls from the air, and flew up north to Jupiter to see if Douglas Seifert was home yet from the Bahamas.

Speaking of Douglas, he did finally return from the Bahamas, and I shuttled various friends to and from his place, where we hung out and tried to install ridiculous amounts of disk drives into his computer. Unfortunately, of the 4 terabytes of disk we played with, 2.5 were defective. Not a great endorsement for LaCie...

I also drove down to Ft. Lauderdale to see Ryan Canon at his store, Reef Photo & Video. Ryan has been a great help to me in the past couple of months, both loaning me a SeaTool underwater housing for the Canon Digital Rebel XTi (400D) to use while my Seacam was out of commission (a casualty from a trip to Indonesia), and helping to come up with a working polecam system for my Light & Motion Bluefin HD housing. It's curious: L&M has an accessory polecam mount for the Bluefin housing, but there doesn't exist any pole that can properly mate with it. With the help of the power tools in the back of Ryan's shop, we managed to rig one up.

And finally, I actually went to see a movie in a movie theater! It's been months since I've been home for any real amount of time, and my craving to go and see one had become too strong to ignore.

West End / Grand Bahama Bank, Bahamas - July 23-31, 2007

Compared to last week, this week's Bahamas expedition was wildly productive. Jimmy managed to get some rescued baby turtles for release in the Gulf Stream, and shortly after arriving in the Bahamas, we all plopped into the water and photographed the little guys as they took in their first few moments of freedom. The turtles were juvenile hawksbills, and were so small that it was all but impossible to get a good image; we tried anyway, and had a good time in the process.

A juvenile hawksbill turtle in his first moments in the open ocean

A juvenile hawksbill turtle in his first moments in the open ocean

Reef Sharks

We started out the week by diving Carcharias Cut. As with prior trips, many of our guests had only been around sharks in shark cages, or as part of organized feeds (which I don't like so much). A nice reef dive with a couple dozen Caribbean reef sharks was the perfect introduction to cage-less shark diving. We also spent some time working the reef sharks at the surface, which was fun. Reef sharks are faster than are the larger sharks we dive with (lemons, tigers, great hammerheads), so getting "snap" shots at the surface was much more difficult.

Caribbean reef shark (Carcharhinus perezi) at the surface

Caribbean reef shark (Carcharhinus perezi) at the surface

Tiger Beach

The next morning, we woke up at Tiger Beach, where the shark activity was phenomenal. Jimmy had his camera taken away by tiger sharks no less than four times in two hours. Two of our best tiger shark players, Emma and Baby Cakes, arrived and swam lazy circles around all of us for hours and hours, all but inviting us to take pictures. Emma looks like she's pregnant, and viewed from the front, I couldn't stop thinking of the word, "pinhead". She is huge. Baby Cakes (who was my first tiger shark) has grown a lot since I saw her last, but is still identifiable by the healed bullet wound on her left side. She is also marked by damage to her left eye, which looked pretty bad but didn't seem to affect her ability to see nor put up her nictitating membrane.

I spent most of my time in the shallows shooting strobe-less with a Magic Filter installed. The Magic Filter is a colored filter designed to produce vivid color underwater, and Tiger Beach is the perfect place for its use because of its shallow bottom.

A tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) grabs Jim Abernethy's camera

Eric Cheng photographs a tiger shark (photo: Jim Abernethy)

Jim Abernethy baits in a tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) and lemon sharks (Negaprion brevirostris)

Willy Volk, surrounded by tiger sharks

Jim Abernethy baits a tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier)

Willy Volk and tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier)

A typical scene at tiger beach

Tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier)

Tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier)

Tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier)

Tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier)

Tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) and diver

A lemon shark behind the Shear Water

A lemon shark (Negaprion brevirostris)

Jim sticks a remora on Siobhan's tank

Anatomy of a Lemon Snap

A Lemon Snap is an event whereby a lemon shark (Negaprion brevirostris) is encouraged to open its mouth, extend its jaw, and "snap" it shut at the surface directly in front of a waiting photographer. Lemon snaps are only made possible by the energy convergence of four entities: a photographer, a shark wrangler, a lemon shark, and a piece of bait. If any one of the parties fails to expend the appropriate amount of effort (or fishy ripeness, in the case of the piece of bait), the lemon snap collapses in upon itself, resulting in images full of unsavory lemon shark bits and/or bubbly froth.

Lemon snaps, by Eric Cheng
Lemon snaps taken during 4 days of shooting (photos: Eric Cheng)

Lemon shark fin at the surface

Lemon shark (Negaprion brevirostris) fins at the surface

Lemon sharks (Negaprion brevirostris) at the surface

Lemon sharks (Negaprion brevirostris) at the surface

Lemon sharks (Negaprion brevirostris) at the surface

Eric Cheng and Scott Marshall work the surface from the back of the boat

Shark photographer Scott Marshall's eloquent description of his time pursuing the elusive lemon snap summarizes our collective opinion: "I could do [lemon snaps] all day, every day."

I discovered a secret this week that increased my lemon snap productivity exponentially, and it was all thanks to an offhand comment made by Bruce Yates. Thank you, Bruce!

Sugar Wreck

We took a break from wild dolphin encounters (see below) to do a quick dive on the Sugar Wreck. I love shooting macro on the wreck, but I haven't had a macro lens here in years.

Caribbean reef shark (Carcharhinus perezi) on Sugar Wreck, Bahamas

Southern stingray on Sugar Wreck, Bahamas

Caribbean reef shark (Carcharhinus perezi) on Sugar Wreck, Bahamas

Wild Dolphin Encounters

Prior to this week, I hadn't had a wild dolphin encounter (during daytime hours) in over three years. For many of us on this trip, the dolphin part of the expedition was the primary draw, with sharks being secondary. We spent three full days in the water with bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis). Historically, bottlenose dolphins have been much less friendly than spotted dolphins have been, but during this trip we had some of the best bottlenose encounters in the history of Shear Water dolphin trips. We had juveniles of both species, which is always great fun. Baby dolphins are probably the cutest animals on the planet.

For those of you thinking of coming to the Bahamas for a wild dolphin encounter, practice your swimming and freediving skills, as the quality of your dolphin encounters will pretty much be correlated with your ability to engage them in the water!

Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)

Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)

Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)

Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)

Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)

Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)

Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)

Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)

Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)

Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis)

Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)

Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)

Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)

Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis)

Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)
Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis)

Topside Photos

Group photo by Jim Abernethy

Group photo by Jim Abernethy

Lemon snap shot from above (photo: Jim Abernethy and Bill Volk)

Group photo by Jim Abernethy

Jim Abernethy's polecam setup for topside shooting

Test shot from my underwater camera

If you fall asleep, your toes will be painted...

Siobhan Jackman and Julie Edwards in the salon

Don Kehoe wonders what Ed is doing in the bunk

Tony Wu, hanging out at Reef Photo & Video in Ft. Lauderdale

Cor Bosman, Julie Edwards, and Ryan Canon at Reef Grill in Jupiter, Florida

Eric Cheng and Douglas Seifert at Reef Grill in Jupiter, Florida

Jim Abernethy gets an aromatherapy atomizer as a gift

Douglas Seifert with his pet snapping turtle, Louis Vuitton

Douglas Seifert with Lump
I'm so glad I don't live here

More Information

To book a trip aboard the Shear Water, contact Jim Abernethy's Scuba Adventures and let them know that Eric Cheng of Wetpixel referred you. To inquire about Wetpixel Bahamas Shark Expeditions, contact me.

If you're interested in underwater photography, check out to To see more of my work, check out my other travel journals or photo page.

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