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|BAHAMAS SHARKS AND DOLPHINS EXPEDITION, JULY 23 - 31, 2007|
WETPIXEL BAHAMAS SHARKS AND DOLPHINS EXPEDITION, JULY 2007
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.
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.
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.
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 taken during 4 days of shooting (photos: Eric Cheng)
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!
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.
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!
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.
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