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- Photos: Other Coverage
- Jim Abernethy's Scuba Adventures
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|BAHAMAS SHARK EXPEDITION, JULY 10 - 21, 2007|
WETPIXEL OCEANIC WHITETIP-LESS EXPEDITION 2007
Wetpixel Bahamas Shark Expedition 2007 Group Photo
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July 12, 2007 - South-East Bahamas
After steaming for 34 hours, we finally arrived last night at our chosen location in the Bahamas. Our group of enthusiastic shark photographers include Alex Mustard, Tony Wu, Frank Baensch, Scott Marshall, Tamsin Eyles, Nadine and Michael Umbscheiden, and myself, with crew members Wade, Ed, Mike, and Jim Abernethy manning the M/V Shear Water.
After a rough morning and early afternoon, the seas have started to calm down a bit. Sharks, however, have remained elusive, and we've only seen a few of them out there in the water (duskies, Caribbean reefs, and nurses). In fact, there is almost no activity visible on the surface: no birds, no fishing boats -- nothing. We've still got bait in the water, but no one seems hopeful for any real activity today.
July 14, 2007 - South-East Bahamas
SKUNKED! After three full days, we have been unable to find any oceanic white-tip sharks. In fact, we've been unable to find any wildlife at all! The ocean is DEAD: no birds, no fish, no sharks. The only thing we've been able to find are dozens of small, yellow butterflies fluttering around all around us. Wade keeps joking that we should get Don to shake a crate full of flowers to bait them in.
We think the lack of life in the ocean at the moment may have to do with the relatively high water temperature. We did spend a few hours playing around with dusky sharks, Caribbean reef sharks, and nurse sharks. One of the duskies took a liking to Frank, who literally had to beat the shark off with his camera, multiple times.
Despite the pleasant blue-water drifts with the reef sharks, we are all pretty disappointed. In order to salvage the trip, we've decided to motor back up to the Shear Water's more familiar haunts in West End / Grand Bahama Bank. On the way, we'll stop at Big Major's Spot to photograph the resident swimming pigs (!).
July 15, 2007 - Pigs @ Big Major's Spot
"We're shooting a feature for Fine Swine magazine!"
I was already back on the boat, but I could hear Jim yelling as his camera fired away (a veritable machine gun of photographic goodness). The elderly couple on the zodiac seemed skeptical, especially after the pigs splashed into the water and swam quickly toward them. We had just finished a couple of hours of piggy fun, photographing them both on the beach and in the water. Nadine was a great model and swam fearlessly next to two of the pigs as we tried to get the canonical "Pig and Snorkeler" shot. Nearly everyone kept laughing out loud because of the extreme ridiculousness of the situation! It was great fun.
July 16-19, 2007 - Carcharias Cut & El Dorado
12:50AM: My evening's entertainment has been watching Jim Abernethy as he watches the first season of Heroes. Those of you who know Jimmy know that he cannot handle watching any kind of violence; even the sort that is depicted in a TV show like Heroes is too much! A few minutes ago, he ran out to the back deck (Don and I were back there trying to catch some bait) and said, "Is something bad going to happen!? The woman went back to her house. I panicked and hit hibernate!"
We've been spending a lot of time diving at Carcharias Cut, which has become my favorite spot for fun with reef sharks. There is a ton of fish life here (schools of jacks, chubb, and more), and the top of the reef is covered in colorful sponges and gorgonians. Jim says that the reef is as healthy as it's ever been, but I seem to remember a "cleaner" reef before the series of hurricanes that battered Florida and the Bahamas.
As an added bonus, a small tiger shark (8' or so) came in and swam up to each photographer in turn, posing for pretty pictures. Prior to this trip, I had never seen a tiger shark on a reef, and it was really nice to have the opportunity to photograph something new. A larger tiger also paid us a visit, and was equally as friendly.
The conditions have been absolutely perfect: flat seas and clear skies (with just enough clouds off in the distance to make things interesting).
July 17-19, 2007 - Night Dolphins
Trying to find dolphins at night in the Gulf Stream was nearly futile this week. We found two dolphins one night, but they were unwilling to allow us to get close to them. The folks on the boat had a lot of fun yelling out directions: "six o'clock! six o'clock! keep swimming! it's only 300 yards away!" We worked pretty hard to go everywhere we were told to go, but no one managed to get a good photo. I think they had more fun than we did. :)
July 19-20, 2007 - Tiger Beach
We spent part of two days at Tiger Beach, which was a bit frustrating because we were low on bait. It turns out that shark photography is really hard without having enough bait! Still, we had perfect conditions: clear and calm water, with sunny skies, and all of the dives we did there were fun.
Tiger Beach has evolved a lot since its discovery a few years ago, and it continues to evolve as divers visit it each week. The number of tiger sharks that show up at once varies between one and twenty, and the number of lemon sharks afoot range from a half-dozen to thirty or more. This week, we had about a dozen lemon sharks and two tiger sharks, alhough only one tiger shark would come in at once. During a slow moment, I wandered off a few meters away from the group into white sand and poked at a large shell on the ground with my shark stick (PVC pipe segment). When I looked up, a cute bottlenose dolphin was staring back at me! He bolted off when I noticed him, but came shooting by me two more times before disappearing into the distance.
A crazy guy drove up in a small boat. Jim yelled, "You're too close! We have divers in the water!"
The other guy was pissed off. "You're treasure hunters! I'm going to report you to the Department of Antiquities!"
On the back deck of the Shear Water
We're all rather disappointed that we didn't get to see the oceanic white-tip shark. In general, the seas were barren this week. We surmise that most big-animal diving can be summarized by the formula:
The water temperature is higher than normal, but whether that fact is related to the dearth of fish is unknown. All we know is that the water temperature is high, there are no fish around, there are no oceanic white-tip sharks around, and there are (pretty much) no dolphins around. Luckily, everyone onboard knows that we are dealing with nature; despite the palpable disappointment in the air, everyone seems to be in good spirits.
I'll definitely be back here next year in search of the oceanic white-tip shark...
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