Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Its an intern's life... Carl's perspective

In every team or group there is always one who's in the wrong place at the wrong time and seems to be forever the one that never gets to see the shark.... for this year's intern team it looked as though Carl Royle was the one who was always doing plankton, recording or waiting for someone to drop out to get to see his shark.... but now his jinx is broken! Join Carl for his first whale shark moment....

I have to admit even though I had signed up for a Whale shark project, I was still unconvinced that I was actually going to see one, let alone swim within metres of one. I think most people who have a passion for marine biology will agree with me when I say ‘that we all share a similar aspiration and that has to be to swim with the world’s biggest fish’!!

Following a period of time learning all the invaluable office based work, it was time to don our mask, snorkel and fins and find ourselves a whale shark. We set off from Anse La Mouche and began our journey to the south of the island. The pilot was airborne, carrying out an extensive search over the nearby shores with the ultimate aim of successfully spotting a whale shark for us.

An hour seemed to quickly pass by and still no luck! The anticipation, adrenaline and excitement was beginning to subside, although I still remained optimistic that today was the day we would have an encounter with one of these bad boys!!

It seemed appropriate by this stage to assist our MSc student, Anna with her plankton tows (Carl with plankton sample at left!). Immediately after the final sample had been collected we had a sighting. With accurate directions from the pilot we made our way to Takamaka Bay. The atmosphere on the boat was intense with each of the intern’s eyes transfixed on the water hoping to see a large, brown, spotty shadow on the surface. The spotter had entered the water; we were waiting with baited breath to see Katie raise her arm to indicate that she had a visual. Seconds later we responded to Dr David’s assertive instructions ‘We have a visual, GO, GO, GO’.

I attempted to swim incredibly fast towards the spotter, possibly displaying signs of selfishness as I was desperate to get a look at this awesome fish and refused to let anybody get in my way. I was metres away from the spotter but more importantly I was 5 metres above my first whale shark.

Carl's first shark, a young male on his second visit to Seychelles, just like Carl!

It was a truly awesome yet surreal moment. I tried to retain valuable information with regards to the number of Remora’s, Pilot Fish, scarring etc, but to be honest this was the one time I was going to enjoy my swim alongside this amazing creature. What was minutes in the water seemed like hours, and I embraced every second of it.

I can honestly say that my first encounter with a whale shark was WICKED!

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