Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Dispatches from Djibouti.... 3. Things that go bump in the night

After the first hectic day everyone was looking forward to a relaxing evening, except the MCSS team who were contemplating what exactly what to do with the reams of data that were being captured..... that was until Dan announced he had brought out a special light for attracting whale sharks at night, he apparently didn’t see enough during the day!

Dan, Tom and the Captain Armand set about mounting the special light on the suspended gangplank off Deli’s back deck and once the 1000 watt monster was powered up it soon attracted a dense cluster of plankton and in a short while a school of small fish, a few larger fish but no whale sharks.... So back to the data entry for an hour or so before a well deserved sleep!

Day three arrived very early for some with Daniel taking his first group out at 06:30 to welcome the sharks at dawn.... the rest of the day followed the same pattern as the previous day with morning and afternoon whale shark monitoring sessions, but this day was less hectic with 21 encounters in the morning and 27 in the afternoon and a total of 17 biopsies taken.

Suction feeding whale shark off Acacia beach, Djibouti, photo Luke Riley

Dan and Tom once again set up the ‘mega-light’ and again managed to attract a healthy cloud of plankton and lots of appreciative small fish.... but nothing larger. Dinner was almost over when someone happened to notice that there was a large shape swimming around in the beam of the flood-light, a young whale shark had appeared to take advantage of the free dinner service!

All thoughts of post dinner relaxing soon evaporated as people scrambled to get masks, fins and cameras as a second whale shark turned up to assist in the clean-up below the light.... Almost everyone got time in the water with one or the other shark and captured some quite unusual images of them. Almost everyone, as it took Dan some time to get his camera and housing organised only to find that as he entered the water the housing alarm sounded indicating the housing was leaking somewhere and so he had to abort his attempt.

A young whale shark vertical feeding on plankton attracted by the Megalight, photo Luke Riley

By this time one shark had departed but Tom and a few of the team spent several hours with the one who remained.... finally the shark tired of the attention and everyone was able to go to sleep!

The war on data was continuing and we were finally able to catch up on some of the photo ID matching and confirmed 29 individual sharks in the second ‘Manic’ session on the previous day including 4 re-sightings from previous years, 1 from 2003, 1 from 2004 and 2 from 2007...

No comments: