Monday, October 5, 2009

Collecting copepods and almost riding a whale shark ....

The past couple of days on the water have been fantastic shark wise, and although we have had a bit of bad weather apparently the rough seas are attracting super friendly whale sharks.

I didn’t think I could top whale sharks after yesterday’s day of long encounters with very friendly and inquisitive sharks. We had sharks that just didn’t want to leave us alone. And although the seas were rough and the passengers were feeling a little ropey, to say the least, everyone was smiling all the way home as we had some of our longest encounters of this season... even as recorder I managed to get a good look and even got in on a shark for a while. It just keeps on getting better for us at the moment with today being possible the best day of whale sharking I myself have had to date!

Today was my day to spot with David on the boat, which put me in a fantastic mood right from the get-go as this means that I get to be in the water with all the sharks. So after two sharks that were polite enough to hang about to have their photos taken and give the clients a bit of a show, we were ready for our third shark of the day.

What a beautiful shark this was, a juvenile male at around 4metres, which had quite an affiliation with the bubbles created from almost everyone’s fins. And as I fell in love with this shark it was apparent that this shark fell in love with the boat, particularly the props which it just kept going up to kiss.

So now it was time to do some science and David got ready with his biopsy pole, I was worried for a second that this might scare away our friendly shark. The shark however didn’t even flinch for a second and was straight up gaping at bubbles and circling the boat as if nothing had happened.

That’s when I heard David shout, "Come on Ciara enough photos now, get me a copepod!" and I’m not going to lie I was a little worried having never collected a copepod, and not having anything but my fingers to get it with I took on this challenge. So here I am swimming next to this friendly shark trying to work out the quickest easiest way to go about this when I realize the only place I can see any copepods is in the centre of this sharks bottom lip.

So I swam next to this shark's head for a while trying to work out how to-do it, while trying to avoid becoming the filling of a whale shark / boat sandwich.

Ciara looks for an easy way to get to the copepods.... there wasn't one!

So then I realized I just had to do it then and there and so I swam right up next to its head reached over the top and plucked not one, not two but three copepods off its bottom lip, and as I reached my arm out and shouted that I had got them, amidst the cheers from the boat, I realized I was now almost riding this beautiful shark and so backed off and swam quickly to the boat to hand the guys my gains!

Now overflowing with glee, David asked quite matter of factly if I could lead this shark over to the other boat so we could do a plankton tow. Without even really thinking about how I was going to do this I just said "yeah sure", and as if this shark had known what I’d wanted all along it followed the bubbles from my fins all the way across to the other boat!

David and Abi examine Ciara's copepod haul, not one but three specimens!

And I didn't think the day could have got any better, so still on a high from my fantastic day sharking I stayed on the boat to travel back to the north of the island with Lillian our skipper. So after a bit of a bumpy ride back we were just getting into calmer water near Beau Vallon bay, when we spotted a big dorsal fin come up out of the water, and I new straight away I needed to get in and was shouting at Lillian to pass my camera, and I hopped straight in.... just me and this shark in what looked like plankton soup. As I lifted my head out of the water Lillian was pointing at another shark coming towards me, two beautiful sharks ram feeding at the surface with just me in the water to enjoy them!

What a wonderful end to a very special day!

........Ciara McCarten, MCSS Intern

No comments: