Tuesday, August 31, 2010

2010 Seychelles Whale Shark Season Gets Underway

With the arrival of our team leaders and interns, the 2010 Seychelles whale shark monitoring programme has officially started and so this is probably a good time to introduce everyone, and over the coming weeks they will probably have a post or two to contribute. This year our group has a largely Commonwealth feel:

Ciara McCarten:
Ciara is from the UK and is an ex MCSS intern herself; she has also survived a Djibouti whale shark expedition and so is used to full bore whale shark monitoring. Ciara is one of the team leaders and will be jointly responsible for getting the interns trained and organised.

Gareth Jeffreys:
Gareth is also from the UK (if Aberystwyth and Jersey are in the UK still!) and is also an ex MCSS intern; Gareth worked with us last year developing and fine tuning the laser metric method of measuring whale sharks. He is the other team leader and with Ciara will be jointly responsible for training the interns and getting them up to speed with the monitoring techniques.

Abi March:
Abi is also from the UK and is an ex MCSS intern herself; like Ciara she has also survived a Djibouti whale shark expedition and is the current "I3S Queen" which means she is the queen-bee for photo identification. Abi is going to be responsible for the interns well-being and programme administration...

And that brings us to our interns and students:

Sherrie Chambers:
Sherrie is from Australia and has completed an Advanced Bachelor of Science Honours degree in marine and freshwater ecology, geography and environmental science. Sherrie is currently travelling and has just finished a stint in the Maldives with the manta and whale shark programme there and also in Mozambique.

Joe Daniels:
Joe is from the UK and has already visited Seychelles as a volunteer with the GVI programme; after returning to the UK and getting his PADI Divemaster qualifications he worked in Australia off Ningaloo Reef and Coral Bay which peaked his interest in marine mega-fauna.

Karen Eigeland:
Karen is also from Australia and has completed a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in marine biology and zoology. She has had experience volunteering with Mark Meekan's whale shark group off Ningaloo and using their photo ID system (although she didn’t get to swim with a whale shark there) as well as working with dugong off Queensland.

Kate Nicole:
Kate is from the UK and having completed her studies in design went travelling to New Zealand and Australia where she met up with Joe Daniels; she is a PADI Rescue Diver. Having first learnt to dive in Seychelles she will be familiar with the area and her experience at Coral Bay will hold her in good stead for the whale sharks.

David Stirling:
David is also from the UK and has just completed his BSc; he has volunteer experience with a number of organisations in Honduras, Indonesia and the Philippines, amongst others. He is passionate about sky-diving and free diving so should be right at home on this programme. he also appears to have an even more rapacious appetite than Gareth which should prove interesting!

Mariska van Geldorp:
Mariska is a student from the Netherlands at Leiden University of Applied Sciences and will be joining for both the whale shark programme and a further period monitoring turtles afterwards as a part of her practical experience for her degree. I am sure that she will get lots of support from this team!

Jenny Cook:
Jenny is from the UK and is in her fourth year of a Masters in Marine Biology at Southampton University. Jenny is going to be comparing our Acoustic Doppler Current Profile data from previous seasons to the abundance and distribution of whale sharks as a project for her Masters. Unfortunately, due to term constraints Jenny won't be here for the full programme.

As the team were all here the weekend before the start of the season a pre-season lunch was organised at “Maria’s Hot Rock” café where an excellent range of food is served raw to your table for you to cook on a sizzling hot stone…. A sort of Fred Flintstone Fondue!

In fact “Hot Rocks” is much more than just a café as the Maria’s husband Antonio is a renown (if somewhat eccentric) sculptor and the whole site is a cross between a pirate theme park, sculpture gallery and a Neolithic eatery! All in all a great place for a lunch for everyone to get to know each other better!

Sculpture Antonio had even cleverly though of etching a map of Mahe on a rock in the garden so that the team could start on their local geography knowledge ….

Lunch as always was excellent and Maria’s Creole Cappuccinos just have to be tried to be appreciated!

So for this happy team the season’s work starts now and we wish them success and a lot of fun over the next ten weeks!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Another pre-season shark...

Wednesday 11th August saw another pre-season whale shark sighting. Dive Seychelles, Underwater Centre were on a morning dive to Lilot when skipper Nigel spotted the unmistakable shadow of the legendary big spotty fish.

Getting closer the divers donned their mask, snorkel and fins and jumped in. The whale shark swam towards diver Jeremy Makchunming who managed to snap the photo below.

Jeremy, 46, is on holiday in the Seychelles from Hong Kong. This was his first wild whale shark sighting though he has observed the captive whale sharks at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in Japan.

He was suprised at the sight of the whale shark and couldn’t take in all the details, so instead took a short video and photos, and lucky for MCSS that he did. The photos were perfect for whale shark identification, and closer inspection has revealed that the sighting was another new shark, making it sey.2010.002. Hopefully we’ll sight this shark again and we can determine whether it’s a male or female.

Friday, August 6, 2010

A Large Stork Just Flew By….

Carrying two rather heavy boxes which it deposited on designer and photographer Tony Baskyfield’s desk…

This strange delivery was a baby of sorts… it was the first two boxes of the Whale Shark Book, so a very special moment for Tony who designed the layout of the book and also Dr. David its author!!! I guess that there are quite a few contributors who are anxious to see how their images look also…

Tony’s e-mail to David said “They look brilliant, so I can't wait to get them over to you and to hear your comments.” He certainly does look pretty pleased with himself in the photo!

Pre-sales with YPD Books have been trickling in and so having the actual product in-hand will hopefully boost sales… So if you want a compendium of the most up-to-date information about this the world’s largest living shark it will be released next week with a cover price of £40, but pre-delivery pricing is available on-line through YPDBooks.com at a special price of £35 per copy.

We hope that you enjoy it!

Red Sea Taggers Found!

A short while ago we posted two images of a whale shark with a satellite tag in tow from Sharm Al Sheik and wondered if anyone recognised them or their tags…

Well the whale shark community is pretty small and so it wasn’t long before we found out that Gregg Skomal from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution had been tagging whale sharks in the Red Sea in March with both SPOT and PAT tags. This is a project the work in collaboration with the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia.

So Red Sea visitors, please keep your eyes open there are around 10 of these ‘be-jewelled’ sharks somewhere in the area!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

First New Shark of the Season…

As August begins so apparently does the influx of whale sharks to Seychelles and the lucky volunteers at Global Vision International found one of the first of the arrivals on August 3rd in Bay Ternay Marine National Park.

The juvenile shark was quite at home feeding on the thick plankton soup that has appeared over the last few days and allowed the happy volunteers to swim with him for 20 minutes in the late morning before swimming off out of the bay towards grouper Point.

However, just after midday he was back again and this time stayed in the area for over an hour actively feeding among a shoal of fusilier fish.

Unfortunately a large tourist boat from the nearby luxury resort then appeared on the scene so the GVI team backed away to let them see the shark until one of the newcomers grabbed its dorsal fin and the shark immediately dived and left the area.

Having already had their whale shark presentation from Dr. David the GVI team knew both how to behave and also what photos to get and so the next day the images were handed in to MCSS and were quickly run through I3S and the shark was found to be a new shark for Seychelles and so becomes sey2010.001 the first new Seychelles shark for 2010!

So a new shark already and the monitoring team haven’t even arrived yet! Bet they wished they were here now!