Saturday, January 14, 2012

Week Two... the story continues!

Week two in Djibouti has been another odd week of mixed results, with shark numbers starting off well with over twenty encounters for each boat on the first session but then started to fall again, coinciding with a lack of arrow worm numbers. But by Wednesday the arrow worms had returned and over 150 encounters logged. The grand total at the end of week two was 391 encounters. MCSS team member Darren Whitehead describes his week....

Just a little update from the MCSS field team here in Djibouti. So after a steady start, the week was full of ups and downs in the plankton levels and the disappearance of our beloved whale sharks for 24hrs. An evening plankton tow by Gareth and myself revealed the return of the arrow worms, an essential food source high in protein and a favourite of the juvenile sharks surrounding the waters of Djibouti.

The plankton net showed there was a drop in plankton abundance

Next day, as the sun rose over the mountainous backdrop, we headed out to one of the known aggregation sites with a newly found glint of hope from the successful plankton hunt. We were on constant lookout for our sharks when suddenly, out of the glare of the sun, the ever-graceful shadow appeared in the water in front of our boat. As we made our way over to be positioned alongside the shark a smile lightly rose from either side of my snorkel, as I knew what was in store for us today.

The sharks started appearing all around us rising from the deep and swimming almost together along the shore searching for plankton blooms to consume, gliding through the waters satisfying their healthy appetites with this newly found buffet.

As we made our way along the bay our skipper began yelling “ 4! No 5! Make that 6 sharks!”. We had reached the whale shark highway. Once hitting the water we were immediately greeted by two sharks gulping the water along side each other; shark after shark passed and circled, each getting its fill of this endless food supply.

We (some more gracefully than others) lifted ourselves back on board the boat with our hearts pumping and smiles gaping and made our way back to the Deli. With the sun slowly setting behind us, I noticed a familiar sight in the waters below, a whale shark vertical feeding in the waters beneath. Watching this graceful female pirouette in the water was the icing on the cake for such a wonderful day.

Whale shark vertical feeding on the plentiful arrow worms

The day that followed was once again full of encounters as plankton levels continued to stay high in the bays next to our research vessel.

The participants in Week Two...

Now as we move into our third and final week in Djibouti we hope for another week jam-packed with shark action and moments of sheer delight!

Until then …

Darren, MCSS

1 comment:

Georgia French said...

magnificent guardians of the ocean? ;)