Well it’s September 1st and the first official day of the whale shark season and after a bit of a shaky start its GAME ON with the team’s first whale shark of the season!
After two weeks of ‘boot camp’ where our team of six interns were learning all about the methods we use and following our fake whale shark ‘Wally’, it has to be said that they were getting a little bit itchy to get in the water with the real thing, but things weren’t working out…
Team leader Sam (left) with John (centre) and Ross (right) wait hopefully for a big spotty fish!
Team Leaders Darren Whitehead (UK) and Sam West (Aus) were doing their best to keep the interns focused and everyone appeared to be in good cheer, but when they start to do jig-saws of horses in the apartment, you can tell they are in need of some real shark action! Our team this year comprises of Amanda Hutchins (UK), Jozefien Decoene (Belgium), Maddy Cole (UK), John Tully (UK), Savi Leblond (Fr) and Ross Makulec (USA).
Darren keeps Jozefien and Maddy occupied with plankton tows...
In the first week, our pilot Johan Anderson had the plane ready and flying but no sharks were sighted, a real disappointment. Then in week two, the winds got up and the plane was grounded for several days… so the interns went out and terrorised Wally a bit more!
The 1st of September arrived, along with second pilot Neil Koopman, and Johan had Neil up in the air almost as soon as he had unpacked his bag! But the morning flight again came back empty… Johan saw a dark shadow in one of the channels but couldn’t determine if it was a whale shark and so we cancelled the first public encounter trip of the season… this wasn’t looking like a good start! However, Dr. D. sent the team out anyway as he had some technical tasks he needed them to do to standardise some new equipment, and the pilots reckoned they could fly as well so it was worth a try….
And here he is.... accompanied by a yellow pilot and a herd of remoras!
And worth a try it certainly was as Neil and Johan soon had the team moving into position near a whale shark…. But it wasn’t easy as the shark kept diving into the rather thick plankton layer and disappearing… but they persevered and got their first shark of the season! Johan and Neil saw a further three sharks in the same area but the thick plankton layer made them impossible to get on to.
We're not sure of his identity yet but by tomorrow all will be revealed!
But its day 1 with shark # 1! So the interns have some data to start work on first thing tomorrow with the anticipation of more by tomorrow afternoon!