Friday, September 6, 2013

And we're off!

The 2013 whale shark season is now well under way... after a hesitant first day with a shark-less survey flight and a second day with sharks but very rough seas, the team is now getting into the swing of things although having sharks and encounter surveys for three consecutive days is testing their new-found skills a little!

However, in a calmer moment before the storm of back to back encounters Intern Sarah Baker had the chance to share her experiences of the first week:

We had finished our first week of training in the MCSS house and the closest we had got to a whale shark had been with Wall-e, our training shark which we have been practising taking ID photos on. We’ve also been out on the boat doing plankton tows, CTD drops and using the sechi disk testing for visibility.

First training session on the boat, everyone looks very relaxed!

We had an intense week learning all about data collection, spreadsheets, how to radio the micro-light, lasermetrics and lots of fun with GIS! When we’re not learning all of this we have been out snorkelling down at the beach where there are lots of cool fish and rays.

Star-burst group photo of this year's Interns

On Saturday David held a barbeque at his house for all MCSS staff and interns, a few of us went to help prepare the food and got to meet Dennis the Giant Tortoise who took a liking to an James' shoes and followed him round the garden.

On Sunday we went out for training on one of the boats where we got to go for a snorkel off Conception Island where we saw a Hawksbill turtle and 3 white-tip reef sharks. This made a great end to a good but tiring week.  

 Hawksbill turtle and white-tip reef shark (Photo Matt Leiper)

During the week we went to the local bazaar in Beau Vallon where you can eat lots of delicious Creole food and watch the sunset on the beach, although be careful of the local moonshine!

 Sunset from the MCSS veranda

Most of the volunteers have been up in the micro-light this week although not all trips have been successful due to weather conditions. It was my turn on Tuesday and the conditions couldn’t have been better. We saw lots of fish but more importantly the ones we’ve all been waiting to see, 3 whale sharks spotted in the South, which meant that a boat trip could go out in the afternoon.

Overall it was a really good week and all the interns are looking forward to what the next few weeks bring!

The shark identifications are coming through from the first two days of in-water survey and the very first ID of the season is a brand new shark to Seychelles..... Interestingly, the second shark identified is an old friend, once known as Acoustic 4, that was first identified in 2001, this makes it the longest serving member to date in the Seychelles aggregation having been seen over a 13 year time span... Well done team!

Our first ID'd shark of the season, meet sey.2013.001! (Photo Matt Leiper)

 And this is our old friend from 2001, sey.2001.008... Welcome back!

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