Many of you will have seen our report from Guadeloupe Island and our experiences in crystal clear water observing white sharks of the Pacific. In planning the trip we (err I) realized that the dates of the trip would include the date of a certain birthday milestone for Pam. Finally had a chance to review the video footage from the trip and now offer the attached clip which will give you just a little bit of the feel of what diving with massive white sharks is like. Your heart pounds and spends a lot of the time in your mouth! Still amazed at the memory of the experience even now a few weeks ago.
October is now half gone and the water temperatures on the Outer Cape are slowly dropping while beautiful sunny skies and autumn colors take over our landscapes on Cape Cod. Keen on observing raptors our patience has finally paid off. A visit to South Monomoy in a light easterly wind conditions has yielded a fine sighting of nature’s fastest predator, the Peregrine Falcon on its regular southerly migration following other migrants. Perfect opportunity to showcase our raptors. Also at South Monomoy in the fresh water ponds we found a number of migrating waterfowl as well. Fantastic birding!
The beauty of this time of year on Cape Cod is exemplified by the diversity of observations that one can have in a short period of time given migration and weather patterns of the season. The following sightings all occurred within the past week in the mid Cape region and waters. The red tailed hawk below was astounding in its concentration as it lifted off from its perch and kept focus while generating lift in the most beautiful way.
The shorebird southerly migration is slowing down but still plenty of dunlins coming through along with a complement of red knots, black bellied plovers and some other south bound stragglers. The beautiful greater yellowlegs pictured here was extraordinarily comfortable with the presence of the camera in great afternoon light. We continue to watch for the presence of peregrine falcons which are beginning to pass through the barrier beaches hunting along the way. No sightings yet but hoping….
Finally on a remarkable sunny fall day we worked with Dr. Greg Skomal and the Cape Cod Shark hunters on the final tagging trip of the 2013 season. With the help of Wayne Davis in a plane we observed four different Atlantic white sharks. One shark was conservatively estimated at 16 feet long and an estimated 3500 lbs. A truly massive female that was tagged and named Luci and will now be followed with hopes that she will help researchers decode the mysteries of where these amazing predators go when they are not in Cape Cod waters. Kudos to the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy for all the hard work that went into raising awareness and funds for our magnificent apex predator seasonal visitor. Note: These are images of three different white sharks sighted in a single day. The 4th was spotted by the pilot but we were not able to follow it from the tagging boat.
It has long been a goal of ours to explore the coast of Maine at any time of year so when circumstances presented themselves to allow a chance trip in our spectacular New England Fall – we took it and headed down east for a few days. And of course, the weather cooperated nicely with deliciously mild “Indian summer” temperatures and virtually cloud – less skies. Our path took us to two beautiful areas in mid coast Maine – St. George Peninsula and magnificent Mount Desert Island.
How do you follow up an epic experience such as cage diving in crystal clear water with earth’s most charismatic apex predator – the great white shark? We took a long shot and joined a local whale watch operator in San Diego to try for one more “life” experience before we headed back home. Our goal was to find the largest animal ever to inhabit the earth in the wild – the elusive and endangered Blue Whale! A sighting would be a first for us and we knew the odds were not in our favor.
Our craft was perfect for the task – a surplus Navy Seal inflatable that could seat 6 comfortably and make about 30 knots in calm seas. A bit slower in choppy seas and you better be prepared to hang on for a bumpy ride. September is not a typical month for Blue whale sightings which are still considered fortunate and rare anywhere in the world since whaling in the modern era has reduced their numbers to a fraction of their historic population. But our amazing luck was with us as about 20 miles offshore (now back in Mexican waters) we came across a gathering of 25 blue whales feeding on the surface over a 2 square mile area. Watching these beasts glide across the surface (several of them were 100 feet long!) was breathtaking. Our naturalist on board said he had not seen so many Blue Whales together in one area in his five years of guiding there. Another incredible experience. WOW! Take a look!
As summer days turn into autumn here on Cape Cod the beautiful “Septober” environment blesses locals who get to celebrate the close of the hectic summer’s passing. Mild temperatures, incredible color and the fall migration are just some of the treats we enjoy when home in Chatham. Check out these images we recorded on a flight to observe our home town from the air. We were reminded how special Cape Cod is…especially at this time of year.
Our journey to Guadeloupe Island was on track as we boarded the 120 ft dive live aboard, Nautilus Explorer in Ensenada, Mexico at about 10 PM and set out for the 180 mile journey southwest. Weather for travel was not ideal as a Tropical Storm was pounding Baja California about a 100 miles to the south of our position and sent large ocean swells in our direction. This caused uncomfortable rolling conditions as we stowed our gear, battened down anything that was not tied down and jumped into our bunks for the 20 hour run to the island. At about 8:00Pm the next day, in fading light, we approached Guadeloupe and dropped anchor under the cliffs on the NE side of the island. A familiar sea lion known to the crew as Toro could be seen along side in the deck lights. When dawn came the following morning all were excited to see the island’s star attraction – below the surface.
And the adventure that unfolded was absolutely thrilling. At times over the three days at the island we had five different white sharks circling our cage and obviously curious about our role in their environment. The water was on the cold side 65 – 68 degrees F. but we dressed for the cold in full 7mm wetsuits. And as advertised – the water clarity was in the 100ft plus range for our entire visit. About the only disappointment was not being able to explore more of the island and the shores that ring it. This privilege, unfortunately, is off limits to non-Mexican visitors. We did have a visit and a fine lecture from resident white shark researcher Mauricio Hoya who has been studying the population of white sharks at Guadeloupe Island for a number of years. He helped us identify “Guenther” and “Thor” among the population of male white sharks that visit the island at this time of year. He casually mentioned that the legendary mega-white shark male “Bruce” was in the area however we did not see him.
We are once again in the final preparations of packing for points south and west. This time to Mexico and the crystal clear waters of Guadeloupe Island off the coast of Baja. http://greatwhitesharkinfo.com/guadalupe_island.html
The target? – Pacific Great White Sharks in an important GWS area observable from cages in water visibility of greater than 100 feet. For you non-divers you should know this is really special. See the terrific vid by explorer and diver Joe Romeiro shot in our destination. The white shark in this clip (we hope to see) is world famous as “Shredder”.
If you have followed this page you are aware that M/V Ocearch has been in Cape Cod waters for the past month supporting a consortium of shark researchers in their quest to study the mysterious Atlantic white shark. The team was strong and had able leadership spending literally hundreds of hours on the water, sometimes in very challenging conditions, looking for these elusive visitors.
The team reported seeing about 20 different white sharks from their platform but were successful in bringing only two aboard for the short “interview” on the Ocearch. Captain Brett McBride, in the wrap up, described our Atlantic white sharks as the “wildest” and most wary of humans he had ever witnessed.
Since Atlantic white sharks are almost impossible to see unless you are extremely fortunate we put together some footage I recorded about three weeks ago in another part of the world. The message is still the same..these predators are rare and amazing. They deserve our attention.
Our good friend Denise Lawrence of Aquatic Adventures – an accomplished naturalist, diver and guide for whale encounters in the Caribbean, came to Cape Cod at our invitation to see her beloved humpbacks in their summer feeding grounds for the first time. Having been traveling in South Africa the pressure was on to quickly locate whales and hope for good weather to get out to see them. With a little bit of research and some good luck we were able to get on the whales about 22 miles SE of Chatham actually east of Nantucket on a fine day. Our luck was even better as we realized with a flood of seabirds swarming that the small group of whales we came upon were actually using “bubble- netting” to seize their prey. Two of the whales we witnessed were later identified by researchers using the Gulf of Maine Humpback Whale Catalog curated by our friends at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown as whales that had been photographed and identified on the Silver Bank in 2012! “Angus” and “Mira”. Connecting the dots was incredible. See our posts and conversation with “fluke matchers” in Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/magic_salmon/sets/72157634536692374/