Dream Team Adventure

Winter is coming to Cape Cod and the time has come to haul boats for storage until the spring. This is always a little bit sad for us. Many years ago Pam and I dreamed about spending time on a boat chasing wildlife in a wild place that was not in the middle of the Bering Sea. When at last this dream became a reality for us here on Cape Cod …we decided to call our small expedition craft Aleutian DreamIt continues to be a joy for us and this year was special as we pushed this vessel into some new challenges to support the white shark research project.

A word about the totem symbol on the bow.  This spirit symbol has been with us for more than thirty years throughout our many adventures. It is a Pacific Northwest Coast Indian (Tlingit) spirit totem called Sisioohl or as the kwakwaka’wakw refereed to it, Sisiutl.  The literal translation is “Magic Salmon”. The spirit represents some “heavy magic” and is not to be trifled with. Central to the themes of warrior, power, strength and invulnerability, the Sisioohl was a dangerous creature, capable of bringing harm or death to anyone coming upon it. In the myths it guarded the house of the sky people. For those with warrior power the Sisioohl became a great help – a drop of Sisioohl blood could cause a warrior’s skin to be impenetrable.  The spirit would come to the warrior on command and its body could act as a self prepared canoe to make the warrior invincible in war. The skin of the Sisioohl made into a belt  allowed the warrior who was wearing it to perform superhuman feats. The Sisioohl eyes could be used as sling stones and were so powerful they could even kill Whales!!

Alternatively, the glare of this three headed serpent could cause a man to die, his joints turned backward, and it could cause an enemy who looked upon it to turn to stone. Fortunately, over the years we have partnered successfully with this spirit to do some amazing things and happily we are still alive and mostly in one piece…though a few times we pushed our luck a bit. We are sure the Sisioohl was with us as we dodged breakers as we tracked white sharks on the outer Cape this year. Through our efforts in 2014, the Massachusetts Shark Research Program has increased the size of their Atlantic white shark database of identified individuals from 39 (gathered between 2009 – 2013) to an incredible 100+ with more than 61 white sharks id’d and cataloged this season by researchers Greg Skomal & John Chisholm.  And along the way we were also able to apply tracking tags to 18 of these fish to aid in the understanding of white shark annual migration patterns in the Atlantic. The work was funded through the all volunteer efforts of the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy. Thanks to many generous donors an incredible amount of new information about white sharks in Cape Cod waters has been collected and the learning will continue to help inform responsible public policy in our region with good science.

THE TEAM: Our vessel core crew for the past four + months supporting the Massachusetts Shark Research Program led by Greg Skomal. Good shipmates all  – with Pam King, Cynthia Wigren, Ben Wigren, Jeff Kneebone and Greg Skomal. Pictured below and critical to the work were John Chisholm and our spotter pilot Wayne Davis.  We feel  privileged to have been part of the 2014 field effort and to have worked with such a dedicated & talented team.

Cflat blog

John Chisholm (1)

John Chisholm

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Wayne Davis next to his baby “…92 Xray”

White shark off Chatham (3)

 

Read more.. Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Wild Cape Cod Notebook: Chasing the Last Dragons

White Shark Chex off N Chatham Inlet

A large male tagged earlier in the season is called Chex (nicknamed Darth Vader by the DMF Team). He is riddled with battle scars indicating that he is likely the dominant male white shark in the Chatham/Orleans habitat this summer season. The tag is visible in this image behind the dorsal fin.

Read a recent article in National Geographic Traveler about cage diving with white sharks in the Neptune Islands in South Australia. Local eco-tour operator Andrew Fox describes the experience his guests enjoy as “Chasing the Earth’s Last Dragons”. The phrase resonated with my own feelings of awe for these ocean voyagers.

Experienced naturalists and field biologists are a joy to be with. They can truly ignite a moment in the field with insight into animal behavior by orienting field companions to the possibilities while calibrating expectations with “what to look for…and what to avoid.. A passion for the wild world just pours from these companions on hikes or longer expeditions into the wild and it can be the difference between an average experience and a special one. We have learned that there is absolutely no substitute for an experienced guide who is familiar with the area your are exploring.. And most if not all of these guides will tell you…that the odds of witnessing a truly magical experiences improve significantly the more time you spend in the field. Seem obvious? Easier said than done. A lesson learned often the hard way. Time in the Field. “You can’t see them if you are not out there among them”… and conditions are not always ideal when the magic happens. Invariably, the fellow traveler who decides to sleep in and not take the early sunrise hike usually misses the one sighting that they had placed the most value on in planning their trip.

Time in the Field! Persistence paid off for us recently. After more than four seasons of scouring the outer Cape on our boat from Nantucket to Truro with binoculars, using various strategies to solicit the presence of a white shark and observe their hunting prowess we were finally rewarded with a magnificent white shark predation on a small grey seal in real time near the North Chatham Inlet here on Cape Cod. A  true lesson in natural history and a reminder of the majesty of this predator in our midst.

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Predation #2

Predation #4

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White shark 9.4.14

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AWSC Trip 9.4.2014

A truly amazing spectacle that took less than 1 minute to complete. When the shark appeared finished we deplyed our decoy seal (made from pieces of synthetic carpet). A well placed toss and a splash solicted a return visit from the shark. NOTE: the shark is a male about 13 feet long tagged previously…nicknamed “Salty”.

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Salty sniffed this decoy and instantly realized that he had been duped. With a magnificent thrash of his tail he whacked the imposter hard and swam away.

White shark 9.4.14 (3)

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Outer Cape with WD

Shot acquired while flying with spotter pilot Wayne Davis on one of our days off the water. Note: This is a favorite surfers break off of Wellfleet

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This haul out of grey seals off of Pilgrim Heights is presently the largest gathering of seals on the Outer Cape this summer.

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Dr. Greg Skomal tags his 10th white shark off of Monomoy this week, a 14 footer nick named “Surf Hunter”.

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Working off NAuset Beach

Here is what they see from the beach on most days we are out.

Working off NAuset Beach (1)

A Surfer trying his luck close to the beach

Read more.. Saturday, September 20th, 2014

Wild Cape Cod Notebook: Summer

The summer is now more than half over and the various activities in the wild world here on Cape Cod have been both numerous and exciting to witness. As readers of this blog are aware, we have been supporting the White Shark Population Study field work under the direction of Dr. Greg Skomal through our involvement with the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy since the study initiated in June. This has us out on the waters of the outer Cape two to three times a week on the Aleutian Dream with a dedicated team of researchers and volunteers. The work is hugely rewarding .

We have managed a few days off the water to check-in on the beginnings of the fall shorebird migration which has migrants continuing to pass through the outer Cape barrier beaches to refuel on their southerly journey. Other species are finally fledging their young and preparing to leave in the coming weeks. We  are posting a few images gathered over the past week including another wonderful visit to Sandy Neck in Barnstable.

And don’t miss the latest Field Report video with an update on the  White Shark Research below.

Super Moon

Supermoon rise over North Beach Island, Chatham

Supermoon

Mola mola

A curious mola mola spotted near the North Chatham inlet

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Semipalimated sandpipers momentarily scared up by a passing Peregrine Falcon. Sandy Neck, Barnstable

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Peregrine Falcon

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Newly fledged Piping Plover

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An incredible gathering of more than 500 Tree Swallows near the great salt marsh on Sandy Neck, Barnstable

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This osprey was returning to a nest with a newly fledged youngster waiting for a chat with Mom (or dad)

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On patrol at the white shark cafe off South Beach, Chatham

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Photo courtesy of Wayne Davis

Read more.. Monday, August 18th, 2014

Wild Times with White Sharks

Like a moth to a flame……it is exactly a year since Shark Week 2013 kicked off and since we are off the water today took some time to reflect on the adventures with these magnificent creatures during the past year. Here are some of the highlights….

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Seal Island, South Africa

White Shark Seal Island (5)

Seal Island, South Africa

White Shark off South Beach

Monomoy NWR, Cape Cod

Luci

Off Chatham Inlet, Cape Cod

Guadeloupe Best

Guadeloupe Island, Mexico

White Sharks Guadeloupe

Guadeloupe Island, Mexico

White Shark Seal Island

Seal Island, South Africa

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Seal Island, South Africa

Blog GWS

Guadeloupe Island, Mexico

Blue Sharks with Joe Romeiro (11)

Blue Shark, Near Block Island, Rhode Island

Guadeloupe Island Close ups

Guadeloupe Island, Mexico

White Shark off South Beach (1)

Monomoy NWR, Cape Cod

PK BDay wish

Guadeloupe Island, Mexico

White Shark Seal Island (2)

Seal Island, South Africa

Blue Sharks with Joe Romeiro (18)

Blue Shark, Near Block Island, Rhode Island

White Shark for blog (4)

Predation event on a seal , Monomoy NWR, Cape Cod

 

 

White Shark Seal Island (3)

Out of the cage, Seal Island, South Africa

Blue Shark with Joe & Brian

Blue Shark, Near Block Island, Rhode Island

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Picture of the Year 2013 made the cover of TIME Magazine – Seal Island, South Africa

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Seal Island, South Africa

Guadeloupe Island Close ups copy

Guadeloupe Island, Mexico

Blue Shark off Rhode Island

Blue Shark, Near Block Island, Rhode Island

Black tips Galapagos

Free diving with Black tip sharks, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

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Photo courtesy Wayne Davis : Working a white shark off Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read more.. Sunday, August 10th, 2014

Wild Cape Cod Notebook: White Shark Research

Summer has now commenced in full swing here on Cape Cod and many summer visitors have arrived to enjoy all that a warm and sunny Cape Cod has to offer. Our attention has turned to supporting a research project that is being conducted in Cape Cod waters and when completed will answer the question most people ask about Atlantic white sharks. How many are out there? This work is being funded by donations of time equipment and $ from the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy in cooperation with the Massachusetts department of Marine Fisheries Shark Research Program led by Dr. Greg Skomal. The research is being conducted on the outer Cape operating out of our home port, Chatham and since Greg has been interested in working from a smaller boat platform to see if photographing and tagging white sharks is possible, we offered the use of ours – the 24 foot Aleutian Dream. Over the last couple of years we have made some modifications to this fishing boat to enhance our ability to follow and photograph wildlife in the ocean and with the addition of a bow pulpit the boat seemed ideally suited for the challenge to follow white sharks. And because the region’s seals are so spread out, the only truly efficacious way to find these visiting apex predators is to use a spotter plane. Veteran fish spotter pilot Wayne Davis was recruited for this purpose and after a couple of weeks we have worked most of the kinks out our process.

Please consider supporting this important work by donating  here http://www.atlanticwhiteshark.org/donate/

and BE SURE TO CHECK OUT THE VIDEO BELOW!!

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Shark study seals (1)

The research protocol calls for the team to be on the water at least two days a week scanning from the boat and working with the plane along the areas barrier beaches looking mainly at the grey seal haulouts for signs of shark predation attempts and any other observations. We have been blessed with some excellent conditions to work in and were rewarded on Saturday June 28 when Wayne spotted 14 – 15 foot white shark about 1/4 mile off of Nauset Beach and we were able to follow her with underwater pole cameras for nearly an hour.

Shark study seals

Shark study seals (3)

Shark study seals (6)

Read more.. Friday, July 4th, 2014

Cetaceans on the Outer Cape

The month of May is fast moving to a close and the spring migration continues to be an adventure. Launching our boat , Aleutian Dream into the water this past weekend finally enabled us to get out in the Atlantic and off shore to investigate reports of massive schools of sand eels and voraciously feeding Humpback Whales. We were joined by friend Ted Cheeseman a Conservation Biologist and whale naturalist visiting from California and scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute who were all “off duty” and keen to see some cetacean action. And action we found!

Leaving Chatham Harbor in the slate grey of a cool spring morning to calm seas we ventured south a few miles to examine the condition of the South Beach cuts of 2013 & 2014 and to assess the haulouts of Gray seals gathered along the Monomoy side of these inlets. An ocean swell from the previous days Northeast winds was causing a significant line of breakers across both inlets even at high tide. This does not bode well for navigating this short cut to Nantucket Sound for mariners this summer season. We observed seals well off the beach about a mile and in numbers suggesting that as yet the apex predator white sharks may not yet have arrived. We understand that the listening buoys are to be deployed in the next days so real data may soon be available on the presence of white sharks.

But since our target for the day was whales we quickly assessed that there were no Humpbacks feeding in the immediate Chatham Harbor area out 3 miles so we decided to head north to check out the action reported heavily in the vicinity of Race Point near Provincetown. We were rewarded for the long run up from Chatham with confirmed sightings of four different cetaceans!Stellwagen (35)

A Fin Whale feeding off of Race Point

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Common dolphins

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Minke Whale feeding on Stellwagen

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The spectacular behavior of Humpbacks known as Bubble netting is one of the most amazing sights to witness in natural history among whales. This is cooperative feeding among 1 – many whales working together to efficiently feed. Here are a few images we made.

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Whale watchers look on in amazement.

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Photo by Tim Vorheis – Humpback “Ventesca” bubble netting (taken offshore about 2005)

Bubble netting as mentioned is very special to see. Thanks very much to Tuna spotter pilot and photographer Tim Vorheis who nailed this image some years ago so you can see what is happening…and this is just one whale working. A helpful article describing this feeding behavior is here.  http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/news/press/2013/pr092613.html

A few other shots of “bubble netting taken off of Chatham last November.

Humpbacks off ChathamHumpbacks off Chatham (1)Humpbacks off Chatham (2)Humpbacks off Chatham (3)

Read more.. Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Wild Cape Cod Notebook: Winter

We are still sifting through the images and savoring the experience of our recent trek down Sandy Neck here on a frozen Cape Cod but this has not stopped us from continuing to get outside in the frigid but beautiful winter landscapes here to find the wild things. The weather is forecast to change and warmer temperatures with lots of rain and wind are expected shortly….so we thought we would post some of the images we have recorded in the past week including a host of beautiful raptors and some uncommon waterfowl. We also have had a few additional snowy owl encounters and a sighting of a White Fronted Goose among the Canada Geese on a local golf course.

This will likely be our last report for awhile as we head south to Caribbean waters to be with our friends the Sperm whales of Dominica and the Humpback whales of the Silver Bank near the Dominican Republic. Check back for these reports in a few weeks.

White fronted goose (right) - A rare Cape Cod visitor

Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge - Chatham

Snowy Owl in flight

North Chatham overlooking Tern Island toward the Outer Beach

Northern Harrier in flight - Fort Hill, Eastham

Great Blue Heron in flight - Fort Hill

Northern Shoveler (male)

Northern Harrier

Hooded Mergansers in flight - Eastham

Fort Hill view of Nauset Beach

Hooded Mergansers in flight

White fronted goose in flight (left)

Peregrine Falcon overlooks the frozen turf at Eastward Ho!- Chatham

Red Tailed Hawk - Chatham

Surf Scoter - Morris Island, Chatham

Common Goldeneye - Morris Island, Chatham

Read more.. Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Wild Cape Cod Notebook: Winter

This is the third post highlighting our walks on the barrier beaches on the Cape in the month of January. Still in search of up close and impressive images of the Snowy Owl visitors we venture onto Harding’s Beach in Chatham in the late afternoon to investigate. As those who follow this blog know even if your prime objective is elusive there is always something interesting to observe….always. Cutting to the chase – we did not find the owl this day but other visitors caught our attention.

Brandt Geese are passing through Cape Cod coastal areas still on their way south.

American Black Ducks take flight

Sanderlings are among the few shorebirds that winter over on Cape beaches

Dusk at the entrance to Stage Harbor looking south to South Monomoy Point

Sadly a Short finned pilot whale has stranded and died over night mysteriously

Read more.. Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Green Water…White Death

wild cape cod

Third in a series of photographs leveraged to raise
awareness, the 2013 poster edition of wild cape cod
illustrates a story of predation and power.
Taken a few moments after a failed attack,
this photograph captures a great white shark
as she circles back for another strike at a one of
the area’s many seals.

Poster is 22″ x 28″ and printed on high quality photographic paper suitable for framing
Cost $50.00 signed and dated
Send inquiries to john@commonflat.com
All Proceeds will be used to support Cape Cod based conservation efforts

Read more.. Thursday, December 12th, 2013

Transitions of the Season

Aleutian Dream at Cow Yard landing

It is that time of year when the NE Gales start to become more frequent and the temperatures drop toward the freezing mark. Our boat  Aleutian Dream has been in the water here on Cape Cod for over 6 months and the time has come to haul it for the winter season. It is always hard to give up the chance to be on the water in a moments notice. Here are some additional unforgettable images from our last adventure a week ago out with the humpbacks off Chatham Inlet.

But even as the seasons change there are still wild adventures to enjoy on land with the onset of the “off-season” quiet time on Cape Cod. Just check out these images Pam made from our porch the past few days.

Read more.. Thursday, November 14th, 2013