Djibouti & the Horn of Africa

Continuing our 9 week African odyssey in East Africa we had the opportunity to explore Djibouti with our great friends and amazing wildlife guides Jonathan Rossouw and Giovanna Fasanelli. Of course we took it! You never know what you might see unless you try and man were we surprised by the dramatic contrasts and beauty of this somewhat forgotten corner of the African continent. Unique and wonderful wildlife and culture were in store for us….and no pirates!

Whale Shark

 

From Wikipedia, “Djibouti is strategically located near the world’s busiest shipping lanes, controlling access to the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. It serves as a key refueling and transshipment center, and is the principal maritime port for imports to and exports from neighboring Ethiopia. A burgeoning commercial hub, the nation is the site of various foreign military bases, including Camp Lemonniera, a United States Naval Expeditionary Base. Djibouti is situated in the Horn of Africa on the Gulf of Aden and the Bab-el Mandeb at the southern entrance to the Red Sea. It lies between latitudes 10° and 13°N, and longitudes 41° and 44°E. The country’s coastline stretches 195 miles, with terrain consisting mainly of plateau, plains and highlands.”

Our main objective in visiting was to locate and photograph the seasonal visit of whale sharks. As you will see – we were very fortunate to get some good looks in beautifully clear water thanks to folks at Dolphin Diving Services, Djibouti City. .Another memory was etched in our brains as we trekked in a 4×4 Toyota pick up truck for some five hour into the desert wastes in search of Lake Abba. Near sunset we finally reached our destination among the volcanic fumaroles and parched rocky landscape. The light and the landscape images were breathtaking. And we also came upon some herders tending mostly goats who moved slowly in the searing late afternoon heat. It was unclear where these shepherds would be spending the night. We were dozens of miles off of the main road.

Lastly we visited  Lake Assal which is located in the middle of Djibouti, in a closed depression at the northern end of the Great Rift Valley. Situated in the Danakil Desert, it is bounded by hills on the western region. The lake lies at an altitude of 155 m (509 ft) below sea level, making it the lowest point of Africa. The lake is characterized by two parts. The dry part of the lake, resulting from evaporation of the lake waters, is a white plain dry lake bed on the west/northwest side, which is a large expanse of salt (now being mined by a Chinese company). The second part is the highly saline water body.  The watershed area of the lake is 350 sq miles. Floating in the lake was exhilarating as it was impossible not stay high in the water like a cork though when we got out we were caked in salt which we were desperate to wash off. 

Enjoy these images of a relatively unknown country on Africa’s horn and the fringe of rich, warm tropical waters with excellent scuba diving, in close proximity to Somali pirates but western military might. Djibouti is safe and definitely worth a visit.

Eastward Ho talk (3)

 Lake Abbe

JJK_7857

Djibouti (5)

IMG_4436

JJK_7838

Eastward Ho talk (100)

Whale Sharks (5)

Whale Shark #3

Whale Shark, Djibouti (1)

Eastward Ho talk (109)

Whale Shark Djibouti

Whale Shark 4

IMG_4495

IMG_4665

Floating in Lake Assal, the saltiest body of water in Africa and the lowest at -150 meters below sea level.

JJK_7711

Djibouti (5)

EAfrica

JJK_7644

JJK_8083

Djibouti (1)

Sand Grouse Djibouti

Djibouti (2)

Eastward Ho talk (103)

Greater Flamingos at Lake Abba

 

IMG_4555

JJK_8130

Djibouti (1)

 

Read more.. Sunday, March 8th, 2015

North Atlantic Humpbacks in Winter

JJK  2015 Silver Bank3

For the 4th consecutive year we made our way south out of the frigid New England winter to spend time with our friends at Aquatic Adventures who run expeditions from the Dominican Republic to the Silver Bank to observe North Atlantic humpback whales in their winter habitat. As many of you are aware 2015 is showing the northeast portion of the US and Canada some of the coldest temperatures ever recorded in addition to record amounts of snowfall. The Boston area, near where we live on Cape Cod, had already recorded more than 2 meters of snowfall by the time of our departure (in mid February) and more was on the way.  And we were also very excited to join whale researcher Jenn Tackaberry from the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, MA for our week on the Silver Bank. Jenn has studied Gulf of Maine whales for a decade but this was her first chance to observe humpback whale mothers and young calves (3 – 5 weeks old) as they learn the ways of the ocean in safe Caribbean waters without predators.

We made the 10 hour passage (80 miles off shore) from Puerto Plata out to the Silver Bank in relatively calm waters. However for the following five days we had strong winds and choppy seas to deal with making underwater photography a challenge. And the weather did not dampen the excitement of the expedition team as we observed these beautiful mammals conducting the child rearing and mating rituals that they have been doing here for 100’s of millennia.

Here are just a few images from the experience and once again it was unforgettable. For more information about these expeditions and to learn more about the partnership between Aquatic Adventures and the Center for Coastal Studies AND how you can help – please check this site. www.coastalstudies.org/aquaticadventures

JJK  2015 Silver Bank (5)

Check out this short video we have just posted. It was inspired by one of our fellow travelers.

JJK Silver Bank

JJK Silver Bank (2)

JJK  2015 Silver Bank (3)

JJK  2015 Silver Bank (17)

JJK  2015 Silver Bank (13)

JJK  2015 Silver Bank

JJK  2015 Silver Bank (4)

JJK  2015 Silver Bank (6)

JJK  2015 Silver Bank (19)

JJK  2015 Silver Bank (14)

JJK  2015 Silver Bank (16)

JJK  2015 Silver Bank (1)

JJK  2015 Silver Bank (15)

JJK  2015 Silver Bank (2)

JJK Silver Bank (1)

JJK  2015 Silver Bank (20)

JJK  2015 Silver Bank (21)

Read more.. Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Report from East Africa: Lake Tanganyika

Our African Odyssey continued in Tanzania as we ventured by small plane south and west to the shores of Lake Tanganyika and the Mahale National Park. Our friends at Africa Easy http://www.africaeasy.com/ had suggested we make this visit off the usual safari path to Greystoke Mahale Camp on the shores of this crystal clear African Great Lake. Lake Tanganyika is the second largest fresh water lake in the world by volume, and the second deepest, in both cases, after only Lake Baikal in Siberia and it is also the world’s longest freshwater lake.  The lake is divided among four countries – Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, and Zambia. In truth, most of the Lake, because it is long and skinny, borders  Tanzania  and the DRC which was clearly visible from the Tanzania side.  The water flows out of the Lake into the Congo River system and ultimately into the Atlantic Ocean. This jewel of fresh water in the middle of the Albertine Rift Valley is remarkably pristine and home to more than 325 fish species many of which are endemic to the area. Visitors who like to fish or even snorkel will not be disappointed however when we asked about the snorkeling opportunities we were presented with a formidable release of all liabilities form due to the presence of crocodiles! We decided to stay out of the water this time.

Upon landing at the airstrip on the lake’s edge we linked up with our guides from Greystoke Mahale who trundled us aboard a basic dhow called Wolfe for the 90 minute ride south to the camp. We spent the next four amazing days in this special hideaway. And because we were traveling off season we had the camp practically to ourselves.

Mahale (8)

Mahale Wolfe

Mahale Camp (5)

Mahale NP

Mahale (9)

Palm Vultures over the Mahale Mountains

Mahale (4)

As we arrived at Greystoke Mahale we were greeted by a gregarious white pelican who is known locally as “Big bird”. It was only later that we learned he is a big internet star having been “retained” by the folks that make GoPro cameras to be a celebrity “stuntbird”. You may have seen Big bird during the holiday season at stores that carry GoPros. His Learning to Fly video was featured on YouTube and every department store kiosk in the world. You can check it out here if you haven’t seen it.

Mahale Big Bird

“Big bird” meets “The Gorilla guy”.

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 11.45.22 AM

We spotted this vessel on the second day of our stay. Wow what a story. The M/V Liemba is an affectionately known icon of Lake Tanganyika. She has been chugging up and down its waters for over eighty years. The ferry departs from Tanzania’s border town of Kigoma on the north of the lake each Wednesday afternoon. She stops in at a number of small Tanzanian lakeside villages before reaching Zambia’s Mpulungu town two days later where she turns around and heads back up.  Originally known as the Graf von Gotzen, the old steamship was built in Papenburg, Germany in 1913. She was disassembled in Germany and shipped to Dar es Salaam. From there she was transported in pieces by rail to the Kigoma shipyard. At that stage the Dar es Salaam– Kigoma railway had not yet been completed and so the Liemba was carried in pieces by porters on the final stretch to Kigoma. Yikes!

She was used to transport cargo and armed troops for the German army until 1916. That year, following the British take over of the Central Line Railway, she was sunk by her German crew who would rather have her at the bottom of the lake than fall to the victorious British army.AND THEN she remained underwater for eight years until 1924 when the British retrieved her from the lake floor, rechristened her the M/V Liemba and reinstated her as a cargo and passenger vessel. Today she transports some 600 passengers and their goods up and down the length of the lake, providing a vital life-line along its route. Amazing but true!

Mahale Primus

“Primus”, the alpha male of the Chimpanzee troop at Mahale

The main attraction at Mahale is the opportunity to track and spend time with a group of chimpanzees that have been habituated to the presence of humans. Meet “Primus”, the alpha male of the troop of 264 chimpanzees that live in the Mahale Mts. above the camp. If his demeanor looks tough that is because he is a brute. Primus rules this troop of chimps like a tyrant – with fear and intimidation. We learned from the local guide that this is not unknown in chimpanzee culture. According to the local naturalists Primus took over the colony just a few years ago by assassinating his predecessor in a bloody coup d’etat with the aid of some co-conspirators. And Primus must defend his supremacy every single day including the right to breed with all of the mature females by constantly harassing and physically abusing potential challenging males with force. Hence his scarred face and attitude that radiates “I am a bully”. He is a dictator and feared by all. The pattern repeats itself down the line of successor dominant males who each know where they are in the troops’ pecking order. We were surprised to observe this kind of behavior from our closest living primate relatives…but then again after thinking about this a bit…we understood more clearly.

Darwin

Male chimp known as Darwin

Mahale Christmas (1)

Mahale6

Mahale Pels Fishing Owl

Very rare sighting of Pels Fishing Owl!

Mahale (13)

Mahale (7)

Collared Sunbird

Mahale Camp (4)

This beautiful fish became dinner

Mahale Camp (2)

Mahale (10)

African Fish Eagle on the hunt

Mahale Camp (3)

Sunset over the DRC

Mahale Camp

Greystoke Mahale Camp

Greystoke Mahale Camp (owned by Nomad) is a true gem and away from the usual safari destinations. Flights arrive just a couple times a week so stays are for a minimum of 4 nights. Chimpanzee trekking,  can take much of the day as with guides visitors search in the Mahale Mts to find chimps. We were very fortunate and in three days of trekking we never had to walk longer than 90 minutes to catch up with the chimp trackers. Once found we spent the 1 hour (regulation controlled) observing troop behavior and then still had lots of opportunities to observe and experience the beautiful lakefront forest and the birds and animals that live there. Cam and Kate, Camp Managers were delightful and fun. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and highly recommend a visit if you are considering remote destinations in East Africa.

 

Read more.. Thursday, February 12th, 2015

Report from East Africa: Tanzania

After spending more than 17 days exploring The Seychelles and Aldabra Atoll we disembarked in  Zanzibar, the island gateway to East Africa. Zanzibar City sits on the west side of the island of Unguja in the Zanzibar Archipelago and its charming Stone Town holds a great deal of historical significance into the shaping of the region. We spent a couple of nights here on our way into the wilds of Tanzania. Here are a just a few impressions from a very brief stopover.

Dhows Zanzibar

Stone Town is a fine example of the Swahili coastal trading towns of East Africa. It retains its urban fabric and townscape virtually intact and contains many fine buildings that reflect its particular culture, which has brought together and homogenized disparate elements of the cultures of Africa, the Arab region, India, and Europe over more than a millennium. The ruling Islamic dynasty of Zanzibar and its foreign merchants became very rich and embellished the Stone Town with palaces and fine mansions. These were built in a variety of styles and traditions, which were amalgamated and homogenized into a characteristic Swahili architecture. In addition the east African slave trade, started by the Portuguese, assumed large proportions in the 18th century, when slaves were required in large numbers especially for the French sugar plantations in the islands of the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean. We visited the oldsite where the Slave Market took place as it has been preserved almost exactly. Quite a moving experience to imagine the horrors that took place here.

Zanzibar (2)

Zanzibar

Zanzibar (1)

During our short stay on Zanzibar we made a surgical strike outside the city to search for a rare primate that is only found here – the Zanzibar red colobus monkey. …and we got lucky with some up close views.

Red Colubus Zanzibar

From Zanzibar we ventured westward by small plane to Arusha, the gateway to beautiful wild areas in the north and western parts of Tanzania. We were met by our guide for the next two days and then drove (on rough roads) for about 3 hours into The Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA), a conservation area and a UNESCO World Heritage Site located 110 mi west of Arusha in the Crater Highlands.  Our destination was the Ngorongoro Crater, a large volcanic caldera within the area, is recognized by one private organization as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa. It is  the world’s largest inactive, intact, and unfilled volcanic caldera. The crater, which formed when a large volcano exploded and collapsed on itself two to three million years ago, is 2,000 feet deep and its floor covers 100 square miles Estimates of the height of the original volcano range from 14,800 to 19,000 feet high and the elevation of the crater floor is 5,900 feet above sea level. We were fortunate to visit in the short rainy season time when few tourists are present an we organized our game drive to begin at sunrise to among the first to venture down into the crater from our lodge on the rim.  We were greeted with a beautiful green landscape and lots of relaxed animal and bird residents just waking up. It was wonderful!

Ngorongoro Crater (3)

Ngorongoro Crater (5)

Ngorongoro Crater (6)

Ngorongoro Crater (7)

Ngorongoro Crater (9)

Ngorogoron Crater Ngorogoron Crater (1) Nogorogoron Crater2 Nogorogoron Crater4

Nogorogoron Crater5

Nogorogoron Crater

We were thoroughly enamored with our visit down to the crater. The vistas were impressive and for the most of the day we were all alone with Nature!

 

 

 

 

Read more.. Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

African Odyssey Unfolds

We have just wrapped up our field work on Cape Cod working with the Massachusetts White Shark Team as the cold winds of winter start to blow and the leaves are falling. Our boats are now stored for the North American winter. Just in time to launch into our next wild adventure which will take us back to Africa for the 7th time since 2009. And believe it or not we are barely past scratching the surface in exploring this amazing continent. Our focus once again is on wild life and wild places, most of which will be new territory. We will plunge into the onset of equatorial summer on our first stop in The Seychelles with a particular interest in diving in the southwestern portion of the archipelago , a world heritage site called Aldabra Atoll. From Wikipedia we learn that, “Sir David Attenborough called the south western atoll of Aldabra “one of the wonders of the world”, and it is also known as one of “crown jewels” of the Indian Ocean. Aside from its vast population of tortoises, it is also the largest raised coral reef in the world with an elevation of 26 feet (7.9 m);  a habitat for the biggest crab, the cocunut crab; and habitat for the Indian Ocean’s Aldabra rail, the only surviving flightless bird species of its kind in the world.” We are particularly excited because Aldabra is uninhabited, extremely isolated,  and is virtually untouched by humans. Not many places in the world so fortunate. Quite ironically it has been months since we have actually been in the water so we are looking forward to being a fish again in warm clear water.

Armed with tons of camera gear for above and below the water we hope we can capture the spirit of the place. Here are some beautiful images from other explorers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Destination Aldabra

IMG_9982_OttoWhitehead-13-45-00-301

Our journey will continue with a visit to Zanzibar where we will begin our first encounters in Tanzania. We are extremely excited to travel all the way west into a remote area on Lake Tanganyika where we will spend time with a wild troop of chimpanzees. This region is where Dr. Jane Goodall did her field work. We will then venture into the Serengeti for our first visit into this savannah to discover the summer activity of the great wildebeest migration. Should be pretty green as it is still part of the rainy season. This region is now being seriously threatened by Government plans to put a major paved road into the area which, according to friends, would destroy the Serengeti as we know it forever. Will hope to better understand what is happening here. Ever since I read Peter Matthiessen’s Sand Rivers, I have wanted to see this. From here we will camp (comfortably) in the Ngorogoro Crater before we re-load and proceed to our second home in Cape Town, South Africa to be with many friends and get the chance to view this beautiful country in their summer and yes we be diving with hopes of glimpses of apex predators. So pleased to be spending a warm Christmas among friends there. After several weeks in the Western Cape of South Africa we will again re-load and venture northeast to the Horn of Africa for some exploration of Djibouti on the Red Sea (back in the water) and finally we will spend nearly three weeks exploring Ethiopia, an area so rich in unique culture and fantastic wildlife I will leave the description to a later post.

We will be traveling for 9 weeks. Yikes!! But we are sure the time will pass quickly. It usually does when you are in the wild. And we will try our very best to post reports as internet access allows.

 

 

Read more.. Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

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

WP_20140903_002

Wayne Davis next to his baby “…92 Xray”

White shark off Chatham (3)

 

Read more.. Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Down East at the Autumnal Equinox

We took a few days off from our work with the Massachusetts White Shark Research team to travel to Down East Maine and embrace the onset of Autumn in the New England north country. We were eager to explore a new destination in the mid coast region well known to birders especially in the fall migration. Our target was Monhegan Island , a tiny wooded rock pile about ten miles off the Maine coast. The island is well visited in the fall as it is a famous stop-over for southbound migrants that get blown off the coast in certain weather conditions. Among these visitors are various warblers, other song birds and the raptors who feast on them in these confined island habitats. The island was settled some 400 years ago by English colonists and has been home to fishing families ever since. In the early Twentieth Century a private land trust was set up by a generous benefactor to set aside most of the island as natural woodlands with maintained trails. The result is a beautifully wooded natural preserve of conifers and deciduous trees which at the fall time can harbor some exotic migrant birds who found there way to Monhegan as the last refuge before getting blown out over the Atlantic Ocean. While we were on the island we observed Merlins and Peregrine Falcons constantly in pursuit of the visiting song birds. Warbler highlights included a Cape May warbler, Nashville warbler, Black throated Green warbler, Black throated Blue warbler and many Myrtles. Pam spotted a Scarlet Tanager male and the star bird of the few days was a Yellow headed Blackbird that was way out of its range usually seen west of the Rockies… Pretty amazing sight, though no photos were acquired of this bird.

Meanwhile the islanders were busy getting lobster traps rigged for the big October 1st opening. They were very friendly and knowledgeable about the birding that was going on all around them. We were privileged to join a group of experienced birders which included ornithologist Dr. Trevor Lloyd-Evans from the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences. The weather was magnificent and Monhegan is truly a magical place at this time of year and we look forward to returning!

Monhegan Is (24)

Monhegan Is (19)

Down East Maine Fall 2014 (11)

Down East Maine Fall 2014 (5)

Down East Maine Fall 2014 (13)

Monhegan Is#2 (13)

Monhegan Is#2 (14)

Monhegan Is#2 (15)

Monhegan Is#2 (16)

Down East Maine Fall 2014 (3)

Down East Maine Fall 2014 (8)

Down East Maine Fall 2014 (7)

Down East Maine Fall 2014 (1)

Monhegan Is#2 (6)

Nashville Warbler Fall 2014

Monhegan Is#2 (5)

Monhegan Is#2 (10)

Monhegan Is#2 (12)

Down East Maine Fall 2014 (22)

Monhegan Is (4)

Monhegan Is (23)

Monhegan Is (20)

Monhegan Is (17)

Monhegan Is (21)

Monhegan Is (22)

Monhegan Is (10)

Monhegan Is#2 (2)

Monhegan Is#2 (1)

Monhegan Is#2 (3)

Monhegan Is#2 (4)

Monhegan Is#2

Monhegan Is#2 (7)

Raven in the lower foreground

Monhegan Is#2 (9)

Monhegan Is#2 (11)

Monhegan Harbormaster – Shermie Stanley receives his surprise gift. The photograph is of a school of Blue-fin tuna “Giants” taken by legendary spotter pilot and photographer Wayne Davis in celebration of their time fishing together years ago.

Read more.. Thursday, October 2nd, 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.

Predation #1

Predation #2

Predation #4

White shark 9.4.14 (1)

 

White shark 9.4.14

AWSC Trip 9.4.2014 (1)

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”.

White shark 9.4.14 (2)

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)

AWSC Trip 9.15.14  67666

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

Seals in Truro 9.2014

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

White shark 9.17.14 (1)

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

White shark 9.17.14

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: Monomoy NWR

Hard to believe that the dog days of August have come and gone here on Cape Cod and we are welcoming that wonderful time of year known around here as “Septober – Sixty-one Days of Heaven”. As many of you who follow this blog are aware our summer has been dominated by the support we are providing to the Massachusetts Shark Research Program led by Dr. Greg Skomal and John Chisholm of the Department of Marine Fisheries here. That said we did manage a visit into the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge recently to check up on the south – bound shorebirds that frequent our outer beaches at this time of year. Our target area was the southern end of the South Island of Monomoy, an area known to locals as “Powder Hole” a favorite spot especially for birders in New England during the fall.

Monomoy looking north with Shark Cove visible in its entirety

South Monomoy looking north. Powder Hole is the area of ponds in the center.Shark Cove is visible in upper right

Powder Hole (19)

Powserhole (10)

Powserhole (1)

Grey seals congregate around this estuary running out the Powder Hole.

Powder Hole (10)

A rare sighting of a Marbled Godwit passing through on its way south

Powder Hole (1)

Dunlin in non breeding plumage

Powserhole (7)

Bank swallow feeding over saltwater pan

Powserhole (3)

Powder Hole (17)

Powder Hole (14)

Possible Raccoon tracks

Powder Hole (15)

Powserhole (11)

Monomoy Lighthouse now restored by USFWS but not in service for navigation.

And for those of you who are following the white shark research activity when the weather permits us to get a plane in the air and work close to shore the action is strong. We see on average 5 – 7 different white sharks on every trip. Here is a special image taken by Wayne David our spotter pilot. Notice a grey seal on the surf line and a white shark in the lower left part of the frame. This shark was eventually photographed, cataloged and tagged on this day enabling researchers to follow its movement habits into the future for up to five years.

A recent article describing the work of Greg Skomal and our team is here. http://www.capecodonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20140827/NEWS/408270304/0/SEARCH

Shark at the surface

A very rare look at a white shark at the surface

AD on South Beach

Photo Courtesy of Wayne Davis

Below is the fourth in a series of Field Reports of the White Shark research going on this summer in Cape Cod waters. We are proud to be supporting this work funded by the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy.

 

Read more.. Tuesday, September 2nd, 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!!

Shark study seals (7)

Shark study seals (2)

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