Oceans Research in Mossel bay

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December 2nd 2012
Published: December 2nd 2012
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Bait roping without getting bait raped...
Well now it’s been some rather long time since last and I will try to remember what’s happened since but forgive me if it comes out rather shattered, not that you will know the difference…

Anyway arrived in Mossel bay after a 17 hours bus ride from Johannesburg after a four our drive from Lapalosa. Suffice it to say I was in no hurry to sit down again for a while. But back to the important thing, internship. Got introduced to our living quarters at Boland Park (renamed Oceans hotel since I’ve been here). Got a brief summary of what I would be doing, rather short since I arrived one day late but below you will find a summary of the internship.


Boat duty is a large part of Oceans and one big focus is put on research about and with Great White sharks. This is my favorite job, being on a boat for five hours chumming for sharks and recording details of those that show up. Strange and beautiful creatures, attracted to sardine mush and casing after tuna heads… Well people called me weird when we ate sour herring that my parents brought with them when
Epic breachEpic breachEpic breach

Got really lucky to see this, a friend got this picture. Amaing, you can even see a big gash in the seals back! Thanks Carlie
they came to visit in November; the general census was that people would rather eat the chum for the sharks than that fish. Anyway that was a side note but back to the sharks. Apart from baiting and getting the sharks to the boat we also photographed dorsal fins when they got out of the water and noted down pigmentation, deformities and scarring of individual sharks. You got very close to them and I can only begin to explain the excitement when a 4,5 meter “big momma” comes along the boat. The rush when you realize they are going for the bait attached to the rope that is currently in your hands nd many more feeling just upon seeing these beauties cruising along in the water. The desire to jump in hug them was at sometimes a real concern for many people on the boat me included…

Don’t loose your toes…

Trapping and fishing for benthic sharks

Other surveys part of the programe are capturing and tagging benthic sharks. The species mostly targeted are the Pajama jackal, Puff Adder Shy Shark and Leopard shark which are also
He's dead Jim He's dead Jim He's dead Jim

Found this fellow at the point in town, sucesfull predation but half the seal got away
being kept in the aquarium mentioned below. The methods of catching the sharks vary from setting baited traps from boat, fishing with rod from boat and land as well as free diving around a baited bag and collecting what comes around. Personally I never caught anything on the rod but a puffy during free diving. It was surprisingly easy the grab the little fellow and turn them upside down to induce Tonic Immobility. Tags were like dermal anchors for us humans they were inserted alongside the second dorsal fin. Rather brutal but a very good way to keep track of recaptures and the wound closes nicely and heals around the tag. A more hands-on experience of working with the sharks since you doesn’t want to get too close to the Great Whites, on account of some rather sharp teeth… Also since they are listed as endangered it is strictly prohibited to touch them in any way and termination of internship was immediate if you were stupid enough to do it.


No as large or spectacular as the Two Oceans aquarium in Cape Town but still a nice place to see benthic and pelagic sharks, including newly
The gang from first monthThe gang from first monthThe gang from first month

Up by table mountain trying really hard to get on top:D
hatched babies. Also some tanks of tropic fish were present and it was the internes job to help with running this place. Performing water tests, feeding sharks and fish as well as cleaning the tanks were the general tasks. However there were a lot more going on such as insulations of pipes to prevent temperature rise which is expected in December and January since water is pumped from the outside and during the summer months (I know it’s confusing but still…) temperatures rise to unhealthy levels in the aquarium. Being at the aquarium us also got the chance to work with Allan C. Jardine, an interesting person who has been working with conservation and keeping of animals if all sorts since 35 years back. Just recently he published his self-biography depicting his experiences and adventures, a truly amazing story and if you get a chance to read it, do it. The title is “I touched the moon and other wild adventures”. Not sure how easy it is to get a hold of one but if you want to borrow a book about a man who personally knew and worked with Diane Fossey among others let me know.

Dolphin and

Try tossing and manuvering a 10kg tuna head... Good thing though was that it was to big for most sharks so even if they got it you could take it back...
whale survey

A study conducted by a master’s student from the university of Pretoria looking at the population size, distribution and migrations of Cetaceans in Mossel bay and neighboring Vlees baii. The study is conducted both from land surveys using theodolites to pinpoint the animal and tracking their movement in the bays. Also surveys from boats are conducted at which time the position is recorded using GPS. During these surveys I have seen a lot of both species, including bottlenose, common and humpback dolphins as well as humpback and right whales, and also a bunch of different behaviors such as feeding, body rubbing, breaching and sailing to mention a few. Wonderful animals, curious and rather strange in their behavior. Good times doing these surveys, and also you got to be outside for hours on end which is wonderful.

But now I have been rambling on about the activities of the internship long enough. Apart from these work related activities we have had many weekends for explorations and trips to different places. To mention a few we have the cheetah walk, penguin reserves, cage diving and visiting the southernmost part of Africa (again if you remember previous entry, but
Big catsBig catsBig cats

Even Cheetahs purr, and it sounds like a small car engine
this time with my parents when the came on a visit for a weekend) on Cape Aguhlas. However two things deserve larger mention than the rest and if you get down here I strongly recommend you to do them.

Cage diving

with the parents in Gansbaii with www.whitesharkprojects.co.za/

Shark diving from Simon’s town

We took two weekdays to travel to Cape Town in order to do cageless dives with Blue sharks and Macos as well as a kelp forest dive with Seven Gilled Sharks. The reason for this not happening on a weekend was that the weather was a bit unpredictable so we had to go when it was possible to get out. In order to reach the good waters for Blues and Macos you need to reach the oceanic deep-water. This current off course varies in distance from the Cape of Good Hope but in our case we found the place after 2 hours boatride straight south towards the big lump of ice down there. Well in place chumming started much as for the Great
My bait!My bait!My bait!

The head I never lost during 3 hours of bait roping deserved a kiss!
Whites and eventually the sharks started showing up, not to many of them but a few. And also some Yellow Finned Tuna came swimming, one of which the boat crew managed to hook and land. And after bleeding this 80kg fish the sharks got really interested. Now it was high time to jump in the water and cruise around at about five meters depth with Blue Sharks circling the group, also swimming in amongst us to get a closer look on the bubbling newcomers. The got amazingly close as some pictures will show. Unfortunately we saw none of the Maco Sharks but apart from that the dive was wonderful, a bit chilly (15­­oC) but still took the chance to do some free diving with them afterwards.

Seven Gills
Next day was time for kelp forest diving with what I believe must be the happiest shark on the planet. The Seven Gills are more or less living fossils that constantly seem to be having a stupid grin on their faces. Peacefully cruising through the enormous bull kelp forest this was a dive also like no other since I have never been down in kelp forests before. And
Blue sharkBlue sharkBlue shark

Beautiful shark in amazing water
when adding sharks and at times some zigzagging to avoid the box-jellies this counted as a definitely amazing experience. Saw a lot of the grinning sharks and also some Puff Adders.
Then on the way back we stopped by a small colony of Cape Fur Seals, got our gear on and jumped into the water with these curious giddy fast beasties. They were hilarious dive buddies, coming right up, looking you in the face only to give you a grin and exhaled a breath of bubbles before darting on the next diver down the line. Of course some thought got into your head when these guys swam around you and you start thinking on the main food source for Great Whites…


To sum up the silly things you can do down here among them is the world’s highest bridge bungee, from platform to river bellow there is 216 meters of air, providing that the elastic tied to your calfs holds the expected first free fall is 180 meters, followed by 120 and 90 meters bounces and then some small up and downs at the end (only 30-40 meters or so…) Scared does not begin to cover
Pet a sealPet a sealPet a seal

unfortunately they were a bit to fast, but so cute!
the feelings for this, as can be seen in the video below, look at my face before the jump to see pure terror! Let’s say that memories of the way down is not that clear, except a rush of air against eyes and ears and the amazing eco in the valley when you hang there upside down waiting to be picked up again. The adrenaline rush afterwards however was more memorable, I was bouncing up and down for more than an hour!


Farwell Oceans!!!

But now comes the end of this entry, I have said tearful farewells to many new and dear friends back in Mossel Bay many of whom I will not meet again but that’s the hardship of life and you never know what the future has to offer. Some say that you always meet twice in life and in my experience this has happened surprisingly often. Now waits some two weeks in South Africa before a quick stop in Cairo before returning home to the freezing winter and wonderful family and friends. Feelings are split but
The gang from second monthThe gang from second monthThe gang from second month

By the braii place at Oceans campus
it will be nice to go home for Christmas!

To end I would like to share some links about sharks and what’s going on in the world…

The place where I did my internship with among other Enrico Gennari and Ryan Johnson

Statistics about how many sharks remain on our world

The tragic business of finning for soup

And also to recommend, if you have not yet seen the documentary

Additional photos below
Photos: 13, Displayed: 13


Seven gill sharkSeven gill shark
Seven gill shark

Diving with cow sharks in Simon's town, permanently smiling and stupid looking ancient sharks...
A case of mistaken identityA case of mistaken identity
A case of mistaken identity

Seriously not that hard to see shy sharks mistake surfers sometimes... Don't blame the sharks!!!
Ragged toothRagged tooth
Ragged tooth

At the two oceans aquarium in Cape Town

3rd December 2012

Du har allt en hel del att visa och prata om när du kommer hem din galning :) Hade inte sett bungyjumpvideon innan, helt sjukt! Och ja, det är ren och skär terror ditt ansikte uttrycker precis innan :)

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