Ocean News

Our first hammerheads

10th March 2009

So, Day 1. Our first day at ‘edge of the map’.

I awoke this morning in the Bahamas; we left the dock in Florida at around midnight, and after a short wait to clear Bahamian customs this morning, we were heading towards the secret dive spot; edge of the map.

Once we were on the site and the mooring had been set, we went about setting a bait slick that would attract the hammerheads. We need a number of environmental factors to come together to successfully attract the sharks.

1) Current. We need current, but it has to be going in the right direction. This will carry the scent out into the gulf stream, where the hammerheads are. Too much current and it will be very difficult to work in the water, too little and the scent will dissipate and not be carried far enough.

2) Wind. We need the wind to be going in the right direction to hold the boat steady, and not keep moving it around, disrupting and breaking up the slick.

3) Sea state / swell. We can’t have it too rough. We’ll be working close to the surface with these sharks, and if there’s a big swell, it will be impossible to shoot a steady image.

People tend to think the oceans are full of sharks and that all you need to do to see them is to put on a dive mask and put your head under the water. When considering all of the above factors, hopefully you realize how difficult it can be to find certain species.

After a few hours of waiting, an enormous dorsal fin broke the surface behind our long bait (a piece of bait on a long rope at the back of the boat). By pulling the bait closer to the boat we were able to keep the shark interested, and eventually Jim felt the shark was sufficiently comfortable for us to enter the water. At first when I got in the shark was skittish, staying on the edge of visibility, and not coming close to investigate the bait again. Soon enough however, it got its confidence back, and cruised towards me. The shark gave myself and Tom lots of nice passes.

I spent around two and a half hours in the water with this shark, by that time my camera battery was getting low, and I was physically shivering (yes, I know I’m in the Bahamas, but the water is below 20 degrees Celsius at the moment), so I got out and filmed the shark from the surface for a while.

Later in the evening after reviewing my footage on a portable monitor I travel with I got the chance to have a really good look at the shark (very often when filming you don’t really get to see what it is you’re filming, you focus on getting the shot right). I can’t begin to emphasize what a truly remarkable animal this is. The sharks we had today (at times there were two around) were fairly large, maybe 3.5 meters, but by no means as large as they can get. Everything about the design of this shark is remarkable, its enormous hammerhead, and it tall sickle-shaped dorsal fin are really beautiful.

A great first day. Lets hope we get more of the same.