On October 1, 2009 a new, green lot of interns arrived at Mossel Bay eager to get to work. Wasting no time, the program leaders got us out on the boat and down to business, chumming for sharks around Seal Island.
Unfortunately, we hit a fluke (no pun intended) dry spell, and after several voyages without any shark sightings, the crew, led by our fearless skipper Ryan, decided to find where the elusive great white sharks of Mossel Bay were hanging out. On October 6 we shot by Seal Island and slowly cruised down the beach, just outside of the surf line, searching for resting sharks. It didn’t take long to sight our first shark. Despite seeing it for just seconds, all of us were excited, and kept motoring down the beach looking for more. It didn’t take long—first one, then another, and soon we had spotted five. Success! Pleased with our results, we dropped anchor and got down to chumming the waters, with each intern taking up his or her position--Matt took chumming, Jeremy jumped on the bait line, Tasha was on the camera, Andy was the data man, and our skipper Ryan went up to the crow’s nest to spot incoming sharks.
Within minutes Ryan was calling out a shark sighting to our port side at 9 o’clock. It circled briefly about 6 meters off, and then came in to check out the bait line. In the distance a dark shadow began to materialize. Within seconds the shadow took the form of a great white shark and then, less than a meter away, a beautiful three meter great white shark gracefully crossed our stern and made a glance at the bait. Everyone on the boat was grinning ear to ear, but this moment was pretty special for Jeremy and Andy as this was the first great white they had ever seen in real life. For the next four hours the excitement continued as one shark after another came up to the boat and took their shots at the bait. Several times two to three sharks were circling the boat, trading off disappearing into the deep only to elegantly resurface showing off their power and beauty.
Could a day have been more perfect? No wind, calm seas, good visibility, warm weather, and abundant sea life. All in all, we saw 16 great whites; 11 approached the boat and five were spotted en route to our chumming area. And, if that was not enough, half a dozen southern right whales and a handful of dolphins had cruised by. For all the almost-no-longer-green interns on board, that was a day that we will never forget.