For incoming interns, present interns and leaving interns the experiences gathered at SAMPLA are never the same.
Our goals for the week are at the mercy of weather reports and the temperaments of sharks and seals. As a result, the interns have to become flexible and fast on their feet. Supposedly cancelled trips can snap into an impromptu wake-up call at 6am for a chum trip in thirty minutes. A windy day on the boat can suddenly reveal parting clouds, a 5m shark (okay so maybe it’s a 4.3m shark) and a fast moving SAMPLA director with an acoustic tag in hand. To the untrained eye, faulty boat motors can destroy the hopes of work at sea. However, glassy waters and iconic-looking summer skies will only highlight the rare and aromatic opportunity for feces collecting on Seal Island! The unpredictability of SAMPLA is what gives the work here its charm. It is also the thing that sculpts the characters of interns and sears deep the heartfelt sense of respect that develops among the SAMPLA team as a whole.
This last week gave the SAMPLA crew a couple of nice weather windows for tracking. As previously stated, experiences at SAMPLA are never the same. Day tracking is a different world than night tracking and if you can guess the key difference then you are a master of observation; yes, its sight! On the day shifts, senior interns focused tracking lessons on maneuvering in rough waters and close to shore. The all night shift had to learn to endure cold nights and how to rely on their equipment more so than vision. The dawn shift got a taste of both worlds and holding true to the sense of individual experiences, intern Oli not only learned about day tracking but challenged his personal sense of stamina by taking on the dawn tracking shift only hours later and without ever drinking his coveted energy drink! Our tagged 3.5m female shark stayed mostly near the Kleinbrak river mouth. Everyone’s hard efforts to achieve this continuous 36hr plus track will undoubtedly help build evidence towards SAMPLA’s white shark movement pattern study within Mossel Bay.
When coming to SAMPLA every intern has a different story and a different background. They join together with the directors and the rest of the SAMPLA staff through a couple of great braais and more importantly a common interest. This interest is strong enough that the interns are willing to fly across the world and at times make the difficult choice of putting the rest of their lives on hold. Simply put, interns come here and experience similar but ultimately different things. Some get to have one of those fabled 15-sharks-at-the-boat days, some get to go to Seal Island, some get to take an iconic photograph of a breaching shark or see a predation. On other days or even the same days, the interns work in the rain, they spend all day or all night on the boat or they chum their hearts out to no sharky avail. More importantly however, all if not most people at SAMPLA get to learn about themselves and become, if only slightly, a better version of that. In life, it is doubtful that there is a single person who can say that the achievements and experiences they are most proud of were effortless. SAMPLA gives this sort of opportunity to their interns and staff. Though our accomplishments here won’t be effortless, as a great return they have the potential to be among the things we are most proud of.