SAMPLA crew were still feeling the flip side of exciting research this week.
The murky waters left by the previous week’s storm prevented any visibility. Onshore winds persisted the entire week, preventing any sediment to settle. As dirty river runoff continued, it became evident after several days of unsuccessful chumming, that the sharks do not enjoy brown seas. Only a few sharks were sighted throughout the week however with poor visibility on their side, most of us on the bait rope experienced the humbling feeling of often losing the bait.
Finally by Friday, the sea began to clear. The winds had died down and the swell eased. This enabled us to complete a seal survey in beautiful conditions from Friday to Saturday morning. It became clear that the seals were preparing for the mating and pupping season as very few were travelling to and from the island. With this comes the uneasy feeling that the non-resident sharks of Mossel Bay may soon move on, searching for other food sources.
Even with so little movement of seal, we were called for a not moving stranded seal close to the Mossel Bay point. We ran there thinking we were going to face a baby seal. With surprise we found an adult Cape fur seal, most likely weakened by the rough sea. After checking that no serious wound was there, it was great to see the seal clamber back into the ocean and duck beneath the waves.
The major realisation this week was that the fun, exciting research that occurs most days in Mossel Bay is not governed by the directors, the interns or the institute of SAMPLA; it is ultimately the ocean itself. Luckily the unique geographic and climatic characteristics of Mossel Bay provide beautiful conditions the majority of the time.