The new year got off to a fabulous start at Oceans Research (previously known as SAMPLA).
The interns were given a warm South African welcome from the Oceans staff with a glowing braai put on by Stef. We were immediately at home in our new environment.
While some windy weather in the first week prevented us from getting up close and personal to the sharks there was always heaps to do. During these times we were kept busy with dolphin surveys, getting acquainted with the Shark Lab (the Oceans’ aquarium) and the day to day work of a shark researcher. Towards the end of the week the weather improved and our chumming attempts were met with a successful eleven great white shark sightings allowing us to gain data and photo identification necessary for research.
Chumming as we all learned might not be the most glamourous job but smelling like fish guts and getting fish head splashed on your jeans is actually the most essential job on the boat. The job of bait handler involves pulling away the fish heads just in time so that the shark shows its dorsal fin for identification. Bait rope is not as easy as it sounds. Stef’s enthusiasm for the job is infectious. When you get back from sea reeking of fish there is just enough time to shower, eat and nap before the 24 hr seal survey. The seal survey began with a night shifts conducted from one of the Oceans vessels. Observations are taken in two hour shifts while others sleep in any comfortable area that can be found. The cold winds and long nights are made worth while by waking up to the splashing of seals next to the boat and seeing the sunrise. Night shifts are followed by morning observations on the Diaz hotel balcony – what a hard place to conduct research especially when it is easy to be distracted by a stunning beach and other interns attempting to catch their first waves.
Overall this Oceans experience has outdone all our highest expectations. We have all lived out our childhood dreams and are happy to know that there is always more chum where that came from. And tomorrow is a brand new day…