This past week afforded the Oceans interns a very special opportunity to get experience researching marine life other than Great Whites.
We were invited to the Breede River estuary to help the team from the South African Shark Conservancy track a four meter bull (Zambezi) shark they had tagged.
The project used the same tracking equipment and techniques as we use at Oceans, and the river conditions provided an ideal setting for us to get tracking experience and training. The river is a beautiful place with sand dunes at the river mouth and mountains behind.
Daytime tracking was actually very pleasant, but it got much more difficult at night. The sleep deprivation and stress of tracking the shark among unseen sand banks and floating driftwood was offset by the sight of the Milky Way, complete with shooting stars, overhead. We tracked the shark up to 30 kilometers upriver, past unknowing swimmers and fishermen. While tracking, we also noted its behavior- she seemed to be attracted by the small fishing boats, and was recorded stealing fish off the bait lines.
There were times when it was clear from the tracking signal that the shark was literally under the boat, but only a few of us were ever actually able to see it through the murky water. One team caught a glimpse of its dorsal fin while it was swimming in the very shallow water near the banks.
It was a really cool experience and gave us an idea of how shark research is conducted in other places and on other species. It was a nice change of scenery for a while, but we were all glad to get back to Mossel Bay and to the Great Whites we love.