Our adventure of tracking Alek in Mossel Bay, like everything in doing research, had its ups and downs and in the last 3 days we have fully experienced it.
After the first 40 hours of tracking, Alek decided to move north to a very good fishing hotspot, a reef in front of the Grootbrak river mouth. In that part of the bay, white sharks love to spend their time very close to the break line, making our job of following them much more difficult.
After several hours where our tracking teams showed perseverance and dedication to the goal, the usual ping ping (the signal detected from our receiver coming from the shark) started to become less and less frequent - Alek moved into a more rocky area which may interfere with the normal detection of the sound coming from the tag.
At about 5 am, the signal disappeared completely and even after 2 hours of searching in the area, the tracking team could not find Alek and therefore the decision to suspend tracking was made.
The next day we went out chumming with the hope that Alek’s tag could be heard again. With all the equipment both for chumming and tracking on board, we sat the whole day at Seal Island. Since Alek had shown a preference for that area during the day, we were expecting him to come back there. Alek did not show up. Even more peculiar: we didn’t have a single shark at the island the entire day.
The next morning came and again we went chumming. The odds of having Alek back weren’t high since we know that white sharks move all along the South African coast. Every now and then, however, we switched the receiver on, hoping to hear Alek around.
All of a sudden smiles came back to our faces when we heard a faint ping…but then nothing for the next 10 seconds…then again another ping, a bit stronger, and then again another one. Enrico screamed :”Alek is back!” and we all stopped chumming and started rushing to get the boat ready for tracking. The signal was not strong but slowly we got closer and closer until we reached Alek, and the tracking commenced again in all its glory.
Shifts were organised, people woken up, food prepared and once again Alek showed us interest for the cage diving boat which arrived soon after. Alek spent the rest of the day at the island, but made no attempt to attack a seal. Maybe Alek is still learning how to become a successful seal hunter? Sharks are not taught by their parents on how to hunt, they have to fend for themselves from the first few minutes of their lives. The only way they can learn is by making mistakes and building experience - that is mostly likely what Alek was doing.
Again, like on the first night of our tracking, Alek moved to Hartenbos. Unfortunately at 3 am this morning the wind started to pick up and thus the swell size increased too much - the team was forced to stop tracking as Alek was swimming too close to the break line.
However, now we know that Alek is not a transient shark, and after this big cold front passes, we hope to find him again and get more insight into the day to day life of a white shark life.
Our hope – and curiousity – is strong.