Guadalupe Island and the great white sharks

I had always wanted to dive with the worlds greatest marine predator, the great white shark. As the years went by I read all the books and listened to all the stories, but nothing prepared me for my first face to face with this awesome creature. Amazing, terrifying, overwhelming all sprang to mind, but I prefer awesome. It was also an enormous joy and pleasure to see this exquisite creature in its natural enviroment.

A dive buddy asked me if I would be interested in joining a group trip to photograph the great white sharks at Guadalupe. There are many potential places to see them, but only one where the water is clear and the conditions are good with a fairly sheltered dive site.

I jumped at the chance and couldn’t wait for the eleven-hour flight to land in San Diego, where we boarded the ‘Horizon’ for our twenty-hour cruise out to Guadalupe. It was a bit of a bumpy ride out to the island, but most of it was spent in bed so the 'sickies' could sleep it off. The dive site/anchorage was close to the island and near to an elephant seal colony. This is what was attracting the sharks.

The boat was comfortable with twin bunks and a large saloon for meals, camera-faffing and socialising. There was a sundeck, but who has time for a sun tan when there are sharks to be photographed?

The food was excellent and plentiful, accompanied by a soda fountain, nibbles, a variety of hot drinks and cookies - after all we were on an American boat! There was an hour and a half lunch break and plenty of time in the evening to go through the days e-pictures and discuss the following days action plan.

At 06.00 hrs it was sun up and the crew started preparing the twin cages for the long day's ‘entertainment’ - with us as the actors, or that’s how it seemed. This was followed by 'chumming' the water and trailing two large fishheads off the stern to attract the sharks.

Two cages, four divers in each cage and eight divers ready for the next shift. This is how the sixteen of us started our one-hour shift system that lasted from dawn until dusk. We each had a potential six hours in the water every day. The air system was fed to each of us from the boats air supply so there were no tanks, only a very large weight belt to anchor you to the bottom of the cage; the crew made it very clear "don't fall over the side with it on because it's about 200 feet deep".

'Snacking' took place on the hour breaks, so did film, battery and lens changes, plus filming the sharks topside from the back of the boat. It was huge fun, even the sharks seemed to enjoy their swim past the cages, occasionally managing to grab a fish head which was towed through water by the crew to attract their attention rather than act as a food supplement.

By the end of four days, twenty-four hours in the water and quick changes of almost everything, plus twenty-four rolls of film/e-film you are ready for the journey home.

We were lucky to have on board Mark Carwardine, broadcaster and marine biologist; his knowledge on sharks is extreme. He had just completed his most recent book, The Shark Watcher’s Handbook. ISBN 0-563-53794-9. A must if you have an interest in sharks and where to see them.

If you would like to go on one of these fabulous trips, e-mail info@sdsharkdiving.com for information, or visit www.sdsharkdiving.com You could also check out Mark’s site at www.markcarwardine.com as he has been to Guadalupe many times.

 

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