Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Biggest Shark i have ever seen!
What was going to be just a regular dry Tuesday afternoon of office work and powerboat design dramatically changed when I received a text from Greg the helicopter pilot. Greg always gives us interesting sightings via text or phone call and keeps us up to date with turtle nests, whale spottings and other fun stuff he spots on Caribbean Helicopter tours. Yesterday it was "Whale shark 12 miles SW Cades...tuna too". I had planned on going to see my mom after lunch and then to meet up with Stevie and Gareth for some golf at the end of the day, but I knew it was still calm and the idea of getting some good shots of this thing sparked my interest. Xtreme was sitting on its boat lift with no work to do, so I called Roddy my main adventure partner. He is also on Greg's "interesting things" texting list had also received the info. Roddy is one of Antigua's main photographers and video guys and runs www.acquafilms.com as well as his photo biz. His main photo and video passion is stuff in the water and like me, he wants to show people the other side of Antigua. "LETS GO", he urged. If you read the blog from a few days ago, then you know we had just been on wild goose chase looking for Suzie the turtle over in Barbuda. By the way, she has now swum around Barbuda according to the tracking software. I wasn't sure that powering off half way to Montserrat was a smart idea. That kind of run isn't cheap and we could end up only seeing blue water and a few flying fish. Greg texted me again saying he'd seen it on two Montserrat trips and that he figured the tuna were a meter long. Ok that was it. I texted a few people who I thought could possibly come with us on short notice. Of course I forgot many people who I should have texted, but within 40 minutes six of us were accelerating out of Jolly Harbour on a course 13 miles to our south-west.
It was choppier than I thought it was but the skies were sunny and clear. When we were a mile away from the GPS point that Greg had sent me I spotted some Frigate birds off to the East and made the decision to go to them instead of the position Greg had given me. As all fishermen know, frigate birds feeding in the Atlantic mean that large fish are chasing small fish out of the water. Frigates can't get wet and will swoop down and pick fish right out of the air as the larger fish chase them. These amazing birds will follow big predator fish for hours sometimes waiting for them to find a school of flying fish or other small prey. As soon as the feeding starts you see the frigates dive down to just above the surface. As we approached the birds they were swooping down which told us there was action below. When we saw the big splashes from the tuna we slowed down and Roddy got geared up to go over the side with his camera gear. Keep in mind that we are half way between Montserrat and Antigua where the water is 780 meters (2,559 feet) deep, you are part of an active food chain when you enter the water. When you enter the water in a feeding frenzy.... you are taking some chances that 99.9999999999999999999999999 % of the Antigua and Barbuda population wouldn't dream of even in their worst nightmares. They are not Roddy Grimes-Graeme though. He's done this kind of thing from my boat many times and some of the best shark footage we have seen has been when we were fishing for tuna once with him. We had hooked a shark and Roddy just jumped over with his video camera and filmed it swimming up to get released and then it slowly swimming away into the abyss.
Just as we got into the frenzied area we spotted the shark. Wow, this thing was big and looked to be about thirty feet long with the typically wide head and very tapered body.
The way this particular feeding frenzy was working was that at the very bottom of the visible food chain was a huge school of krill and I could see the reddish pink colour from time to time in the middle of the chaos. Feeding on the krill was the guy we all came to see. The Whale Shark is one of nature's most amazing species and the biggest fish in the ocean. Like the even bigger whales that migrate through our waters, these big animals don't eat fish at all and only feed on these tiny plankton like creatures.
It swam right up to him looking at him with his left eye and then his right and he slowly waved his tail from side to side coming as close as only a few feet before slowly turning back down into the blue. When Roddy, said to come over to him I knew he had seen a "real" shark, because Roddy never needs the boat to be close. Shortly after that all went quiet.
This very quickly done video was provided by Roddy of www.acquafilms.com to show some of the action. Thanks Roddy for keeping the memory alive!