2009 has been an interesting year for me, with a lot of ups and downs. This was year full of discovery, hardships, adventure, and criticisms. I have dealt with so much this year and it wasn't until a few days ago as I was reflecting on this year and how I have changed, and what I have been through, that I realized, or remembered how much heat and crap I have taken. I have not really blogged about any of it, or talked about it until now. I am not going to get into specifics because that would be a waste of time, (just as this shout out to my critics is) but they need something new to complain about, I have not given them anything new this week. For those that don't know, I do have quite a few critics and haters out there, and to each of them I proudly say, "keep on hating!" In fact 2010 is going to be a great year for you all because I am going to have so much more for you to dislike about me...It is going to be fun!
Ok, on to 2010! This is going to be a great year for us as we work to take shark diving and understanding shark behavior to another level. I just got back from our last trip of the season. We spent it at tiger beach and again I came back from the trip blown away and with so many new questions? The more time I spend with the lemon sharks there, the more I learn. There is an amazing world down there, and in December I witnessed some exciting new behaviors, and new ideas about shark communication have been formed. I have begun keeping a journal on these new behaviors and my hope is to expand on this information, maybe a clear picture will form? Now I know I am no scientist, and I am not claiming to be, I am just observing the sharks, and through these observations, I am able to see things. The sharks are talking, and I am trying hard to learn what they are saying.
This image really shows behavior between the lemons and tiger sharks. What you see is three sharks coming in, but what I am experiencing is 2 lemon sharks coming in to push this tiger away from the bait crate.
So what that means is more hands on interaction with these sharks, more feeding situations, and more time in the water. The only way we are going to learn about sharks is to get in there and stay in there; watching them, working with them, feeding them ,and trying to interperate movements, and reactions. In the shark world, everything means something, the job is to find out what it all means. 2010 is going to be a fun and frustrating year, and I am looking forward to every second of it.
One of my greatest moments in the water. Witnessing Scratch, (a-lemon shark, and one of the main subjects of my study) pushing this tiger away. As she rises up, she turns and snaps at the tiger. It was a great moment for me to witness this behavior and enforced what it was that I have been interpreting.
Another big deal for us in 2010 is a new controvesial film, The Shark Con. Why is it controversial? It's because it is asking and question everything, and this film listens to all sides -not just the shark divers side. But despite rumors this is first and foremost a conservation film, but it is a different kind of conservation film, which focuses on the relationship between sharks and humans. The film look at the three main industries surrounding sharks; shark diving, shark fishing, and shark conservation. It looks at how important sharks are to people, and eco-tourism and how government policy and scientific influence are deciding the fate of sharks, based on their research -both good and bad. You will hear a lot about this film in 2010. So far it has all been pretty negative, but that is only because no one has seen the film yet, what they have seen is the trailer and its a pretty shocking trailer. Once people see this film they will think differently. So if you're watching the trailer for the first time, do not be scared of it. It is a powerful trailer that may freighten you into thinking its a negative film, but it is not. The marketing team created a trailer to make you care about this film.
More updates on The Shark Con coming soon!
December 1, 2009
Taking it to the next level... Tiger Beach has become a special place for us here at SDM. Don't get me wrong, I love every place we visit, but TB is easily one of my favorites. That spot has changed over time. The sharks used to be very shy, but through the years they have gotten used to the boats and the divers. Well the lemon sharks have, the tigers still make their own rules and will come in for short visits then they leave again. But the lemons it seems have made the waters around Tiger Beach their perminent home; living eating and possibly breeding there.
With the lemons, it has always been a love hate relationship. TB is one of the only places in the world where you can reliably find full grown lemon sharks, but when you have 30 plus sharks around all the time it is easy to forget that fact. These beautiful harmless shark have become somewhat of a blase shark to the divers. Not because they are not cool, but because they are guaranteed to be there.
New visitors to TB love them the first couple of days, then after 4 or 5 dives, they grow bored of them. Their numbers have grown thru time as well. From maybe 5 to 10 sharks in 2005, to more than 30 to 40 individuals this past October. By the second day, most of our guests tend to over look them and ache for the daily visits from the resident tiger sharks. I admit that I too had grown tired of them in the past, but all that changed when I started hand feeding them.
Up until the hand feeding began I never noticed the individuals lemons that call TB home. They had always been a cluster of nameless/faceless sharks. But when I started interacting with them one on one, A new world opened up to me, one I had never noticed before. There is method to the madness. When I would drop down with a bait box, chaos always follows. Fresh food scent hits the water, the lemons all come charging in, but then once everything settles down, the majority of the sharks move out and the dominent sharks stay around. Of course I am just observing, but the individuals I interact with the most seem to be the sharks that are at the top of the pecking order here. One thing is for certain, they are always the ones that feed first. They hang around circling the bait crate. It is only after the first snack are offered up and one of these top sharks feeds, that the rest of the sharks charge back in hoping to feed as well. It is pretty interesting to see all this drama play out. I still have so much more to learn about what is happening here.
Experimenting to see if the lemons responded differently to gloves - no gloves touch. They don't seem to care, but I do feel naked without a glove on that is for sure.
But from what I can see, is that these sharks have a social order, where the dominate sharks rule the roost. For the sharks I interact with the most, their personalities have come out and I am able to recognize some of the big time players thru markings, scars, and skin colorations. The more I worked with these sharks, the easier it has become to recognize these individuals, and the more I enjoyed my time with them. My favorites by far are two sharks that I have named Wart and Cindy. They are very easy going sharks, very predictable in their behavior and swimming patterns and not as aggressive as some of the other sharks when it comes to grabbing a snack.Right now I am only work with the girls, I don't feed or interact very much with the male lemons. They are way too skiddish and I don't trust them as much as I do the female lemons. Over time I know that will change, but those are just more things I need to learn from these sharks.
The lemons used to be something to see while I waited for the tigers to show up. It has grown to the point where I really love these sharks. Granted I still get excited when a tiger sharks up, but the lemons are no longer just back ground scenery. They are familiar friends, some with very strong personalities.
With Wart one of the larger dominant female players in charge at TB.
.These sharks have taught me a lot, and the biggest lesson I have learned is that I do not know very much about sharks, especially lemon sharks. All I know is that everything they are teaching me has become an important part of my growth as a professional Shark Diver, and I look forward to the each and every lesson.
Livin' the Dream!
November 24, 2009 I just got back from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. I went out there with SDm shooters, Andy Murch, Paul Spielvogel and Nathan Meadows. We were searching for striped marlin chasing baitballs. Last November Nathan went out there with legendary shark photographer Doug Perrine and they came back with EPIC images and tales of this event. They shot striped marlin, and sea lions attacking baitballs, it really was amazing stuff. The wildest part of this adventure was when a Byrdes whale showed up and started attacking the baitball as well.
Nathan was there to capture the entire event. He came back and called me to share the adventure with me. I was jumping out of my skin with excitement. His day on the water is the stuff that we all dream about. Mostly we end up reading about it, or watching it on film. It seems like it is always someone elses adventure, never our own. Especially when it is that amazing...
The captain of the boat ended up putting his topside video camera in a plastic bag so he could shoot. It was the first time he jumped in on one of thses events. Normally he would watch it all from the boat, never thinking to get in. But after hanging out with shooters, he got the bug and now he wants to get in all the time.
I ended up publishing Nat's story, which was the first non-shark story in our magazine (issue #20). Of course I could not publish the byrdes whale images with Nat's story because all the shooters on the trip were under contract with National Geographic magazine, and they aquired first rights to the byrdes whale images,so I had to wait. It came out in their Sept./Oct 09 issue (Not sure which one.)
Anyway, after seeing Nat's and Doug's images I was sold on this adventure and I had to get out to Cabo and experience it for myself. Paul and Andy also wanted to see this for themselves as well. Andy only went because he was hoping that sharks would show up as well, which was not that far fetched, with the ocean...anything is possible. Of course like all great encounters, things like that just don't happen everyday, and this season, the bait balls were not running, and we did not come back with the story- A first, praying it will be the last.
At the marina, pelicans would chase the boats hoping for a hand out. You know me...got to feed the wild life!
But we did have a great time. We spent a week out on a beautiful ocean, with the Baja mountains as our back drop. We often ran into whales, humpbacks, and pilot whales, etc. We tried jumping in with them, but they were very shy and it was hard to get them to play. We ended up teasing in some mahis and marlin but they were very shy and did not stick around for very long.
I really did not care that we got skunked, I was having a blast just hanging out with my friends; sitting on the boat, talking shark, listening to Jack Johnson, and making plans for 2010.
While we were on the boat, me and Andy discussed plans to shoot Summer of the Sharks II, first things first...where and when do we shoot it???
We spent one of the days swimming with sea lions, which was fun. We jumped in and had 4 or 5 sea lions swimming around. One of the sea lions was really curious and would swim right up to our cameras to have a look. It was a bit sketchy because there was so much boat traffic, and it made coming up for breathes of air pretty gnarly.
Don't get me wrong, I hated getting skunked and I really wanted to see a feeding event, and especially a striped marlin (I had never seen one before). But it's karma! All four of us have had an amazing year this season, I just figured it was our turn. We even spent our last 2 days chumming for sharks. We laid out miles and miles of chum, and still nothing. It really is a sad state of the oceans when one of the sharkiest places in the world produces no sharks.
At the end of our last day, we finally admitted defeat, and decided to go home and enjoy our last dinner together. We dumped all our chum and hang baits and motored back to the marina. On our way in, the Captain spotted 3 tail fins clustered together at the surface. He said it was marlin sleeping together. He threw a baited teaser out to the fish, and lured the marlin in. I slapped on my gear and jumped in the water as quickly as I could. One of the marlin follwed the bait up to the boat, and as I slide in, there it was. It stopped following the bait when it saw me, and had this confused expression on its face as I floated there watching it. I did not move, I just watched the fish, less than 10 feet away as it looked at me. It was such a beautiful fish and I was humbled and excited and totally moved by the brief moment.
The fish dropped down into the depths seconds after the encounter and I climbed back on the boat. I was breathless from excitement, and thrilled that I finally got to see a marlin. It was not the encounter I was seeking from my visit to Cabo, but I was taking a priceless moment home with me that literally changed me forever.
The sun was setting as we motored back in to the marina. I was on fire inside. I knew I would return to this place, of course next season I was going to be a bit more flexable and wait for captain Grant to call me when the bait balls were running. Cabo was an amazing place and I can see that this place when it is going off can be all time EPIC. And even though we did not find the bait balls we still came back with a story, not the story we set out for but a good story none the less.
So I guess if you look at this adventure as a whole, I can honestly say...getting skunked never felt so good.
(L-R) Paul Spielvogel, Andy Murch, Eli Martinez, Nathan Meadows
November 12, 2009 The next 2 weeks will consist of mailing and shipping out issue 21. I am looking forward to the emails I recieve for this issue. It will be interesting to read the feed back. I spent a lot of time creating this issue, and I hope you all enjoy it. I know you will enjoy the stories, but really I am hoping you get totally sucked in by the mood I created for each layout. I am hoping to sort of transport you all there momentarily with the presentations alone.
I really got into wanting to create layouts that put you out there, vs dropping stories and images on a white canvas background. I know that is the traditional way mags are created, which is how we used to publish our magazine. The images we publish would be the windows to the world you want to visit, not the layouts. But somewhere along the way I felt more was needed to really put you all there. I understand that not everyone gets to travel, I wish everyone did, but I know the realities of our world. Work, buget, kids, health, etc...all those things play a factor in whether you all can hit the water somewhere to see sharks swimming around. So I felt it is my responsibility to make sure that if SDM is your escape, I better make sure that when you pick up this magazine and begin reading you are 100% transported into the world you dream about, and not just visiting. That is my hope. Please let me know if I was right?
SUMMER OF THE SHARKS II I have made an official commitment to create the next shark diving road trip film - Summer of the Sharks II. Location??? Haha, well we have a few places we are looking at; Australia, Africa, Mexico. I am not saying where just yet, but right now, me and Andy Murch (he will be in this film with me again) have our eyes and heart set on a particular location.
Lost images from SOTS I... Andy being interviewed at the Georgia Aquarium. This did not make it into the film.
As far as filming schedule goes...well it looks like we won't be filming until 2011. Yea, I know it seems so far away, but 2010 is going to be such a busy year for both me and Andy that commiting to film another movie like SOTS in 2010 would be crazy. It is comedy how things have changed for us. Back in 2006 when we filmed the first SOTS, we planned it in like 2-3 months and then we were off filming for 3 weeks on the road before our first break. I remember calling Andy letting him know we had the funding for the project and that it was going to happen, he was on fire with excitement and ready to fly down that day. Knowing Andy if I called him today with that same news, he would say lets go, even though he probably shouldn't. He has a few projects he has commited too (wish I could tell you what they were, but I am not allowed, but its really exciting stuff). I have a full reader trip schedule, also some upcoming TV projects, and promotional projects for our new film which will be out early next year as well.
Lost Images from SOTS 1...We filmed white sharks in Guadalupe, this did not make it into the film either. We decided to make the first EPIC shark film that did have white sharks in it.
Plus when we film SOTS II we want to make this one as EPIC as possible so we will be going all out with camera gear, locations and of course sharks. We are planning a schedule of around 8 weeks for filming; so we have to look at location costs, permits, team members, shot lists, timing of the shark migrations, and so on. So a lot of planning has to be thought out before we can go off and make a movie.
Lost Images from SOTS 1...We filmed horn sharks off of Catalina Island. We rented this little boat and went out to a spot where we hoped to find sharks. We did, but clip was not interesting enough to make it into the film. It was freezing!
Its funny I remember having a conversation with Rusty while we were filming SOTS 1 back in 2006, he said we need to enjoy this because it will never be the same again. We will never have the same raw naive experience of making a movie. I didn't understand it at the time, but he was right. Now when I think of making films, I think of everything involved with the project. No longer is it just a camera, the crew, some sharks, and a lot of laughs. There is so much more to do and plan for...so much more!
November 4, 2009 I just spoke to my printer and the first boxes of SDM will begin arrving early next week, which means the shipping circus begins! This is always a crazy time here, as all our energy goes into packaging and shipping magazines for you all. And it was so much fun putting this one together. Some really good stories and images are in this one. So be ready for another amazing issue.
I have been working on the mag for such a long time I am finding myself at a standstill trying to figure out what I need to work on first. I have a long list of things I need to focus on but not really sure where to start, so I created a to do list of things I need to do. I figured I would share some of it with you so you all can see what I have on my plate...
To do List (in no particular order) 1. Update blog
2. Update Shark Store
3. review footage from last trip, to send best clips off for Nat Geo's new show
4. Pack for DEMA
5. Confirm hotel reservations for Upcoming bull shark trip in January
6. Update website
7. Purchase envelopes for new issue
8. Send out boarding info for guests for December tiger shark trip.
9. Story list, and story boards for issue 22
10. Write shooting script and ideas for new film
11. Write Newsletter
12. Cofirm marlin baitball travel info for upcoming trip
13. Set date for private screening of our 2nd film.
14. Order new merchandise for shark store
Anway these are a few of the things I have going on over the next 2 weeks, I have to write these things down. I am so scatter brained that if I don't it won't get done. A couple of things that got done were the mag being sent out to the printers, and me writing our latest trip report from our tiger shark expedition. Check it out if you have not read it.
November 1, 2009 Damn time flies. Only 2 months left before we kick off the new year and I am pretty excited about it. Of course 2 months is a very long way away, and to far away to get fired up about, but I can see that 2010 is going to be a fun year full of adventure.
Ok now back to the present. I am sorry for the silence, but it has been crazy for me, I know I should update my blog more often but I was so busy editing issue 21 that I felt guilty when I did not work on the new issue. But I am proud to announce that it is done, and currently in the printers hands. Which means that within the new 2-3 weeks you all will be seeing the new issue in your hands. I know I always say this but I am going to again, this issue turned out pretty amazing. I worked hard on trying to find new and exciting layouts to help with the presentation, which I did, and the images and stories for this issue are just stand out awesome.
The bulk of the mag is about my good friend Andy Murch's latest adventure, but I also included some articles from some of our other contributors as well. And I am proud to say we have images and an article about the cookie cutter shark. This is possibly some of the first live images ever published of a cookie cutter shark, so I am fired up about that. I campaigned hard to get these images and the story for the magazine, so when Joshua Lambus finally sent them too me, I was elated.
I worked extra hard on the presentation for those images, and I think I created a pretty cool feel to the article that will put people there, if only for the ride.
The rest of 2009 will be dedicated to website improvements. I need to update and create a better website for you all. I am not 100% sure what direction I am going to take for it just yet, but the work starts on Monday.
Oh yea, I also will be writing up our Tiger Beach trip report as well. We just got back from tb, Bahamas and had another amazing trip. We lost a couple of days to bad weather but finished the trip with a bang, with 3 solid days of tiger shark action. 4 different tiger sharks showed up to say hi, and we had some amazing shark interaction on the trip. I would write more but I will be giving you all the full details in our trip report as well. Here are a few pics from the trip...