Shark talk, Elasmodiver news, Conservation rants,
Forthcoming projects, New shark pictures, Exhibitions, Photography workshops,
Incoherent ramblings and more...
DIVING POLAR SEAS AND THE SOUTH AFRICA SHARK
HOW THE POLAR SEAS EXPEDITIONS WERE BORN
I am lucky enough to live on Vancouver Island in
western Canada. Vancouver Island is completely different from the City
of Vancouver which is on the mainland and suffers from the same weather
patterns as the frigid interior. Believe it or not, the island is warm.
We get a little snow some years (not this year) but so does Texas. Its a
great place to live and play.
The Salish Sea which separates the island from the
mainland is considered 'temperate' but virtually everyone that dives
here picks up a drysuit sooner or later. A wimp like me wouldn't be
caught dead diving wet in our local waters. A lot of divers that I meet
in the tropics tell me that they'd love to see a giant pacific octopus
of dive with a tumbling gang of adolescent steller sea lions but they
just don't relish diving in the restrictions of a drysuit.
Adolescent Steller Sea Lions off Vancouver Island
I get it. Diving is about freedom as much as it is
about seeing the wonders of the ocean. Its about that feeling of
underwater flight. No restrictions. No boundries. Traditional inflexible
drysuits took away that freedom and left divers feeling clumsy and
confined. Until, Whites Manufacturing designed the Fusion. Diving in a
stretchy, form fitting Fusion is like diving in a wetsuit. My fusion has
made such a profound difference to my cold water diving that I've
started looking at the world's 'non-tropical' diving destinations very
A few months ago, I was sitting in Whites office
raving like a lunatic about my Fusion and talking about all of the
places I'd like to go with it. Whites Brand Manager Justin Balaski
suggested that Whites and Big Fish Expeditions team up to create a
series of Polar Seas Expeditions to the world's most amazing cold water
destinations. Sometimes the focus would be on big animals and sometimes
it would be on diving the world's best wrecks which tend to stay better
preserved in colder water.
We would promote the trips together. I would lead them
and White's would send me off with some extra Fusions for anyone that
wanted to find out how comfortable it was diving in one. I jumped at the
idea and started looking for a destination worthy of both companies.
Combining the best of Big Wrecks and Big Animals, our
first Polar Seas Expedition will be in July of this year to
Newfoundland, Eastern Canada. The
Bell Island Wrecks consist of four 400ft long ships that were sunk
by U-boats in 1942. Think of Bell Island as Truuk Lagoon with Icebergs!
For the big animal divers, on the days that we are not
diving on world class wrecks, we will have the opportunity to jump in
with friendly humpback whales that cruise up and down the coast of
Newfoundland during their summer migration. It'll be epic. Join me if
you can. Click on the pic for more info:
SOUTH AFRICA SHARKOHOLICS EXPEDITION
Yep, we're heading to South Africa to shoot sharks. 14
different species if all goes to plan: great white sharks (breaching and
underwater), mako sharks, tiger sharks, Bull Sharks, Dusky Sharks,
Ragged Tooth Sharks, Blue Sharks, Blacktip Sharks, Broadnose Sevengill
Sharks, Spotted Gully Sharks, Puffadder Cat Sharks, Dark Shy Sharks,
Pajama Sharks and Leopard Cat Sharks. I'm lost for words. Click the Pic
to read on:
KICKING OFF THE 2012 EXPEDITION SEASON IN STYLE
The 2012 expedition season is about to kick off at
Isla Malpelo which is famous for its wild pelagic shark action. I
couldn't be more excited as (like most divers) I have never seen a
smalltooth sandtiger shark. If we nail the shots there will be one more
shark listed on Elasmodiver.com but many new pics of old favorites like
I'll post a trip report as soon as we get back to land
so keep an eye on the blog page and on the Elasmodiver Facebook Page for
A STANDING REQUEST FROM ELMODIVER: LOOKING FOR HELP
FINDING NORTH AMERICAN SHARKS AND RAYS
To keep Elasmodiver growing I need to keep shooting
new species. In the big picture I've barely made a dent in the total
number of sharks out there but you'd be surprised how hard it is to find
new species once you have shot the standard elasmobranchs (sharks and
rays) that divers regularly see.
Right now I am focusing on finishing up the North
American Elasmos. There are three main areas that I need help with:
Skates in Alaska, Smoothhound sharks in California and Baja, and some of
the more elusive species from the Gulf of Mexico such as finetooth
sharks, smalltail shark, night sharks and Atlantic Angelsharks or 'sand
If you know where to find any of these critters
(whether diving or fishing) please let me know and I may plan an
expedition based around that info.
Remember, the rarer they are, the more we need images
to make sure the world knows about them. Invisible animals don't get
For the oceans,
New Sharks, New Ideas
and Fin Free Canada
BREAKING THE MOLD OF TRADITIONAL
Most companies that run expeditions, find their niche.
Its easier to run trips if you go to the same places each year. Thats
not why I started
Expeditions. As I've said many times before: life is short,
especially for divers! So rather than taking the easy route (even
if its to amazing locations) I'm planning to look for new adventures
with new animals every season. The only exception will be
Tiger Beach. Its
the perfect place to run shark photography workshops and after eight years I still feel that I
have lots more to shoot there.
So, for anyone that has been thinking of joining me on
one of the adventures listed on
be warned! Most of those trips are now a one time opportunity.
In 2013 there will be a brand new selection. Some will
be well known destinations like the South African Sharkoholic Tour that
I have planned, and some will be so 'off
the beaten path' that you may not even recognize the name of the
I can't spill the beans on too many trips yet but in 2013
you can expect expeditions in and around Southern Africa, South America,
French Polynesia and the arctic. As the trips take shape, I'll be blogging about
each one between now and 2013 So bookmark this page!
NEWS FROM ELASMODIVER: THE DEEP SHARK SHOOT
If we're friends on Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/andymurch then you've probably already seen
the new shark species on Elasmodiver.com. For the rest of you, a couple
of months ago I had the chance to join researcher Edd Brooks from the Cape Eleuthera
Institute on an abyssal shark tagging project. It was a great trip that
I will talk more about at a later date but from a
photography standpoint, I got to jump in with three deepwater shark
species and swim them down to depths where they could more easily get
back to the abyss. The resulting images are of free-swimming animals
that have rarely (if ever) been photographed by a diver. It was a
fascinating shoot. You can read the new species accounts and see some of
the resulting images here: Gulper shark,
Cuban dogfish and
Bigeye sixgill shark. Watch out
for stories about the project in a couple of forthcoming magazines.
A deep sea Gulper Shark from the Cape Eluethera shoot.
Many of next year's trips are sold out or almost full.
There are two spots left on the
Malpelo Shark Safari in February. Malpelo will be extraordinary -
big sharks and lots of species including schooling hammers, Galapagos sharks, whitetips, silkies and possibly other
requiem shark species and pelagics like whale sharks and
giant mantas. Plus we're going at the right time of year to see
smalltooth sandtigers which you won't see anywhere else. Here's a great
pic of a smalltooth shot at Malpelo last year:
Socorro Humpback and Manta Expedition has just one spot open. All
the info about the humpback whale encounters and the amazing manta and shark
diving around Socorro is listed on
to make the trip that little bit more special, I've arranged a couple of
days diving and accommodation at Cabo Pulmo before we board the boat to
Socorro. Cabo Pulmo is a sleepy little village in southern Baja that has
the best mobula ray encounters in the world. At that time of year, mobulas school in their hundreds (sometimes thousands) and jump out of
the water in acrobatic courting displays.
This isn't actually part of the trip but most of the
guests have decided to join me at Cabo Pulmo to chase these dynamic
The are two spots left on the
Cat Island Oceanic Shark Expedition in April. This is unquestionably
the best spot in the world for oceanic whitetip shark encounters. As
well as scuba diving with oceanics in bottomless blue water, we're going
after reef sharks and other inshore species such as tigers and lemons.
That will make this a really well rounded trip but the operator recently
told me that he has a spot where he thinks we can find silky sharks too. If
we get them all, this will go down as one of the most diverse locations
for shark diving in the Bahamas. It sounds crazy, but this is my last trip to Cat
Silky Sharks are very curious open ocean sharks.
In July we're heading to Isla Mujeres in Mexico to
play with whale sharks. Four spots left right now. I've been amid scores
of whale sharks in Holbox which is just down the road from there but I
wanted a location with clear blue water, nice hotels, and easy living.
If you want to relax and have a world class big animal encounter, this
is the place.
Whale Shark Expedition
Sharkfest was featured in the November issue of Scuba
Diving Magazine. That generated a lot of interest so the boat is getting
full already. This year's film list is looking good too with films from
Africa, England, the Bahamas, Hawaii, Indonesia and more. If you haven't
been to Sharkfest yet you really need to come sandtiger shark diving in
North Carolina with us and enjoy talking sharks and watching brand new
shark films with the rest of the shark junkies.
Sea of Cortes
If you want to see
HUMBOLDT SQUID AND FINBACKS, PILOT WHALES & SPERM WHALES all in the
same week long expedition, this is your chance. The Sea of Cortez
Expedition was amazing last year so I'm running it again. We got to see
everything we hoped for plus schooling hammers, whale sharks, hundreds
of sea lions and some beautiful Mexican reefs. I've been so busy since
this year's trip that I haven't had the chance to load the humboldt
squid pics onto Elasmodiver.com until now. But if you want to get a
better idea of these magnificent 2m long creatures, follow this link:
I've added a new trip to the 2012 rosta! Guadalupe
Island is so famous among shark divers that it really needs no
introduction from me. In September we are going to the best place in the
world to see huge great white sharks. Crystal clear blue water, enormous
sharks (by September the big females have arrived) and a spectacular
backdrop with Guadalupe fur seals and Northern elephant seals. This is
going to be a very special trip. The
Up Close With Great White Sharks Expedition.
How close do you want to get?
Lastly, I wanted to chime in on the shark fin debate
in Canada which is where I live. Our Prime Minister Steven Harper
recently stated that he is not opposed to the import of shark fins as
long as they are killed humanely. That's a very naive opinion expressed
by a politician that is either ignorant of the facts or cares more about
votes than doing the right thing.
As brutal as shark finning is, the real issue is that we're running out
of sharks, not that they're killed in a wasteful, barbaric manner.
Many shark species are on the brink of commercial extinction or have
already crossed that line. This is not just a protectionist opinion.
Drastic declines in shark numbers have been clearly documented by
numerous well respected researchers and independent monitoring agencies
around the world.
This is a call to arms to support FIN FREE CANADA. We
can't all be banner waving activists but we can all vote for change.
Please sign this petition to ban the importation of shark fins into
Also, a personal message can got a long way. Mr Harper
understandably does not want to ostracize our large oriental community
in Canada. However, he needs to be reminded how many votes he'll lose if
he doesn't change his stance on this critical subject.
If you're Canadian, please let him know that he will
lose your vote over this issue. If you're not, please tell him that the
world is watching and is not impressed. Remind him how endangered sharks
are and that any fins coming into Canada are not coming from sustainable
fisheries regardless of how 'humanely' they are fished.
Please email Mr Harper with your message:
For the sharks as always,
P.S. Expect another blog post very soon with a great
new 2012 location. Get ready for the cold when Big Fish Expeditions
partners with Whites Manufacturing!
Fish, Big Whales and Big Squid
HUMBOLDTS TRIP REPORT
I've been home for 3 weeks from this year's Sea of
Cortez Expeditions and I'm still reliving the highlights in my mind. It
was an incredible adventure with great people and great encounters.
Over a two week span, we spent time in the water with
absolutely every big animal that we had hoped to see. From voracious
humboldt squid to enormous sperm whales, the ocean just kept delivering
us new and amazing animals.
To give you an idea of how diverse it was, we managed
to cram humboldt squid diving, a pod of sperm whales, a twenty meter
solitary bull sperm whale, a few finback whales, multiple pods of pilot
whales, schooling scalloped hammerheads, schooling mobula rays, playful
sea lions, scores of reef dives and three whale shark encounters into
two weeks at sea.
The shooting opportunities ranged from challenging to
great to epic but now I am faced with the daunting task of wading
through thousands of images of fish, squid, whales and reefs. The best
will be loaded onto Elasmodiver when I have the chance except for the
ones that are saved for magazine articles. Every time I open a new
folder of pics, I am transported back to that particular dive or
encounter. Its a great way to relive the adventures between trips but no
substitute for actually being there.
For me this was a very experimental trip and I was not
sure if it would all work out. By the time we arrived back in La Paz, I
had dates nailed down for next August's squid run so if you'd like to
join me next year please let me know:
2012 Sea of Cortez Expedition
I've also added two more epic trips to next year's Big
Fish Expeditions line up:
March I am running a Humpback Whale and Manta Expedition to world famous
Socorro Island. Socorro breaks the surface 200 miles south of the Baja
Peninsula and is reached by liveaboard from Cabo San Lucas. It is
probably most famous for the amazing manta encounters that take place
there. The rays are some of the biggest that you are ever likely to dive
with. They are known for interacting with people at the islands and
allowing divers to swim within inches of them (perhaps enjoying the
feeling of the divers exhaust bubbles rolling over their skin).
Interestingly, the mantas at Socorro have been shown to be able to
identify individual divers which they return to time after time for more
The islands are also known for excellent reefs and
sharks! Resident species include Galapagos sharks, silkies and whitetips
but hammers and other species can also be seen.
But, like all Big Fish Expeditions, the Socorro
Expedition is timed to deliver the maximum amount of big animals so we
are visiting Socorro during the humpback whale migration. Late March is
an excellent time to encounter female humpbacks with new calves. The
calves are very curious and they have a reputation for closely
approaching divers and snorkellers before being steered away by their
more cautious mothers.
Each day between dives, we will head around the
islands and jump in with any whales that we see. Between humpback whales
(and possibly other whale species), mantas, sharks, dolphins and other
pelagics, this should be an epic adventure.
Socorro Humpback and Manta Expedition
also have a new Whale Shark Trip to Isla Mujeres on the tip of Mexico's
beautiful Yucatan Peninsula. Over the last few years, this area has
become renowned for enormous aggregations of whale sharks. The number of
animals that gather in the area is unprecedented making encounters
virtually guaranteed. Combined with warm, blue Caribbean water, and the
chance of encounters with other pelagics like sailfish and schooling
cownose rays, this is a great place to interact with whale sharks.
This is also the perfect trip for those that want to
encounter the largest fish in the sea in style! We will be staying at a
beautiful beachfront hotel within walking distance of the center. No
crowds, no hassle, just wake up to the sounds of the sea and be whisked
away to the whale sharking grounds directly from the hotel. Then jump in
and swim with giants all day before returning back to the comfort of the
hotel. Wow, I sound like a travel brochure but after some of the hard
'off the beaten path' adventures that I sometimes go on in search of
strange shark species, this expedition sounds just fine!
Isla Mujeres Whale Shark Expedition
SPEAKING OF OFF THE BEATEN PATH
Its been a while since I had the chance to chase new
sharks but in a few days I am heading off to Cape Eleuthera which is one
of the lesser known outer islands in the Bahamas Chain. For the next two
weeks I will be documenting the work of the Cape Eleuthera Institute
while they conduct a survey of abyssal sharks that live in their waters.
Once they take measurements and DNA samples from the deep water species,
I will have the chance to jump in and photograph the released sharks.
This will be a golden opportunity to nail some shots of species that
divers would normally never see. The work that is being done on the
island is very unique and I am looking forward to telling you all about
it after the trip. And hopefully, bringing you some very interesting
THE BIG FISH EXPEDITIONS 2012 LINE UP
2012 is looking pretty amazing and the trips are
filling up. Of the first three shark diving expeditions, Malpelo is sold
out, Tiger Beach has just two spots left and our Cat Island Oceanic
Whitetip adventure has 4 spots open so jump in while you can!
You can now see an Expedition Calendar with all the
expedition dates we have planned here:
but far from least, its a long time until Sharkfest but if you are
interested in joining me for a great weekend of brand new shark films,
shark diving with sanftigers and generally partying with a group of
likeminded shark junkies, please consider joining us next August. Also,
if you're a budding film maker (or a seasoned professional) and you have
a short shark film that you would like to air at the festival, please
send me an email!
More on Sharkfest here:
See you out there,
Short (especially for divers).
August 19th 2011
Life is short. For divers it seems even shorter because we
have more to explore and experience. Therefore, we have less time to
dedicate to each amazing place or animal encounter. So, I try to cram as
much into every trip as I possibly can.
As an example, I have just returned from a two week
adventure along the eastern seaboard of the United States. It started
with a two day
Big Fish Expeditions Trip
to see blue and mako sharks in Rhode Island. Then I nipped up to
Massachusetts with Film Maker Joe Romeiro and photographer Tom Burns to track down and swim with some
enormous basking sharks.
After that I snuck in a day of shore diving with some New
England skate species and other local critters which gave me one free
day for an impromptu
trip back out to play with the blues and makos. All this was followed by a hell for
leather, thousand mile drive to North Carolina to host
After a fantastic long weekend with new friends,
diving with sandtiger sharks, watching shark films and generally having
a good time, I jumped back in my rental car and drove a thousand miles
back to Rhode Island in time to join friends at a NOAA lab to shoot some
scientific shots of shark embryos.
Finally, exhausted but ecstatic with all those sharky
experiences, I boarded a string of flights back to the west coast and
spent one day at home on Vancouver Island. Phew....
Far from recovered, I dumped all my hard drives and
drove west to Tofino which is one of the most beautiful places in the
Pinnacle Scuba Adventures had arranged a three day dive trip in Clayoquot Sound and in the scheme of things, sleep came a poor second
compared to diving on the rugged west coast of Canada.
I remember the super endurance I felt as a youth, when
stopping to rest was for mere mortals. But sadly it turns out that I am
human after all and so with blurred vision and nursing a raging throat
infection, I then spent four gloriously slow days at home with my girl
Which brings me (chronologically speaking) to the
plane that I am currently sitting in while writing this blog. I am on a
red eye flight to Baja to join 18 likeminded souls that think that
racing through the Sea of Cortez in search of fin and pilot whales and
chasing humboldt squid is a fine way to spend their vacations.
All the guests appear to appreciate how short life is
too, which is why we are planning to dive on all the reefs that we can
cram into our trip and try to hit a sea lion colony or two to boot. And
for good measure, the liveaboard operator has agreed to let me chum now
and then to see if we can bring in a few sharks. Now that is an action
I will be home in early September. As the water temps
decline in the North Pacific, so does the plankton which leads to great
visibility. The steller sea lions will have migrated in too and I can't
wait to spend some quality time with them. Stellers are so enormous that
they remind me of underwater grizzlies. Fortunately they are rather more
playful than your average land carnivore so its possible to float along
underwater while they contort and pirouette in front of your camera.
By the end of September I'll be back on the road.
Bound for Cape Eleuthera to document a deep water shark tagging project.
Expect some cool new shark species on Elasmodiver after that trip.
Looking ahead to what's bubbling...
There are only two spots left on the
Malpelo Shark Safari in
Feb. Its going to be an epic trip filled with lots of different sharks
and extraordinary reef life. Top of the bill if we find them will be the
illusive smalltooth sandtiger sharks. More on this adventure on the Big
Fish Expeditions Site.
We're going back to
Beach in April for my yearly shark photography workshop. This
time we'll be dedicating a day to swimming with spotted dolphins. I've
always wanted to dive with them but I've never been able to tear myself
(or the group) away from the sharks. This time its officially a 'shark
and dolphin' trip. The boat is about half full already so jump in if you
want to come. Its far more about sharks than shooting, so non shooters
will have just as much fun. At Tiger Beach the pool is always open so
expect endless shark encounters every day.
Straight after Tiger Beach I'm running another trip to
Cat Island to shoot
Oceanic Whitetip Sharks
(and reef shark species closer to shore). This is the best place in the
world to dive with threatened oceanics! Space is very limited.
Then in July I'm organizing a trip to Isla Mujeres on
Mexicos beautiful Yucatan Peninsula to dive with the masses of whale
sharks that migrate into the area at that time. There are more whale
sharks at this location than anywhere else on the planet. Sometimes
there are so many that aerial footage makes them look like a cloud of
krill milling around on the surface. And the water is warm and blue!
I'll build a page for this trip on Big Fish soon but
space will be limited so if you want to ensure a spot on the boat please
let me know asap.
I'm sure there will also be more blue and mako trips
to Rhode Island but I'll figure those out in the spring.
Even further ahead is
Sharkfest 2012. I am
chartering the Olympus for next year which holds 24 divers. The Midnight
Express (Olympus Dive Center's other ship) is simply getting too small
for our yearly festival. I actually tried to charter both boats but I
couldn't find a weekend when both were available. Maybe we'll get both
for 2013. Imagine that - 40+ shark junkies congregating in one place to
shark dive, watch shark films and party. Now that's gonna be fun!
Its a long way off but this year the Sharkfest boat
filled up in two weeks so if you want to come and enjoy the fun please
drop me a line.
See you out there,
Oceanic Overload and some Awesome New
May 27th 2011
RHODE ISLAND BLUES AND MAKOS
Before I get stuck into the Oceanic Whitetip Trip Report,
I'd like to let everyone know that I'm heading to
Rhode Island to dive with blue sharks and makos on July 30-31. There are
only a couple of spots open on the trip which is being run by mako magnet Joe Romeiro. Its $325 a day. If you want to come out
and play with some beautiful east coast sharks, please let me know asap: firstname.lastname@example.org
THIS YEAR'S OCEANIC WHITETIP EXPEDITION
We had an awesome week on Cat Island
in the Bahamas. The oceanic whitetip shark images that you see here
represent a tiny slice of
what we encountered. If you want to see a larger selection of images
from the trip please follow
this link: Oceanic
Whitetip Shark Pictures
It was a very productive trip with hours and hours of photo
opportunities. The great thing about oceanics is that when they arrive,
they generally stay for the whole day. Some days we had sharks virtually from
the minute we arrived. To be fair, we had a couple of slow days too but
you have to expect to sit and wait sometimes when you're looking for
sharks in the open ocean.
When oceanic whitetip sharks catch the
scent trail, they are definitely not shy. This was my first
experience with oceanics and I was extremely impressed
with their boldness and their beautiful lines. In comparison with other
species, their personalities are somewhere between makos and blue sharks;
inquisitive and bold like a mako but laid back and nonchalant like a
blue shark at the same time.
All in all it was a great week. Next year I'll be running
another Cat Island Oceanic Expedition with a few small tweaks to make it even better. One of
the things we noticed this year was that if the current takes you away
from shore the oceanic action is good but if you drift into shore other
species come in too. So we'll spend at least one day chumming
exclusively on the reef so that we can swim with all the other species
that Cat Island has to offer. If you
want to join me, here's the info:
2012 Oceanic Whitetip Expedition
AN EXCITING SUMMER AHEAD
The blue and mako weekend in Rhode Island marks the start
of a manic summer schedule both for me and for Big Fish Expeditions.
After playing with the blues and makos, I'll have just enough time to hunt for some new elasmobranchs on the
shores of New England (hoping to add some Atlantic Torpedo Ray images to
Elasmodiver) and then Sharkfest kicks off in Morehead City,
The Sharkfest boat is full but if you happen to be
diving in the area, please swing by Olympus Dive Centre or the lodge.
We'll be airing some awesome short shark films on Saturday night August 6th
and we'll have our Sharkfest BBQ on the docks on the 7th. Come one, come
After Sharkfest I'll be racing home to Vancouver Island
to join an exploratory diving expedition in Nootka Sound which is on the
wild west side of the island. The trip is being run by Pinnacle Scuba
Adventures. We'll be visiting some brand new dive sites with the
possibility of Giant Pacific Octopuses, sixgill sharks (unlikely but you
never know) and a whole whack of other Pacific Northwest critters. Space
is limited but the trip hasn't been advertised yet so there is still
room if you're a not so tropical diver...
After barely a week on the island its Baja time. We'll be
reef diving on two week long trips specifically looking for fin whales,
pilot whales, sperm whales and humboldt squid as well as plenty of
regular reef dives and hopefully some good sea lion encounters. The
first trip is sold out except for one spot for a female diver. The
second trip still has a bit of room but its getting a lot of interest so
please sign up asap if you would like to join me.
As usual, I'll be coaching anyone that brings a camera if
you want help. These will be great trips with a huge amount of
SALMON SHARK EXPEDITION
Here's a unique idea, any true shark fanatics reading this blog will be aware that there's a healthy population of Salmon Sharks in
Alaska in the late summer. You may not know that they also congregate
much further south in our accessible Vancouver Island waters. With that
in mind, I'm trying to put together a salmon shark chumming trip for
early September aboard one of our local liveaboards. It will be very
experimental but not crazy expensive for a week on a BC liveaboard. More
on this if I manage to pull everything together in time.
PREDATORS IN PERIL PROJECT
By the time October rolls around I'll be ready to head
out looking for new rare shark species for the Predators in Peril
Project. This time I'll be working with researchers in the Bahamas that
are bringing up deep sea sharks to measure and tag them. Their motives
are to assess abundance and to find out which species inhabit great
depth in the Bahamas tropical seas. I'll be documenting their work in
pictures and slipping into the water to shoot each species as it is
released. Its a very exciting project that should yield some great
BULL SHARKS IN MEXICO
Fish Expeditions Website I have a Bull Shark trip listed for
December in Playa Del Carmen but there are no exact dates because I'm
still sitting on the sidelines waiting to see what happens this year.
Last season, after the sharks had congregated to attend the shark feed,
they were captured and killed by shark fishermen from the surrounding
villages. As a conservationist, I can't participate in a feed this year
if the sharks are likely to meet the same fate. So, the trip is on hold
until I hear that the locals have found a way to protect the sharks.
MALPELO SHARK SAFARI
MALPELO SHARK SAFARI
Looking even further forward, I have chartered the Inula
which is a liveaboard catamaran that sails out of Panama to Malpelo
which is a small volcanic island deep in the Eastern Tropical Pacific.
If you haven't heard of Malpelo, imagine world famous Cocos Island but
with even more shark diversity. Malpelo has schooling hammers in
relatively shallow water, silky sharks, Galapagos sharks, whitetips (not
the oceanic kind), occasional whale sharks, mantas and in February
(which is when we'll be going) Smalltooth Sandtiger Sharks which are the
regular sandtiger's oversized cousin. The smalltooths live in very deep
water and swim up to the 50-60 meter range at Malpelo for a short
time each year. The pics from this year's trip (taken by accomplished
photographer Tomas Kotouc) show how impressive and accessible these
animals are at the island.
With six full days at Malpelo
and two extra dive days on Panama's excellent off shore reefs on the way
there and back, the Malpelo Shark Safari will be an amazing adventure.
More info on Big Fish:
Malpelo Shark Safari
TIGER BEACH PHOTO WORKSHOP
Dates are up! The Tiger Beach
Experience stands alone. I hope you can make it next year:
Beach Photo Workshop and Shark Safari
And finally, by popular demand
I have a new batch of Elasmo Tees hot off the printing press. This time
they have logos front and back and come in three colours. Support
Elasmodiver and Predators in Peril with a stylin' new elasmo-tee (or
two, or three...)
Men's fitted and women's fitted
cap sleeved are available. Get 'em while you can, I'm running out
already. Ordering info here: Elasmo Tees
For the sharks,
Scoopheads, Alligators and Tiger Tales
17th April 2011
I have just returned from a Big Fish
Expeditions trip to Tiger Beach and I have to say that Tiger Beach is no
longer the best tiger shark dive in the world.
Don't get me wrong, Tiger Beach is as sharky as it
always has been with scores of lemon sharks ready to play as soon as the
boat drops anchor and plenty of tiger shark action including regular
visits from Smiley the resident tiger shark that has a damaged jaw
leaving her with a permanent one sided grin.
But there is a new site close to Tiger Beach that is
even better for shark action especially if you're looking for dramatic
backdrops for your shark portraits.
The reef is named Fish Tales but that's a bit generic
for such a great shark diving spot so I'm calling it Tiger Tales for the
tiger sharks that regularly wander by.
The site consists of a healthy coral reef in 40ft of
clear blue water. It is overrun with packs of bold Caribbean reef
sharks and a few resident nurse sharks. There are always some lemons
swimming around also and it doesn't take much effort to swell their
ranks and bring in the tigers that inhabit the area.
It was normal for us to see all four species of sharks
on each dive and we even had a few flybys from one or two large great hammerheads
but the hammers were too timid to approach the divers.
All in all, it was a phenomenal week and I can't wait
to go back next year. With such great photo ops it was hard to decide
what to include in this overview but here are few scenes from that week
to give you an idea of how intense the action was:
Even before setting sail for the Bahamas, I was
already in shooting mode. I spent a few days chasing American alligators
in the swamps of South Florida with Film Maker Joe Romeiro.
As I have no experience shooting big reptiles, I was
pretty nervous being around the lizard king and wondered if I should
have bought a pole cam with me to put a little distance between me and
the gators but even the big animals were reasonably well behaved.
The images (shot with a fisheye lens) are an
interesting addition to any shooter's portfolio and after posting them
on my Facebook page I was asked if I planned to lead gator trips. Its an
intriguing idea but I'll stick with big ocean animals for now.
In March I spent some time in the Darien jungle
talking to fishermen about the endemic shark species that live in the
area. After a lot of hunting, I was finally able to get the first in-water images of a scoophead shark. This is one of the smaller hammerhead
species that has eluded photographers for so long.
Scoophead sharks are far too timid to approach a diver
(no matter how much chum is in the water) so to get the shots I spent a
lot of time in a small panga shadowing the fishing boats as they pulled
in their nets. The scoophead in my images came up on the last day of the
trip and after a short negotiation involving the promise of a bottle of
rum, the fishermen allowed me to release the ailing shark.
Global shark populations are dwindling and inshore
endemic species like the scoophead that have limited ranges are particularly vulnerable to gill
netters. Obtaining representative images for conservation initiatives is
Its sad to say, but in some ways my expeditions to shoot the world's most illusive and endangered sharks,
are my way of recording archival footage of species that may soon be
THE OCEANIC WHITETIP SHARKS OF CAT ISLAND, BAHAMAS.
Another shark that has seen better days is the oceanic
whitetip. Virtually eliminated from the Gulf of Mexico, there are few
places left where oceanics can be reliably found. One of those places is
Cat Island on the eastern edge of the Bahamian chain. In May of this
year, I will be joining 7 guests on a week long, land based expedition to
dive with these ocean ocean predators and a handful of other shark
species that call Cat Island home.
With just a few weeks to go and one spot still open, I
am running a last minute special for one lucky diver - $1995. Includes 5
days of boat diving and beach house accommodation on Cat Island. Email
me if you want to come:
Summer trips and beyond....
SHARKFEST 2011 - Morehead City August 5-7
On the first weekend of August.... Sharkfest is
If you missed the action last year there is a
report on the epic shark diving that we enjoyed, plus film screenings
and fun. This year we're stepping it up by adding a night dive with the sandtiger
sharks on our first day. Space on the boat is limited and right now
there are only five spots left so sign up now if you want to
come. 3 days of shark diving, dorm accommodation, BBQ, film screenings,
and a Sharkfest Tee Shirt $640.
SEA OF CORTEZ WHALES AND HUMBOLDT SQUID EXPEDITION
Later in August we'll be chasing humboldts and whales in the Sea of Cortez (only 4 spots left).
This will no doubt be the most eclectic trip of the year. In a nut shell, we'll be
diving Baja's best reefs each day while we cruise north to Loretto.
Between dives we'll be scouting for fin whales, sperm whales and pilot
whales to jump in the water with. Once we get to Loretto we'll be diving
by day and jigging up humboldts in the evenings and hopefully getting in
the water to shoot free swimming humboldt squid if everything goes to
As if reefs, whales, squid and sea lions wasn't
enough, the operator has agreed to let me try chumming for sharks at
some locations. This is a bit of a wild card and we are not sure what
species (if any) will show up but I can't go all the way to Baja
without looking for sharks.
MALPELO ISLAND FEBRUARY 2012
There are no links or images on the Big Fish Expeditions Website
for this one yet so I'll blog about it more in the next update.
But to give you a brief idea, at Malpelo (a day's boat ride off the
coast of Panama) you can expect to see schooling scalloped hammerheads,
silky shaks, Galapagos sharks, random sightings of mantas and whale
sharks, and many other pelagic visitors as well as reefs crawling in
morays and large stingrays.
But in February and March on the deeper reefs around
the rocky island, there is the chance to see enormous Smalltooth
Sandtiger Sharks (Odontaspis ferox) which are the sandtiger's big cousin
from the depths.
If you think you've seen it all you have to dive
We'll be on the liveaboard Inula. Although I have
barely talked to anyone about this trip there are already only 6 spots left so
please send me an email if you want more info.
Between expeditions, I'll be enjoying the diving
Island with Pinnacle Scuba Adventures. Pinnacle is southern Vancouver
Island's newest and most versatile dive charter operator. We'll be
diving some of the best sites on the south end of the island and
exploring new locations each week throughout the summer. Join us if you're up this way.
For the sharks,
DIVE INTO THE ELASMO BLOG ARCHIVES