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ANDY MURCH ELASMO GEEK

 

WHAT IS ELASMODIVER?

Not just a huge collection of Shark Pictures: Elasmodiver.com contains images of sharks, skates, rays, and a few chimaera's from around the world. Elasmodiver began as a simple web based shark field guide to help divers find the best places to encounter the different species of sharks and rays that live in shallow water but it has slowly evolved into a much larger project containing information on all aspects of shark diving and shark photography.

There are now more than 10,000 shark pictures  and sections on shark evolution, biology, and conservation. There is a large library of reviewed shark books, a constantly updated shark taxonomy page, a monster list of shark links, and deeper in the site there are numerous articles and stories about shark encounters. Elasmodiver is now so difficult to check for updates, that new information and pictures are listed on an Elasmodiver Updates Page that can be accessed here:

WHAT'S NEW?

Shark picture - green sawfish

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Andy Murch's

ELASMOBLOG

Shark talk, Elasmodiver news, Conservation rants, Forthcoming projects, New shark pictures, Expediitions, Photography workshops, Shark News and more...

 

UNEXPECTED ENCOUNTERS

 

WHALE SHARKS AND UNEXPECTED MANTAS

This year's Whale Shark Expedition to Isla Mujeres was off the chart. On a good day during whale shark season we generally see scores of whale sharks feeding at the surface. This summer except for one slightly slow day, we spent everyday in the presence of hundreds of whale sharks! But that's not all. This year, mixed in with whale sharks were hundreds of feeding manta rays. Where they came from and why they showed up this season is anyone's guess but it was wonderful to spend three weeks surrounded by the biggest sharks and the biggest rays on the planet! Lets hope the mantas come back for our Whale Shark Expeditions in 2014. Follow this link to the full trip report and some amazing images: Whale Sharks 2013 Trip Report

 

 

BETWEEN BIG FISH EXPEDITIONS

After Isla Mujeres, we embarked on a shark diving road trip down to California. We came home with some great new shark pics for Elasmodiver.com including these images of tope sharks. We also tried to find prickly sharks off of Monterey. Night diving in deep, murky, cold water in the red triangle was a little creepy but its the only known place to shoot this deepwater species without using a submersible. Next year we will try again!

 

 

NEW ENGLAND MAKOS, BLUES AND 50+ SPINY DOGFISH SHARKS!

In September, Big Fish Expeditions went to Rhode Island. The seas were sometimes rough (as you would expect in New England) and we had a few boat problems but we all got to encounter blues and makos. And... our experimental chumming on an inshore wreck was a huge success! We had around 50 spiny dogfish sharks show up to the shark feed and managed to get some great images. Read more here: New England Shark Safari 2013 Trip Report

 

 

NEXT UP, THE PHILIPPINES!

We are heading off on a scouting trip to the Philippines in October. Hoping this will become a Big Fish Thresher Shark Expedition next year so stay tuned!

 

MARLINS AND MEXICAN HORN SHARKS

In December we have a sold out trip to dive with striped marlin in Baja. It should be an awesome adventure.

Before the guests arrive, I'll be heading north to Loretto to see if I can find the illusive Mexican horn shark. I've seen their eggs on some of the deeper dive sites around that area of the Sea of Cortez so I know they're around. Perhaps the colder winter water will be the key. Wish me luck!

 

KILLER WHALES

After Striped Marlins, Big Fish is heading to Sri Lanka to chase blue whales (sold out) and then to Norway to swim with Killer Whales. That trip has been so popular that I am running a second trip in 2015. Space is very limited so if you want to swim with these amazing animals and dive on Norway's pristine reefs, please let me know as soon as possible! KILLER WHALES 2015

 

 

BIMINI GREAT HAMMERHEADS

One spot has opened up on our Bimini trip so jump in if you relish the thought of close encounters with enormous great hammerhead sharks. I am heading to Bimini straight from Norway. I'm sure I'll get some interesting looks going into The Bahamas in my snow parka and winter boots :)

 

MEXICAN SAILFISH

Two spots left on our 2014 Sailfish Trip. Here is a reminder of the epic action you can experience when the sailfish are attacking a bait ball, check out this year's video:

 

 

 

 

WORLD CLASS DIVING AT SOCORRO

Just three spots left on our Socorro trip next March. Socorro is one of the most well rounded destinations that you'll ever have the pleasure of diving. And, its a quick hop down to Cabo to catch the boat. Expect mantas, hammerheads, silkies, galapagos sharks, whales, dolphins, turtles, octos and more. You'll probably see ALL of these species in a week at Socorro. Come see for yourself: SOCORRO EXPEDITION 2014

 

Humpback Whale Diving Socorro

 

TIGER BEACH, SOUTH AFRICA, SCOTLAND AND BEYOND...

 

TIGER BEACH

We have another sold out trip to TIGER BEACH in April. We're booking spots in 2015 already so if you can plan that far ahead we look forward to hearing from you!

 

SOUTH AFRICAN SHARK SAFARI

Then we fly back to Cape Town to dive with more shark species than you can find on any other dive trip that I know of. One spot just came open so please let me know if you want to dive with great white sharks (cage diving), makos, blue sharks, sevengill sharks, spotted gully sharks, pyjama sharks, leopard catsharks, yellowspotted catsharks, brown shysharks, puffadder shysharks and natal shysharks. Then there's penguins, fur seals and a game drive to see elephants, cape buffalo, cheatahs, rhinos and all the other terrestrial animals that Africa is famous for. Don't miss this action packed CAPE TOWN SHARK SAFARI

 

 

Then we have our very unique SOUTH AFRICAN SARDINE RUN AND WILD COAST SHARK SAFARI and then its time to fly back to Scotland to SWIM WITH BASKING SHARKS.

 

SALMON SHARKS

In July we're going to Alaska to dive with Salmon Sharks and to snorkel with the salmon as they head upriver. One spot left! SALMON SHARK EXPEDITION

 

salmon snorkeling

 

MEXICAN CROCODILES

And then we head back to Isla Mujeres to SWIM WITH WHALE SHARKS. I'll have my drysuit with me in Mexico so that I can zip up to Churchill, Manitoba to lead our new BELUGA WHALE EXPEDITION and then fly straight back to Cancun to lead the MEXICAN CROCODILE EXPEDITION. My good friend Rodrigo Friscione just came back from Chinchorro Banks with some fantastic shots and reports of great crocodile encounters. I can't wait to get down there and run this trip!

 

 

 

TWO KILLER NEW TRIPS ON THE 2014 SCHEDULE!

 

CALIFORNIA MAKO SHARK SAFARI

Don't get me wrong, New England is a great place to dive with blues and makos but there are lots of other destinations to dive with them too. For a change of pace, next year Big Fish is heading to sunny California where the water is blue and the sharks are plentiful!

As well as free diving with blue and mako sharks we will be scuba diving around some of Southern California's Channel Islands where we can find Pacific angel sharks, horn sharks and a number of other shark species. This is going to be an amazing adventure: four days on a liveaboard chasing sharks in the sharkiest state in the USA. Join us there! CALIFORNIA MAKO SHARK SAFARI.

 

 

MEXICAN BULL SHARKS

Each November, many large bull sharks congregate off the beaches of Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Many of them are pregnant females that stay in the area until early March and then head into shallow bays to pup before disappearing until the next season. By late November the bulls have reached their maximum strength; sometimes up to 20+ bull sharks on a dive.

This is a thrilling encounter that will impress the most jaded shark diver.  Join us next November in Playa del Carmen; the playground of Mexico: 2014 BULL SHARK EXPEDITION

 

diving with bull sharks

 

MEET THE TEAM

A few years ago I ran my first trip to Tiger Beach. It was such a fun trip that I decided to run it again the following year and I added a whale shark trip. Three years later, Big Fish Expeditions has 18 different trips on the schedule and there are more on the way!

Its been an amazing adventure and I will continue to lead most of the expeditions but I'm very happy to announce that Big Fish has some new Expedition Leaders to share the fun with. Meet the team: BIG FISH EXPEDITIONS DIVE TEAM

 

See you down there,

Andy Murch

 

 


 

AFRICAN SHARKS
+ CANADA'S ICONIC WHITE WHALES

 


SOUTH AFRICA WAS AMAZING!
Its been a month since I returned from our first South African Shark Safari and I still can't get that incredible experience out of my head. With the possibility of fourteen species of sharks I knew that it would be a good trip but I had no idea how good. Cape Town is a shark diver's paradise! On one memorable dive we slipped into a beautiful kelp forest amid a handful of broadnose sevengill sharks and then swum amongst five species of catsharks that were hunting on the reef. A couple of shy spotted gully sharks also made a brief appearance making a total of seven species on one dive alone! That would be enough to set the West Cape apart from almost every other dive site in the world but just a few kms away from the reef is Seal Island where you can also dive with hunting great white sharks and still be back in time to watch African penguins waddling along the beach in the afternoon sun.
SEE THE SHARK IMAGES AND READ THE FULL REPORT HERE

 


By the end of that amazing week, I was so impressed by South African shark diving that I immediately booked dates for 2014. Join me in Cape Town next year if you can: 2014 WEST CAPE SHARK SAFARI. After sharing a few pics on Big Fish Expedition's Facebook Page this trip is already almost full so please contact me asap if you'd like to come!
 



A NEW BIG FISH EXPEDITION: THE SARDINE RUN
With so much world class diving on offer, it would be crazy to go all the way to South Africa for just one adventure. So, next year after the Cape Town Shark Safari, Big Fish Expeditions is staying in South Africa for the world famous Sardine Run. For most people the Sardine Run needs no introduction but for anyone that has been living in a bubble, the Sardine Run occurs each year when cold upwellings force millions of sardines to the surface. The resulting river of bait-fish is so enormous that sharks, dolphins, whales, diving birds and huge schools of tuna congregate off the Wild Coast of South Africa in record numbers to feast on the oil rich fish. The bait-ball action that sometimes occurs at this time is one of the most spectacular oceanic events on the planet. Join me in the thick of it!

 


Just on its own,The Sardine Run would be an epic event but to make our expedition even more special, I am combining the Sardine Run with some exploratory chumming dives for endemic catsharks on the inshore reefs of the Wild Coast and with offshore, blue water, baited dives for bronze whaler sharks, oceanic blacktips and any other shark species that show up to feed. Join me on the 2014 SARDINE RUN AND WILD COAST SHARK SAFARI Just one spot left!


ANOTHER NEW BIG FISH EXPEDITION: CANADIAN BELUGA WHALES
I'm very excited to bring you this new trip! Each summer, thousands of Beluga Whales congregate in Hudson Bay to feed, breed and socialize. Join me on a ground breaking expedition to swim with and photograph these iconic white whales in their natural environment. We will spend four mornings swimming among large pods of belugas. These are extremely curious animals so it is likely that they will approach us very closely.
In the afternoons we'll drive into the tundra and look for topside wildlife such as polar bears that forage on berries during the arctic summer. And then on our final day, we will trade in our zodiac for a proper tour of the tundra on the world famous tundra buggy. This is an adventure that you will remember forever! Join me in Churchill, Manitoba for the CANADIAN WHITE WHALE MIGRATION

 



WHAT ELSE IS BUBBLING...

BASKING SHARKS WITH COLD FEET
Last week we were in Scotland searching for basking sharks. Scotland was ruggedly beautiful but because of a very late spring that brought unseasonably cold weather, the sharks did not arrive as predicted. We saw a couple of sharks breach but there was no opportunity for in-water encounters. It was tough luck but if you go on enough trips this will inevitably happen sooner or later. We had a great group so everyone had a good time anyway and we did get to dive with seals and other Scottish marine life and explore some interesting reefs around Tobermory. Next year we'll be back there to finish what we started!

 


 

WHALE SHARK SEASON IS FINALLY HERE!
Next week we begin our whale shark season in Isla Mujeres, Mexico. I'm happy to report that the sharks have already arrived in their hundreds so we're expecting some great encounters over the next few weeks. We have just two spots open from August 2-7. So if you want to swim with the world's biggest fish please drop me an email.
While we're in Isla Mujeres, I am hoping to put together a film about this unique aggregation of enormous animals and the problems that they are facing. I'll let you know how that went after this year's trip.

 


BACK ON THE HUNT FOR RARE SHARKS & ILLUSIVE RAYS FOR ELASMODIVER.COM
Big Fish Expeditions would not exist if it wasn't for the popularity of Elasmodiver.com. The Elasmodiver database remains one of the largest collections of shark and ray images on the internet and is an unbiased source of shark diving information. The images on Elasmodiver are frequently used by conservation groups to help push through regulations and treaties aimed at protecting sharks and rays (aka elasmobranchs) around the world.
After our whale shark trips, I am heading to California to look for a very illusive deepwater shark and to try to add some other elasmos including the Pacific torpedo ray to the Elasmodiver database. If you happen to see any along the southern California coast in August, please drop me a line!
Then at the end of August I'm back in Rhode Island for a sold out Blue/Mako/Dogfish Shark Safari. After the charter I'll be shore diving for a few days around Rhode Island and Massachusetts to hunt for more endemic sharks and rays. Specifically, I'd like to track down an Atlantic torpedo ray so if you're diving up that way and know where they're hanging out this year, please email me with info!

MARLIN MADNESS IN MEXICO
Finally, we are planning a quick trip to Argentina to chase illusive sharks in November and then in early December I have an exciting Big Fish Expeditions trip to Baja for a week of chasing striped marlin, whales, mola mola and sharks. When the sardines are running, Baja's west coast is a dynamic place to dive where anything can show up to feed. Join me there for a week of adventure!

 


See you down there,
Andy Murch

Andy Murch




ARE CROCS THE NEW SHARKS?

It was inevitable that sooner or later I would start running crocodile trips. Collectively, crocs, alligators, caimans and gharials have that same primal allure as sharks, and what they lack in sleekness they make up for in sheer prehistoric gnarliness!
Our first crocodilian trip will be next August to Chinchorro, Quintana Roo, Mexico to encounter American Crocodiles. Chinchorro is part of a marine biosphere. Consequently, it is one of the few places in North America where there is still a relatively abundant population of crocs. Because the islands are 20 miles off shore, there is no river run off so the water in the lagoon where the crocodiles live is clear enough for in-water encounters. And, its not just going to be crocs. The expedition includes a mangrove to find and dive with West Indian manatees and we're even planning a morning chumming for sharks. For more pics, a great video by Pelagic Life and all the logistical info, follow this link: American Crocodiles of Chinchorro Banks
 


THREE AWESOME BACK TO BACK TO BACK EXPEDITIONS
Over the last few weeks I have led trips to Socorro Island, Tiger Beach and Cat Island. All three trips were hugely successful. Read on for all the highlights:


SOCORRO AND ROCA PARTIDA EXPEDITION

At Socorro we had manta encounters and more sharks than I have ever seen in the Revillagigedo Archipelago. This year the weather cooperated and we were able to dive Roca Partida. The schools of hammers, ledges filled with photogenic whietip sharks and enormous yellowfin tuna schools swimming around that lonely monolith made this trip extremely special. Read the Socorro 2013 Trip Report for more images and reports from the trip.
 

ANOTHER AWESOME TIGER BEACH EXPEDITION

Tiger Beach was full of sharks from start to finish with countless lemon sharks and four tigers at once on the most memorable dive. We also had a pod of 20+ spotted and bottlenose dolphins come and play with us for hours and some great opportunities for killer split frame shots at the back of the boat. Follow this link for all the good stuff: Tiger Beach Trip Report.


A RECORD BREAKING OCEANIC WHITETIP EXPEDITION


The oceanic whitetip shark expedition to Cat Island was so sharky that against all I have said about trying to run new trips, I am going back again next year :)
We had somewhere around 15 oceanics on our best dive plus we saw a blue marlin, some mahi mahi, and dusky and silky sharks. Cool pictures and more about the trip here: Oceanic Whitetips 2013 Trip Report

ONWARD TO AFRICA
Next week, Big Fish Expeditions is heading to South Africa. This is my first shark safari in southern Africa and I couldn't be more excited. We have the possibility to see around 14 species of sharks. Some of these I have not photographed before so if all goes well there should be some new species pages added to the shark and ray database on Elasmodiver.com over the next few months.
This is a land based trip so assuming I can find a wifi connection, I'll try to load a new shark onto the Big Fish Facebook Page everyday of the trip. If you want the images to show up in your Facebook Feed, please go here: BIG FISH EXPEDITIONS ON FACEBOOK and give us a like!


BASKING SHARKS, WHALE SHARKS THEN BLUES AND MAKOS.

After two weeks in South Africa I'll have just enough time to get home to Canada before heading off again to swim with Basking Sharks in the Inner Hebredes in western Scotland. This is another exciting new trip that should result in some great opportunities for big animal images. I'm hoping for encounters with puffins and gray seals underwater too so expect a full report when I blog again (probably in July) or come with me on the trip! There are two spots left on the basking shark trip if any tropical divers out there think they can handle donning a 7mm in order to swim with the second biggest fish in the world. Go to the basking shark expedition page or email me for details!

After that, we're in Isla Mujeres for an entire month of whale sharks. Only three spots left now so please jump on those quickly if you want to swim with an even bigger fish than a basking shark: whale shark diving adventure

And finishing up our summer season we're heading to Rhode Island to shoot makos and blue sharks before the Gulf Stream moves away from the coast taking the sharks along with it. This will be another experimental trip that includes a day of chumming for dogfish sharks on the inshore wrecks. As always, I'll let everyone know how we do!

ONTO WHATS BUBBLING:

BACK TO THE BEACH!

STRIPED MARLIN ACTION
And then in December I have a brand new striped marlin expedition to Baja. This is another great billfish encounter that everyone should try before they hang up their fins. Join me this December for a unique Striped Marlin Expedition.


A NEW PREDATORS IN PERIL EXPEDITION IS IN THE WORKS
Then at the end of the year, there's blue whales in Sri Lanka, Orcas in Norway and Great Hammerheads in Bimini. But, before I run those guest trips, its time to put some of my air miles to good use. In November I'm flying all the way down to Punta Arenas to look for another new catshark species. This one is called a narrowmouth catshark and (like most small deepwater sharks) there are virtually no images of it. So, I'm meeting up with Eduardo Sorensen from Oceana Chile to see if we can find and document one or two while there are still some left. It will be a complicated trip involving us flying tanks and weights all the way to the end of the Americas and then braving the Humboldt Current for as long as time and finances permit.
After the catshark dives in Southern Chile, I'll be traveling with my partner Laura up the coast of Argentina to record as many endemic Argentinean elasmobranches (sharks and rays) as we can find. I'm sure that it will be as exhausting as it is rewarding. More on this expedition as it approaches.

2014
Next year get ready for more new trips as well as some of the classics from years past. Apart from the American crocodile trip to Chinchorro, there are at least two more exciting new big animal trips that I am working on. Please keep an eye on the website for more info but for starters, how would you like to swim through an emerald ocean filled with friendly white whales?

See you down there,
Andy Murch


 





SWORDS AND HAMMERS



Our January Sailfish Adventure to Cancun, Mexico delivered some epic encounters. Here is a fun little video with some of the action:


Check out the rest of the sailfish trip report and images here: Sailfish Adventure 2013.



BASKING SHARKS
Next stop is Socorro for some quality time with giant mantas and then Tiger Beach, Cat Island for Oceanic Whitetips and down to South Africa. All sold out trips which is a great endorsement for Big Fish Expeditions!
Still a couple of spots left on the Basking Shark Adventure in Scotland. No doubt the water temps have scared a few shark divers away from this encounter but this will be an amazing trip with basking sharks, grey seals, puffins and who knows what else, so if you want to dive with the second biggest fish in the sea, get in touch! Here are some pics from last season:



The July Whale Shark Expeditions are all sold out so I've decided to add an early August trip for anyone else that wants to go. The Isla Mujeres summer aggregation is the largest recorded whale shark gathering in the world. Personally, I am more than happy to have to stay in sunny Isla Mujeres for one extra week of whale shark diving! :) Whale Shark Diving

RHODE ISLAND MAKO & BLUE SHARK WEEKEND
Then in late August we have two back-to-back Mako and Blue shark weekends with Joe Romeiro up in Rhode Island. The first weekend is sold out but I have some room on the second weekend. Between trips I'll be staying in the area and shore diving for torpedo rays and new skate species so anyone that is coming on the trips is welcome to join me on that off the beaten path quest if they have extra time.




STRIPED MARLIN EXPEDITION
After Rhode Island I have a second Tiger Beach Adventure in October and then.......(drum roll).... Big Fish Expeditions is heading to Baja to chase Striped Marlin. This will be a similar trip to the sailfish encounter but with larger and stripier billfish. Pacific marlin/baitball diving is a little more hit and miss than diving with sailfish so as well as chasing marlins we have a great back-up plan. Check out the Striped Marlin Diving Expedition page for more info.



GREAT HAMMERHEAD ADVENTURE
And last but far from least on the new trip front, in February 2014 we're heading to Bimini for 5 days of diving with Great Hammerheads. I planned to run a hammer trip this year but there were certain logistical issues and ethical concerns that I wanted to deal with to make this trip the best it could be. Everything has come together nicely for next year and I'm glad I waited because this is going to be a great hammerhead trip as well as a great deal! Bimini Great Hammerhead Diving



MARINE LIFE PICS .COM
In other news, a few weeks back I was on a magazine assignment in the Ryukyu Archipelago in southwestern Japan. It was an interesting trip with scalloped hammers, unusual sea snakes and lots of fish that I've never seen before. The highlight for me were these hummingbird bobtail squid. Bare in mind that these little guys are about the size of a pea :)



These images and around 10,000 more of my marine life pics can now be found on a new website that I just loaded onto the world wide web. Feel free to check out the new site and give me feedback: MARINELIFEPICS.COM
There's a corresponding Marine Life Pics Facebook Page that you can 'like' if you want to know what has been added to the website each week.

One more thing, lots of people have asked me for more info about the 2015 Antarctic Trip but I haven't had time to load a page yet. I'll get on it soon! That's it for now.
See you down there,

Andy Murch


 

 

Sharks!

 

Its been an amazing year; from enormous whale shark aggregations in Isla Mujeres to epic giant manta encounters in Isla Socorro. After all the guest trips were over, I managed to sneak in an Elasmodiver Expedition to Central Chile.  Chile may not be everyone's idea of a shark diving mecca but I was after a rarely photographed little catshark that lives in Chile's shallow bays and wraps its eggs around stunted kelp trees. I'm happy to say that it was a successful trip. Follow this link for more Redspotted Catshark Info.

 

 

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2013

Next year is shaping up to be the biggest year so far for shark trips. unofficially, the shark season kicks off at Socorro Island during our Manta Trip. I expect that we'll bump into at least 3 species of sharks at Socorro but the first dedicated shark expedition will be at Tiger Beach in April. Shark magnet and award winning film maker Joe Romeiro will be joining me on the boat; adding some extra magic to the shark encounters. We'll be visiting all the best spots like Tiger Beach, Fish Tales and other sharky reefs and probably exploring some new ones. Grab the last spot if you'd like to join us: Tiger Beach Expedition or join our second Tiger Beach trip next October.

 

 

OCEANICS

After one day back in Florida, BFE's final oceanic whitetip expedition starts in Cat Island, Bahamas. This year's oceanic expedition was outstanding with more oceanics than anyone 'needed' and silky sharks mixed in just for fun. Plus, we had some unique split frame photo ops with the nurse sharks right in the marina.

With so many new adventures on the books, this will be our last chance to dive Cat Island for a while (sad but true) so join me if you can: Oceanic Odyssey

 

SOUTH AFRICA

Then, Big Fish Expeditions heads to South Africa for a sold out Shark Safari of epic proportions. 14 species in 11 days. Now that's an expedition!

 

BASKING SHARKS

Two weeks later, we will be in bonnie Scotland chasing basking sharks. We have an amazing week planned in the Inner Hebredes swimming with giant sharks and diving with grey seals. Incidentally, if you've already signed up for this one, I'm staying for an extra day at the end of the trip to visit a puffin colony. Contact me if you want to come: Basking Shark Expedition

 

Here is a fantastic video shot by Simon Spear in the area where we'll be heading:

 

WHALE SHARKS

I'd like to stay longer in Scotland and shoot some little British catsharks but the Whale Sharks will be waiting for us. Next year's Isla Mujeres whale shark boats are almost full. If you want to swim next to the biggest fishes in the sea, this is your chance. Don a mask and fins and jump into an encounter that you'll never forget: Whale Shark Encounter.

 

 

RHODE ISLAND BLUES, MAKOS AND SPINIES

Then in August, a well established shark encounter with an interesting new twist! Big Fish is running a mako and blue shark trip with Joe Romeiro in Rhode Island. That alone would be a great adventure but on our third and final day we're planning to tie up to one of New England's fish filled wrecks and lay down a chum slick for smoothhounds and spiny dogfish sharks. Spear-fishermen regularly complain about being harassed by dogfish on their wreck dives so imagine what will happen when we bring a little shark attractant of our own :) Join the trip and find out what happens: Rhode Island Shark Safari

 

 

THRESHER SHARKS

And finally, next December I'm putting together a thresher shark trip. I've wanted to photograph threshers for a very long time but I've been put off by the no-flash photography rules and dwindling encounters at Malapascua in the Philippines.

Fortunately, there is a new hotspot for thresher sharks. After fairly consistent reports of sightings at 'Brothers Reef' in the Red Sea I have decided that it is worth an exploratory liveaboard trip. I don't have a page on BigFishExpeditions.com for this trip yet but I can tell you that we'll be heading there next December and its a surprisingly affordable place to dive. Email me if you'd like more info: info@bigfishexpeditions.com

 

2014 WHALES

In Jan 2014 I have an already sold out Blue Whale Expedition to Sri Lanka. If that sounds like a dream trip, well... it probably will be. If you'd like to join the waiting list let me know.

 

And, I have one cancellation on the Jan 2014 Killer Whale trip. Let me know if you're coming!

 

 

2015!!!!

I know its a long way off but this is a big ticket trip: Join me in February 2015 in Antarctica!

 

Don't let your gills dry out over Christmas!

 

See you down there,

Andy Murch

Andy Murch

 

 


 

Swarms of Whale Sharks and Predators in Peril

 

 

Its been an insanely busy summer. There were lots of great moments but the highlight was probably the incredible whale shark aggregations that we encountered near Isla Mujeres in Mexico. As I said in one of my Facebook posts, there were so many whale sharks that I felt sorry for the plankton. To read this year's trip report and to enjoy a short video from the expedition please follow this link: Whale Shark Trip Report 2012

 

 

PREDATORS IN PERIL

Big Fish Expeditions has some awesome new trips penciled in for 2013 and 2014 but before I launch into that, I'd like to share some news about the Predators in Peril Project. I recently traveled to Guerrero Negro on the west coast of Baja to document the gill net fishery and in particular the amount of shark and ray bycatch that is caught in the halibut fishery. This trip resulted in some very graphic images that hopefully capture the essence of the problem.

It was a tough expedition for me personally because I was exposed to some tragic scenes but at least I had the opportunity shoot a video about the expedition. The video is called BYCATCH. It has some very disturbing footage but I believe that it is important to show everything that I witnessed in order to shine a light on this issue. You can see more images from the trip and watch the video at PIP's new home: predatorsinperil.org To jump straight to the video please visit: Predators in Peril Videos

Please, please share BYCATCH on your social networks!

 

Next stop for PIP is Chile. In November I am heading to the wild west coast of South America to try to document the endemic shark population. Some Chilean species such as the speckled smoothhound shark are already listed by the IUCN as near threatened but the shark fishery continues to decrease their numbers further. Hopefully (if I actually get some images) we will be able to generate some interest from Chilean conservation groups that want to help reduce the fishery.

 

 

Ok, onto upcoming Big Fish Expeditions:

 

 

KILLER WHALES!

In 2014 we're going to Norway to dive with hunting orcas. I knew this trip was going to be popular but I didn't realize how popular! The same day that I loaded the orca free diving trip onto the Big Fish Expeditions website, it sold out. Consequently, I'm wondering if I should run two trips back to back because I certainly wouldn't mind an extra week chasing killer whales. So if you are interested in a freezing cold adventure in the middle of winter to northern Norway to chase orcas and night dive on pristine sponge and coral reefs in Norway's rugged fiords, please let me know as soon as possible and I'll work on a second boat.

 

But before then, we have a lot of other amazing encounters to enjoy...

SAILFISH BAITBALL DIVING sold out months ago but a couple of guests just informed me that they can't go so there are two spots open. This is a great opportunity to jump in with huge aggregations of hunting sailfish attacking baitballs. It'll be intense and exhausting free diving probably in bumpy seas but if you want an adventure don't miss this! Oh, and if we get any storm days we'll be heading down to Playa del Carmen to dive with bull sharks!

 

There are also a few spots left on the SOCORRO GIANT MANTA EXPEDITION. This is a world class dive destination 200 nautical miles south of Baja that attracts some of the friendliest and largest mantas in the world, plus lots of sharks and curious pods of wild dolphins. It is an especially good place to find black mantas like the one pictured here:

 

 

Then, by popular request, I am running another TIGER SHARK PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP at world famous Tiger Beach in the Bahamas next October. If you haven't dove Tiger Beach yet, it is probably the best place in the world to learn the ins and outs of shark photography. Tiger sharks, lemons, reef sharks, nurse sharks (and occasionally other shark species such as great hammers) create the perfect subjects to practice different techniques. Apart from obviously photographing tiger sharks, one of my favorite techniques is shooting over/unders of lemon sharks at sunset from the swim step:

 

 

There are also just two spots left on my Cat Island Oceanic Whitetip Shark trip. This year was amazing with more oceanic whitetips than anyone expected. Next year is the last chance to join me at Cat Island because I need to make room for some new adventures in 2014 so I hope that you can make it!

 

Then in July its Scottish Basking Sharks time! The first week is full but I have 4 spots left on the second trip. I talked to the captain recently and he told me that this year they had basking sharks everyday of the season except two. That is an amazing success record! Nowhere else has such reliable sightings so I am very excited for next year.

 

 

And then.... it just keeps getting better but I'll save some announcements for the next newsletter. If you made it this far, thanks for reading :)

 

See you down there,

Andy Murch

Andy Murch

 


 

THE SECOND BIGGEST FISH IN THE SEA

 

Its been an awesome year so far but before I talk about the action on the last few trips, lets talk about the second biggest fish in the sea:

 

BASKING SHARKS!

Next June/July I have organized a very unique adventure. Join me on the Isle of Mull off the west coast of Scotland to dive with feeding basking sharks. Although there are other locations like Cornwall and the Isle of Man that get sporadic sightings, nowhere is as reliable as the seas around the Isle of Mull. As well as the frequency of encounters, the visibility this far north is far superior as well, making this the ideal location for serious shark hunters.

We will also dive with friendly grey seals, photograph any whales and dolphins that we see and generally soak up the atmosphere of the Inner Hebredes in a fun filled week on the water.

At night we'll either be staying in a stone cottage in the quaint village of Tobermory or camping on the outer islands right where the sharks are. To me, this sounds like an awesome adventure. Apparently I'm not alone because the first trip sold out the day I posted it on Big Fish Expeditions. The second week has four spots open so jump in while you can! Check out the images, info and an awesome video by Film Maker Simon Spear about the amazing wildlife around the Isle of Mull: Basking Shark Expedition

 

diving with basking sharks

 

 

MANTAS, TIGERS & OCEANIC WHITETIPS

Building on the success of seeing smalltooth sandtigers at Malpelo, our next adventure was in Rugged Socorro which is 200 miles south of the tip of Baja. The manta action at the islands was off the hook. We encountered giant mantas on virtually every dive but unlike many other places around the world, the mantas at Socorro actually crave the company of divers. Many times, a manta would find us and hang out for the entire dive playing in our bubbles. It was a fantastic experience for everyone that went. Read more in the Socorro trip report.

 

After Socorro I led back-to-back trips to Tiger Beach and Cat Island. Of course Tiger Beach was non-stop shark action everyday but Cat Island far exceeded my expectations. Stuart Cove bought one of his boats over to the island especially for this trip and although the persistent wind made the surface a bit bumpy, we simply submerged into the tranquility of the underworld surrounded by oceanic whitetip sharks on every dive. On our first (and best) day we had 12 big oceanics surrounding our small group of divers! There are some great pics from the trip in the Cat Island Oceanic Expedition Trip Report. I've booked back to back dates again next year and not surprisingly the boats are already half full.

 

diving with oceanic whitetip sharks

 

WHALE SHARK AGGREGATIONS

Next up on the Big Fish Calendar is whale sharks at Isla Mujeres in July. This should be a lot of fun. The world's biggest fishes aggregate off of Isla Mujeres each July to feed and we'll be there to play with them! There are two spots left on the second trip. If you've never dove with a whale shark don't miss this opportunity: Whale Shark Expedition

 

whale shark trips

 

Less than a week after returning from Whale Sharks at Isla Mujeres, its time for Sharkfest. As I write this there is one spot left on the trip which I'm sure will be gone in no time. Sharkfest is a fun filled weekend with three days of diving with Sandtiger Sharks, a night where we screen the best recent shark films and a cook out on the last night. This is the third annual Sharkfest and although its a bit of a monster to organize, I don't think I can break tradition now. So, if you can't come this year then please pencil it into your calendar for next August: SHARKFEST

 

THE SEA OF CORTEZ WHALES AND HUMBOLDTS EXPEDITION

Then its time for my last guest trip of the season. This will be my second year in the Sea of Cortez diving with whales, sea lions, humboldt squid and sharks. By far the most diverse trip on the Big Fish Itinerary, if you're looking for an adventure with lots of diving plus marine mammal encounters, you can't go wrong in the Sea of Cortez

 

sea of cortez diving

 

 

PREDATORS IN PERIL

This fall, I have purposely avoided scheduling any Big Fish Expeditions. I love running guest trips but there is work to be done. I am planning two trips to Mexico to work with researchers and fishermen to try to document more of the endemic shark species that divers do not normally get the chance to encounter. In particular, there are a number of smoothhound shark species that need some time in the spotlight. Hopefully, by the end of the year I should have at least one or two documented but I'm hoping for more. If you've never seen a smoothhound shark, this image shows a Gulf of Mexico Smoothhound; an animal that lives in deep water in a tiny pocket of ocean in the northern Gulf and is therefore extremely vulnerable to depletion.

 

gulf smoothhound

 

While I'm on the subject of Predators in Peril, you may remember that last year I had the opportunity to photograph deep sea gulper sharks with Edd Brooks from Cape Eluethera Institute. Since then Edd has moved into the next phase of the project which involves monitoring activity and species composition on the actual sea floor rather than bringing sharks up to the surface. Here is a link to a video about his recent work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4ecOlFVoSE&feature=share

 

 

2013 EXPEDITIONS

Next year's schedule is getting ridiculously busy already. In January we'll be in Mexico for the sailfish migration. Divers can see up to 40 or 50 sailfish attacking enormous bait balls; a spectacular sight! (Just three spots left).

 

diving with sailfish

 

Then in February, we're heading to French Polynesia on a shark safari of epic proportions. First stop will be Moorea to dive with sicklefin lemon sharks. Then we are heading to Fakarava 'where it rains sharks' to dive with 5 species including hundreds and hundreds of grey reef sharks. In my entire shark diving career I have never seen this many sharks in one place. Join me in paradise for an amazing shark filled adventure: French Polynesia Shark Safari

 

tahiti diving

 

Then a brand new experimental trip. In late Feb, Great Hammerheads congregate in an area near the island of Bimini in the Bahamas. Great hammerheads are usually extremely difficult to see (as many frustrated photographers will tell you). But, in this one small area, Great hammers have been reliably documented by the shark researchers that are based on Bimini. This year, Stuart Cove took his boat over to to try to chum up the sharks and he was extremely successful. At one point he had a 4 or 5 great hammers around the bait. That is the best encounter I have ever heard of so I have asked Stuart to bring his boat back next year to try to repeat the excitement. If you're an experienced diver and you've been waiting for the chance to add a great hammerhead to your life list, this is the trip: Great Hammerhead Expedition

 

 

Beyond the hammer trip we're taking another shot at the mantas in Socorro and then its time for Tiger Beach, Cat Island, Scotland and South Africa. To see our entire Big Fish Expeditions Schedule for next year. Please follow this link:

Big Fish Expeditions Schedule 2012/13

 

See you out there!

For the oceans,

Andy Murch

Andy Murch

 


 

MALPELO MAGIC AND DIVING BRITISH COLUMBIA

 

MAGIC IN MALPELO

This year's Big Fish Expedition to Malpelo was amazing! Not only did we see schooling hammerheads on most of the dives (sometimes hundreds thick) but we also found the illusive smalltooth sandtiger sharks that we had timed the trip specifically to see. That was a dream of mine two years in the making and I'm thrilled that we managed to pull it off. Some divers make multiple trips to Malpelo and don't see these rare deepwater sharks so we were very lucky to encounter them every time we dove for them.

The trip was not without difficulty. When we arrived in Panama City, Indian protesters had blocked the Pan American Highway which cut us off from the boat. That threatened to derail the entire expedition but some quick thinking by Arvid (our Captain) got us to Malpelo in record time and the diving went ahead as planned. Thank you to everyone that came on the trip and made it as special as it was!

 

smalltooth sandtiger shark

 

BEST OF BRITISH COLUMBIA EXPEDITION

In November I started promoting a trip to Newfoundland to shoot Humpbacks and dive the WW2 wrecks. Trying new places is important to me but its always risky. Newfoundland didn't get a lot of interest so I switched the expedition to a place that I know everyone wants to dive. I'm now running an expedition to Vancouver Island. The diving around Vancouver Island is phenomenal with invertebrate life unsurpassed anywhere but don't just take my word for it; Jacque Cousteau said that Vancouver Island has the best cold water diving in the world. He was right. Join me this summer and see for yourself: Expedition to Vancouver Island

 

 

WHATS BUBBLING....

 

SEA OF CORTEZ BIG ANIMAL SAFARI

There are just a few spots left on the Sea of Cortez Expedition in August. Baja has some of the most diverse marine life that you will see anywhere. From tropical fish to pilot and finback whales to playful sea lions and humboldt squid encounters. This week long adventure takes in the best of the Gulf of California. Join me if you can!

 

 

 

SAILFISH AND BULL SHARKS

In January I'm running back to back sailfish and bull shark trips in the fun filled Mayan Riviera. Join me on the quest to film up to 40 or 50 sailfish as they chase baitfish off of Isla Mujeres. This is a spectacle that you need to experience!

Sailfish are easily spooked by large groups of people so you need to experience it in the right way. I have hired a very fast boat and I'm keeping our group size to six guests only. Join the chase: Sailfish Baitball Expedition.

 

 

If free diving with sailfish makes you hungry for even more big animal action, then tack on three days of diving with bull sharks off of Playa del Carmen. I have wanted to run this trip for a long time but fishermen from the surrounding villages were taking advantage of the shark feed and targeting the sharks. A firm agreement now seems to be in place to stop this and well respected researchers have moved in to start documenting the bull sharks movements to better understand their importance in the local ecosystem. Its great to see the progress and I'm very happy to finally be able to offer this trip. So, please join me for the Running of the Bulls next January in Playa del Carmen, Mexico!

 

 

IMPORTANT NEWS: ADD THE WORD FAKARAVA TO YOUR LEXICON AND TO YOUR BUCKET LIST!

Yesterday I got back from a photo shoot in French Polynesia. I didn't realize that its just an eight hour flight from LA. It was a good opportunity for me to get images of some common Indo-Pacific sharks that I don't get a chance to shoot very often. One of the places I visited was Fakarava Atoll. Its only an hour from Tahiti and its everything that you would expect a picture perfect French Polynesian atoll to be. I could write a thousand word rant about how good the diving was but to spare you the drooling, I'll just say that I have never seen so many sharks in one place. In Fakarava it RAINS sharks!

Needless to say, I'm hashing out the details of a guest trip for next year that will take us to Fakarava and Moorea for a South Pacific Shark Safari. Expect to see hundreds of Grey reef sharks plus: silvertips, whitetips, blacktips, Indo-Pacific blacktips, tawny nurse sharks and sicklefin lemon sharks. I can't wait to show you how incredible the shark diving is. Keep an eye on BigFishExpeditions.com for more info coming soon.

 

 

 

MORE EXPEDITIONS:

 

The South African Shark Safari only has 4 spots left for 2013.  14 species of sharks in 11 days. Join me on the ultimate shark safari: South African Shark Safari 2013

 

Tiger Beach is full (of course) and next year's April trip is already starting to fill up. So, I'm running another trip this fall in October/November. I'll post exact dates as soon as I have them but if you'd like to visit legendary Tiger Beach this fall please let me know as soon as possible and I'll reserve you a spot: Tiger Beach: Tiger Shark Capitol of the World

 

I look forward to seeing you out there!

For the oceans,

Andy Murch

 

 


 

DIVING POLAR SEAS AND THE SOUTH AFRICA SHARK SAFARI

 

HOW THE POLAR SEAS EXPEDITIONS WERE BORN

I am lucky enough to live on Vancouver Island in western Canada. 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 or dive with a tumbling gang of adolescent steller sea lions but they just don't relish diving in the restrictions of a drysuit.

 

dive with steller sea lions

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. And then, Whites Manufacturing changed everything by designing the Fusion - a stretchy , form fitting drysuit that feels like you're 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 differently.

Recently, I was sitting in Whites office raving like a lunatic about my Fusion and talking about all of the places I'd like to dive in it. Instead of slapping a restraining order on me, 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 cold water wrecks and reefs (wrecks 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 is diving in one. I jumped at the idea and started looking for destinations 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 merchant ships that were sunk by U-boats in 1942. Think of Bell Island as Truuk Lagoon with Icebergs!

For the hardcore big animal divers, on the days that we are not diving on Bell Island's 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. That pretty much sums it up except to say that we'll likely see lots of other stuff too like Cape fur seals, lots of pelagics, African penguins and a whole bunch of land based critters like lions and cheatahs because the trip also includes a big game drive. Click on the Pic for more info:

 

 

 

KICKING OFF THE 2012 EXPEDITION SEASON

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 and there's a very good chance we may see some at this time of year. If we nail the shots there will be one more shark listed on Elasmodiver.com and many new pics of old favorites like schooling hammerheads, silkies and Galapagos sharks.

I'll post a trip report as soon as we get back to land so keep an eye on this blog page and on Elasmodiver's Facebook Page for updates.

 

CONSIDER THIS 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 sharks, night sharks and Atlantic Angelsharks or 'sand devils'.

If you know where or how 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 protected.

 

First live images of a scoophead shark. Shot in Panama in 2011. Only on Elasmodiver!

 

For the oceans,

Andy Murch

 


 

READ THE 2011 SHARK BLOGS

 

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