Bahamas Tiger Shark Dive Expedition 2012
T is for Tiger
This year's shark expedition was very successful; we were blessed with beautiful weather, a multitude of sharks, and great group of international shark enthusiasts from Canada, Japan, New Zealand, UK, and USA.
We departed the dock at Riviera Beach Marina on the Dolphin Dream for an over night voyage to the Bahamas. Waking up the next morning at West End of Grand Bahamas Island, we cleared Bahamian customs in timely fashion. While accomplishing this, our group started setting up their scuba gear and assembling and double-checking their camera equipment.
Excitement was building by midmorning as we cruised up to Tiger Beach. The mourning line was attached and the chumming began. Over 1,200 lbs (544 kg) of frozen chum were brought on our expedition and the crew started filling it into the bait crates and pumping the chum slick ( fish stew) out the starboard stern of the boat. Within no time Lemon sharks started amassing off the boat's stern. Our lunch was more delicious that that of the sharks. I think the plan was to fatten up the expedition participants for the sharks. Our group donned their scuba equipment, grabbed their underwater cameras and quietly slipped in to the water. Lemon sharks started coming in towards the underwater bait crates from all angles. Camera strobes started flashing as the shark action intensified. Bottom time was long since it was a very shallow dive. As group member's tanks ran low on air, they surfaced, got something to eat , refilled their tanks, and proceeded back in to the water where the shark action continued without pause. A tiger shark made an appearance, which made everyone heart beat a little faster: a sign of good times to come. Latter that night Dr. Chris Clark broke out the tiger shark flag reserved for our first tiger sighting and everyone to signed.
After a few days at Tiger Beach, we decided to pull anchor to try a new location: Fish Tails. This is 45 ft (14m) deep reef with a white sandy apron round it. This is where we encounter the speedy Caribbean Reef sharks. They are very streamline and beautiful to watch coming in fast with the Lemon sharks. Very soon the tiger sharks started to appear, one, two, then three and four at one time. Being next to a tiger shark can be a humbling experience, since they grow up to 18 ft (5.5m) and weight up to 1800 lbs (816 kg) or more. They are very graceful given their size and bulk and can glide smoothly by with little detectable movement. Also a very cautious shark, they approach a situation in stealth mode. When they feel comfortable with the current situation, they come in with a graceful force to let their presence known. The crew tried some hand feeding, that's when the frenzy began, Tiger, Lemon, Caribbean Reef and even one Nurse Shark started coming in fast and furious.
Topside action also had a frenzied nature to it; fish heads and other bits were thrown off the stern transom while multiple GoPro and Kodak Playsport cameras on poles caught the shark action. The GoPro video camera is an inexpensive way to rig a pole cam: better then risk one's expensive underwater housing system. Dr. Chris Clark tested out one of his homemade inventions "The Bite Cam ". The contraption was a 4 inch (101mm) of PVC pipe with a GoPro camera inside and stabilizer wing pulled by an attached rope with a bit of fish chum attached. Several times the bite cam had to be rescued when a shark took off with it.
Our evening was also very entertaining. Dr. Chris Clark gave us a very educational program on his quest to find the Greenland Shark (Somniosus microcephalus ) and photograph it. It was Dr. Clark's childhood quest to prove that the Greenland Shark does exist. It took him many years and a considerable amount of resources to prove and document its existence. Since his discovery, research continues today on this fascinating creature. Dr. Clark's partner in crime Dr. Patricia Pryor, a veterinarian animal behaviorist, gave us first hand insight on shark behavior. Some members of our group decided to do a night shark dive -a little spooky –but fun.
It was an incredible experience to be in the water with such beautiful and powerful creatures. It was a real pleasure to share this experience with the other members of the shark expedition. I will treasure this experience. A special thanks to Captain Scott and his crew for another a job well done.