June 29, 2007
This is my last journal entry for the month of June (Man, where does the time go?). As we head into July the beginning of our reader trip season starts. Which means more chaos for me, as I try to get myself ready, our readers informed of everything they need, and of course printing and mailing out the next issue before I leave. So this weekend I will finish up issue 15, and get it off to the printers on Monday (or Tuesday?), then I will make sure I have everything I need for the trip; plane tickets, film permits, gear and such. Then I am off to Isla de Holbox, Mexico for whale sharks!
When I get back, I am home for 10 days then I am off again to California for mako sharks. When we get back from that; me, Rusty, Steve, and Raf are heading out to a secret spot in Mexico to film some more shark action, and hopefully a new species. (yes, we are going Steve!). It is in a remote area where we are going to rough it, sleeping in tents, and cooking by campfire. It should not be too bad, as long as the wind ain't howling. The real challenge will be how to keep the beer cold for those 3 or 4 days. After that, it is porbeagle sharks in Canada, and cold ass water. Why do I do these things to myself? We will be coming from 80 degree water, with 100' vis in the Gulf of Mexico, to cold, murky, 38 degree water in Canada. If we get porbeagles it will be worth the pain we endure, along with the glory of another 'First Descent.'
Today Rusty and Steve (our film editors, and directors of photography) came by the office to drop off the final cut of the episode 3 disc. While they were here we talked about the project, the and the upcoming show, and the number of sharks we have filmed up to this point. I could not help but get all pumped up and excited about what we are doing and how far we have come. Our mag slogan is Livin the Dream! And I really am living a dream. My hope is that everyone we touch will too.
Have a good weekend, see you Monday!
June 28, 2007
Yesterday was a crazy ass long day. I did not get a chance to update my journal. So sorry about that. I spent the morning, and afternoon working on our upcoming reader shark trips. Before I knew it, the day was gone. That is how I know that the trips are almost here. I start getting super busy and I lose all track of time. I am less than 3 weeks away from our first adventure. Whale sharks in Holbox, Mexico. I am looking forward to going back there, and diving with the giants again. I got an email today from a friend of mine who lives on the island, a local shark fisherman, turned pro shark advocate. He loves sharks, and regrets his days fishing them for a living. Anyway, he emailed me to let me know that the sharks were already there, and each day, the number of sharks being sighted is increasing. You got to love that.
I also got an email from my buddy shark photog, Walter Heim. He was letting me know about his mako shark action this past week. After 5 long hours of chumming and only a blue shark hanging around, he had six makos visit the boat. 6 makos! I love that shit. California, here I come!
Of course I may not have to wait that long for mako shark action. I might be heading back out to the Gulf within the next few days to try out an old, new spot. I want to see if we can get makos to come in. This spot is where we found makos late last year, and it is the same area where all the fishermen are seeing the sharks this year.
Last night, I fell deeply in love with my job as a story teller, and your editor again. I was laying out one of the final stories for the new issue, and I got fired up. What gets me excited is knowing that if I can look at the layout, after reading and knowing what the story is about, and get excited, then I know you all will be pumped up as well. We have a Hollywood story in this issue. Yes that's right, SDM is getting some attention from the big 'H' now. Roll out the red carpet!
Well, enough dreaming, and fluffing the mag - back to reality, it just all sounded good to say. But the truth is our mag really is a good looking publication with plenty of great images, and cool stories. And for 15, we have so much packed into this issue, that I decided to shelve an article that I have featured since issue # 1. Our 'Behind the Scenes' feature got booted! That's right, issue 15 will not have BTS in it. I know, I know, how could we not have BTS in there? But trust me there is so much good shit in the mag, you won't miss it ... the new issue is going to kick ass!
June 26, 2007
I spent yesterday morning at a youth detention center (a boot camp facility), talking to the kids who were about to be sent back home. I was invited to talk to them and show them something different, or more to the point someone different. They were all between the ages of 14-17 years old. I admit, I was a bit nervous going in, because I did not know what to expect from them. Before I went in there, I had this negative mental stereo typical picture of what it was going to be like. But I was so wrong. These were all good kids who lost their way, or really do not know any other way to live - the life they live is all they know.
I spent 2 hours talking to the kids, answering questions, and when I left, many of them wanted to try shark diving, I felt like I reached them. Now lets see what they do with the new info and images that has filled their minds. I offered to go back and continue talking to more kids, so we will plan something out in the next couple of weeks.
I reviewed the footage from Saturday, and I am happy with what I shot. I wish the sharks would of hung around longer, and that we had bright sunny skies, but I have to make due with what I got. The great thing was the vis was really good. We should of gone back out on Sunday, but the weather was supposed to be for shit. It turned out to be a nice day out there...Go figure.
June 25, 2007
Well the bouy reports were wrong... very wrong. The reports said we were supposed to have between 1-2 foot swells, but when we got out there we had 3-5 foot swells, with huge overcast skys, and a puking crew (well me and Rusty puked). It rained the entire time we were out there, along with howling winds. We had this huge angry cloud over us, and Captain Ashley asked a buddy of his who was in a deep sea fishing vessel what the radar was saying. He said, well the cloud is about 16 miles wide, and we are about in the center of it, and it looks like it has stalled.
So that is how we spent our Saturday, stuck in the mud.
Ok now, the highs of the trip. We began chumming in this pass, on top of a seamount of some kind, around 20 miles out. As far as I know, no one has ever dove these waters, or chummed these waters to dive. So this was an area that if we got sharks, it would be a First Descent for sure. We dropped our bait crate, loaded up the chum churn with oily minnows, dropped in the mako magnet, and threw out the hang baits. We brought all the weapons, so if there were sharks out there, we were going to find them.
We dropped in to do a little investigating, because there was a lot of game fish hanging around, some cobia, and a huge school of reds. The first sharks that showed up were Atlantic sharpnose sharks. But the were hanging out below and refused to come up. Even though we were topwater diving (snorkeling), which is the best way to interact with skiddish sharks, they are extremely shy sharks and no amount of food enticed them to rise to the surface. So we decided to climb back on the boat, to give any shy sharks a chance to gain some confidence and come up to check out our hang baits.
About an hour into the chum session, a big shark came in and slammed into our hang baits. The float bouys were pulled under. I was already geared up, so I jumped in, within a few seconds of the first hit to investigate. Steve (our topside cameraman) handed me my camera, I pushed record, and I made a mad dash for the end of the line which was about 70 feet away from the boat. At the end of the line was an 8 foot scalloped hammerhead shark. I stuck my head out of the water and yelled "hammer." Paul was gearing up, trying hard to get in there quick. I was already filming the shark, totally pumped up. The shark was swimming around eratically, very bothered with me being there, but the shark hung around, trying hard to get the rest of the hang baits we had set out for him.
I was on fire. This kind of adventure is the shit I live for. This is the stuff I write about, and dream about, day in and day out. So to be out there, even in the crappy weather conditions, swimming around within a few feet of a scalloped hammerhead, in my backyard, was beyond amazing. Scalloped hammerheads are very shy sharks, and people travel to some of the sharkiest places in the world to dive with them - Cocos, Galapagos, Malpelo. These sharks often school in huge numbers, sometimes in the hundreds. But on scuba you really can't get close to them, because again, they are very skiddish. So to get close to these sharks, people often invest in very expensive rebreather equipment to get an opportunity to get close to these sharks. And here we were, within a few feet of one of these sharks with just a snorkel... You got to love that.
The shark hung around for maybe 20 minutes or so, before it buggered off. So we came back up and within 30 minutes another slam on our hang baits, this time a 5 foot blacktip shark hit the bait. This shark was a player and hung around for almost an hour before it finally left. Paul got photos of these sharks, but the overcast skys made it hard for him to shoot, so the images are a bit dark and grainy. But he was there, chasing sharks in a new spot, on a 'First Descent'. And in this day and age, any time you have an opportunity to be the first at something, it really is amazing. A couple of smaller scalloped hammers showed up, but they did not want to play. Everytime we jumped in, they took off. So we just left them alone.
Around one o'clock, the weather was getting worse, so we decided to call it a day. The reality of what we had just done, really has not set in yet. I know it is a piece of History, maybe just my own, but who cares. It was an unforgettable day, knowing we did something that no one had ever done before... unforgettable.
June 22, 2007
Last night I laid out the tribute to Jimmy Hall for issue 15. Man, I am worried about it. Because I really want to do justice to the man. He will go down in the history books as a legend of the sport. I just hope his family likes the layout, I really do. I am sending it out for approval. I normally don't do that but, this is just too important to just lay it out, then print it. I need their blessing.
I got an email from Captain Ashley today. It read; "Eli, I'm trying to get a hold of you. Saturday is looking outstanding! One of my offshore contacts saw many, many sharks today near a wreck about 17 miles from the jetties. The clarity is awesome right now. The seas are forcasted to be very nice...."
Naturally my curiousity was peaked, so I called him. He got me all fired up for Saturday. A fishing buddy of his went out yesterday, and everything they were bringing in was getting snagged away by sharks. They ended up hooking , by accident, a bull shark, a couple of spinners, and some Atlantic sharp nose sharks. He also said the visibility out there was amazing, something like 40 to 50 feet from the surface. Blue ass water, and plenty of sharks out there. I am stoked.
The fishing captain has also been saving all his left over fish heads, and carcasses. So Saturday we will be loaded up with plenty of fish. I hope it gets radical. I need some new shark stories to tell you all... I told our staff photog, Paul Spielvogel that it was on this morning. So naturally he did what any responsible Shark Diver would do. He dropped everything, snuck out his office window, and is packing his shit and catching the next flight down to my town. He will call his wife on the way to let her know what is happening, and why he can't make it to his son's wedding tonight.(kidding, his son is not getting married). I pick him up from the airport at 7:30 tonite.
I have already begun preparations;
- My cameras are getting charged
- the bait crates have been pulled out
-The dive gear is packed and ready
- hang lines, and bouy floats for the hang baits are ready to go
- The chum churn is dusted off and packed
- the mako magnet is on stand by
Possible shark species; Tigers, bulls, makos, blacktips, spinners, and Atlantic Sharpnose
My blog for Monday will be written on Sunday night so I can post it along with any photos by 9 AM Monday morning... see you then!
June 21, 2007
I just saw the ready to broadcast episode 3, and it came out awesome. The music was so damn good, and the story was really fun. My favorite of the 3 so far. Of course that is the idea, make each episode better than the last episode. To keep you all wanting more. The Cajun music was really great, my hats off to Steve, he did an amazing job with it.
So far the weekend mako trip is a go. Ocean reports are saying we will have 1-2 foot swells. So all signs point to us getting out there for a day of diving. I am stoked. I have already been reading the charts trying to find a good spot to chum. It looks like we may have a place to chum about 10 miles off shore. Which is a nice little fishing spot. Steve has already put in a call to his Uncle to find out the GPS location of where he had those 3 makos show up. I know the makos are migratory, but if we can find the spot, it would be a great place to start. We will be filming this for the series of course. No sense in wasting an opportunity to film sharks.
I just talked to my buddies up in Florida, the Jon-Jons. Big Jon sent me a video clip of a spearfishing session they had. A sandbar shark was swimming around. That gets me fired up, I have not filmed sandbar sharks yet. Another species! I need to get to Florida soon, but, I have to finish issue 15 first, I need to go to print. Behind schedule again. Looks like more all nighters. Those damn deadlines.
Oh yea, our 2008 Mako trip schedule is up, 2 dates next season!
June 20, 2007
I spoke with Captain Ashley this morning. And right now we have a tentative date for Saturday morning to go chumming for mako and blacktip sharks in the Gulf of Mexico. Finally, I am close to going out and getting some sharks. The Captain will be getting our hang baits for us, so I don't have to go a day early and hang around the docks, waiting for the fishermen to come in.
The beauty of this style of shark diving is, we are recycling. The fish carcasses that would normally get thrown into the trash, are getting thrown back out into to the sea, to get eaten. Which is a good thing. Sharks eat, we get photos, and their is no wasted fish to throw out.
I don't know if we will have an unreal day at sea like my buddy Steve's uncle, where he had 3 makos at his boat, but I would be happy with one shark. If I get 2 makos, then I know things will get out of hand and things will get real scary. But I need a day where sharks will test my mettle and push me. Makos are the only sharks that I know will do that; rattle a person mentally. They are just so aggressive and gnarly, and in your face... Man I hope we find makos.
June 19, 2007
I spent yesterday afternoon with Rusty and Steve, editing episode 3, and I think we have achieved final cut. I gave them the go ahead to start adding the music mix to it. Some of the music was already in the show, so I got a feel for what it is going to sound like. Steve is a talented musician, so all the music is original score, so our series has its own sound. It was great, I am watching the show, and listening to some of the music and it felt so damn good knowing that when people watch the series they are going to recognize the sound of our show, It was fun.
I was being very picky with this episode as well. I wanted to make sure the story was told just right. Because it was such a powerful part of our adventure. It takes place in Louisiana, and there was so much drama surrounding us at the time. The crew, the insane shark action, the location was unreal. It was just an amazing time for us. I also wanted a Cajun beat for the episode, to get everyone in the right mood.
So after the wrap up of episode 3, we start episode 4, and our St Maarten adventure. And the stories and subject matter are getting more unreal, and more insane. So by September we will have some great episodes for everyone to download and watch.
While we were there talking about the show, we began discussing the next leg of the adventure, and our Canadian expedition for greenland, and porbeagle sharks. I need to get dry suit training. I have a dry suit from our Whites sponsor, but I have never used it. Well I used the summer suit they offer, but I floated upside down, twice. Of course I only used it twice. So for this next adventure, I can't afford any mistakes or screw ups. We get one chance to capture some greeland shark footage (its a natural encounter) and if we find a porbeagle, I need to make sure we are ready for the adventure, and an insane swim.
Steve told me that his uncle was out fishing in the Gulf of Mexico and had 3 makos swim up to his boat - 3! I need to get out there and find some sharks. I am bouncing off the walls. I am calling Captain Ashley today to set up a chumming charter. The weather is good, and the makos are calling. If I get my wish, I will be heading out there within the next few days... I'll keep you posted.
June 18, 2007
Damn, where does the time go? It is already June 18th. I can't believe it! I am way behind schedule for everything damn it. But that is ok, I know what I have to do to get myself back on schedule. My mag needs some attention as print day is inching towards me an a very fast rate. Preparations need to be made for Holbox, and my whale shark expedition. Reservations have already been made, but I need to fly up to Houston to get my filming permits. While I am there I also will take some dry suit classes with my friends from Kickady Scuba for our greenland and porbeagle dives that are coming up in late August and September.
I also need to head over to Rusty's today to finalize the recuts for episode 3, and pickup some tapes from episode 4. I begin going through the shark footage, picking out the best clips. I am hoping to have the shows ready for download by September 1st of this year for you all. At least thats the plan.
I am also getting the trip schedule ready for 2008. I already have our sandtiger shark trip planned. Which is going to be an amazing shark trip. I am trying to get the ok, for a night dive while we are there. Night diving with sand tiger sharks, talk about gnarly. On the trip, we will be combining all our sharkin' skills. Hopefully we will be able to chum while we are there. North Carolina has so much shark potential, and I want to tap into it, just to see what we can bring in. Who knows, we may find nothing, but then again, we may have an epic shark session. When your dealing with the ocean, sharks, and some salty Shark Divers... You just never know!
June 13, 2007
I love maps! Especially offshore fishing maps. I love getting a new map and seeking out new places to search for sharks. I think sometimes that the hunt for sharks is far more exciting than the actual dive. I'll give you an example; when me and our staff photog, Andy Murch were in California seeking out Pacific angel sharks, the search for them was the real adventure, and finding the sharks was the icing on the cake, a total golden moment.
When we got to the location, we had to walk down a narrow, steep hill towards the beach, which was about half a mile. Sounds simple enough, but we were also carrying, 150 pounds each worth of cameras, scuba tanks, weights, while wearing thick ass 7 mil wetsuits, on an 80 degree day. When we finally got all our gear down, we then had to walk into pounding surf, which was kicking my ass, because of all the gear. While getting pounded, I was also trying to slip my fins on, without losing my camera. or the boys I was with. We then had to swim on the surface for another half a mile, above the thick kelp beds, before we could find an ok spot to drop in. Pacific angel sharks are rare these days due to over fishing, so the reality of finding one was not favorable. But our guide was positive that an angel shark could be found.
When we finally were able to drop in, the water temp was 58 degrees, and the visibility was the clarity of milk. So we had to swim single file through a dense kelp forest, keeping each other in sight at all times. I could barely see Andy's fins, which were only 6 inches away from my face. Like I said it was the clarity of milk. I forgot to mention, we were in Ventura County, which is white shark country. So that was another worry on our mind. When our guide finally found the angel shark, the encounter lasted maybe 1-2 minutes, maybe the encounter was that long. But that encounter was hands down one of the most exciting shark dives I have ever experienced.
So as I sit here pouring over this map trying to find our next exploratory shark dive, and I think about all the well established places, where there are garanteed sharks; why would I even bother going some place new. The gold at the end of the rainbow is why. Of course I know that all my stories won't have happy endings, in fact happy endings are rare, which is why we all love them so much. But I can't help but remember my one happy ending, and that one magical day, far off the beaten path, ending with that amazing encounter. All I can do is smile, take my pencil, and scribble some notes, charting out the next adventure into a new area that has never seen Shark Divers before... Planning, hoping, always searching for that next golden moment!
June 12, 2007
I confirmed my dates for Holbox Island, Mexico. I will be leaving for Mexico on July the 14th. I was contracted to shoot for a Cali Production company that is filming a documentary about whale sharks. So from the 15th-17th I will be helping them out, shooting both topside and underwater. the thrill for me is we get to spend a day in a spotter plane, following the whale sharks migratory routes, which is an amazing opportunity, to see all those sharks from the air. I am thrilled to witness it. We will do that on the 15th. The 16th, and 17th, I will spend with the Domino research team seeking out sharks. So I will spend two full days filming their tagging and research efforts out there, for both topside and underwater.
Then on the 18th, I will pick up our readers and spend the next 4 days hanging out with them, chasing whale sharks. My goal this year is to finally film a breaching manta ray. The mantas always breach in twos out there, but I still have not had my camera ready when it happens. I keep missing my opportunities... This is my year though!
June 11, 2007
I am planning an exploratory trip out to the Camels Head
, out in the Gulf of Mexico. I have heard stories about it being a very sharky place, but I have never had the opportunity to visit it. Well I have decided to add it to the list of places that needs exploring this year. I have heard reports of scalloped hammerhead sharks being out at this seamount, and I think that with some time and a good amount of chum, I will find out if the stories are true.
The Gulf of Mexico is in my back yard, and a sharky place like Camels Head, sixty some Nautical miles out at sea sounds like a hell of an exciting adventure, and I am way over due for something wild and amazing to happen this year. I'll keep you posted.
I also talked to my printer today, we are scheduled to go to print at the end of the month. Issue 15. Damn, I can't believe we are already 15 issues into this adventure. Talk about an evolutionary process. Anyone who has read our first issue, compared to what we are doing today can see the morphing stage. Its been a great morph, and we have stuck to our original mission statement, so the stories and ideas, and mag goals have remaind the same. Which I am very proud of... For Shark Divers, by Shark Divers.
I am going out this week to film some file footage of dinosaur tracks. There is a place out near Frio River, Texas where dinosaurs once roamed. What does that have to do with sharks, and our show? It's file footage for an upcoming episode we will be shooting about Megaladon sharks, and the hunt for fossil teeth. Black water diving in Cooper River. I have always wanted to go treasure hunting for teeth, and the idea of diving in black muddy water, that is reputed for snakes, bull sharks, and alligators is a scary ass idea, but way too cool to pass up.
June 8, 2007
Geez, talk about a long week. It's already Friday and this is the first real opportunity I have had to write in my journal. The schedule that I have put together to help me organize my time, was no good to me this week. I was totally thrown off. All of it for good reasons, but damn, talk about feeling like your brain is melting. I know, I am talking in riddles; and the only time I talk like that is when I am talking about our show and TV networks. Again, I am forced to silence, until we get things in writing. So when we do, you all will be the first to know.
I got the approval yesterday from Jimmy Hall's, girlfriend, Stefanie to write a goodbye tribute to Jimmy in the next issue. They sent me the images from the ceremony, talk about beautiful and breathtaking images. You all will know, first hand how many people Jimmy has touched in his life. Amazing! Jimmy is another guy that you just will never 'one-up' in life. He truly was, larger than life.
I can't spend too much time writing up my blog today, I have another library presentation today. Today, I get to talk to kids about sharks. Another opportunity to spread the word. What is great about these presentations, is the parents are also there listening, so they also learn something important about sharks. You know when I write in our magazine, it is always about the adventures with sharks, but during the presentation it is always about the importance of sharks. So it is great, today 100 plus kids will learn why we have sharks in our oceans.
I have been thinking about putting something online for people to down load and print, so that if they want to give presentations about sharks to kids, this will help them put together a 30 - 45 minute presentation. So if any of you who are reading this want something like that, let me know and I will do my best to get it up fast.
June 5, 2007
I was working on a Conservation piece last night for the new issue "Reflections of a would-be Shark Biologist" and I was excited. Normally I am not super enthused about the Conservation pieces, because I know most people peruse the article, then pass on by to get to the adventure articles. (It's sad but true) The fact is, conservation stories are not very exciting, which is why we briefly bring up the conservation efforts in our mag. We touch on it in the articles that are written, and we endorse their efforts whole heartedly, but we never really focus on it, because our readers love the adventure stories. No one wants to admit that conservation articles are boring - But it's a truth that needs to be told.
So I am working really hard on making our conservation pieces look cool, and the articles interesting. Because at the end of the day, the whole point of all this is to do our part to help save sharks. Thats what I started out wanting to do, tell fun exciting adventure stories, and spread the message to help save the sharks we all love and enjoy. So in issue 15, the article is coming along nicely, and looking really good. I am using plenty of interesting images for it. Some from Shark Research Institute, some by Andy Murch, some by the Guy Harvey Institute, and a couple by me (damn, those images are amazing!) My hope is at the end, a kick ass layout will entice our readers to read through the whole article... and hope is always a good thing!
June 4, 2007
The new week begins, and I feel good. Maybe it's because I finally get to go Shark Diving. Or maybe it's because the new issue is almost done, or maybe it's because episode 3 is almost done from our TV series. I don't know. I won't fight it, just roll with it. I hope this means my week will be a good one.
I started out the morning really good, I talked to my good friend Bobby Purifouy of the Olympus Dive Center. Bobby runs one of the only natural predatory shark charters in the world. They specialize in wreck dives, as the waters of the Atlantic are filled with historical wrecks. They offer dives out to these spots. The magic of the place to me is not wrecks but the life on them. They are super sharky locations. Sandtigers call these wrecks home, and a very healthy population of these sharks gathers here year round. He returned my call as they were weathered out today and he had the afternoon off.
I had called him to try and see if we could put together a late season shark dive. He said no problem, just to give him the dates and he would see if we can get something done. It's always a good time everytime we are out there, I just hope we can get the schedules to work.
I also talked to staff photog, Paul Spielvogel, this morning about the upcoming mako shark trip. He wanted to make sure that we were planning out a few extra days, out there to dive with leopard sharks at La Jolla shores. I told him that was a must. There was no way I would go without a few days romping around with them. Plus I want another opportunity to seek out gray smoothhound sharks. I know they are there also, but I missed my opportunity last year to see them.
The day begins...
June 1, 2007
A new month! Which means the administration month is officially over. Well sort of, I thought all the paper work would be done and finished, but it is not. The good news is I am in our official-unofficial dive month. I get to go diving this month, somewhere, hell anywhere. As long as there is sharks. No sharks and I might as well stay home and get more paperwork done. I just don't understand scuba diving just for the sake of scuba diving. Some people love it. I just can't get into it. I understand people need or want to go diving just for the sake of it, I just can't stand it. I would rather sit at the bar and get hammered than be out on a boat to look at pretty reef gardens and sea monkeys.
I remember being on a shark dive in Fiji, and my good friend, the legendary Gary Adkison told me while we were out there, to take the time to see the reef while we were diving. I said sure; you know, just to be agreeable. I never did it. I mean why would anyone stop to smell the roses when you have eight species of sharks all in your face? Why? Whats the f-ing point? I don't know, I guess I should be more understanding, and agreeable, towards scuba divers, I mean they are out there doing something, even if it's just diving, the point is they are out there and that is what really matters. It's better than watching TV, or washing dishes. You have to admire them for that... don't you?
Sorry for the rant, I have sharks on the brain!
Have a great weekend everyone... JUNE IS HERE!