SAN DIEGO, CA. AUGUST 6-9, 2007 - We will be running our reader trip mako shark dive. We will be spending the evenings talking shark at the local pub. So if you are in the area and want to meet and share a beer with some of your fellow readers and the SDM staff, shoot us an email and let us know you want to join...
SDM JOURNAL FOR...
July 31, 2007
The month is almost over. Damn the months' fly. I am prepping for LA, and our mako shark dive this August. I am fired up about it as well. When I first started seeking out new locations to dive with different species of sharks, makos were on my list. And we tried a dive for makos and blues with a company out of Long Beach. It was a terrible experience. The operator was really bad, and ran a really bad operation. Of course I found this out while we were out there. He would not let our divers in the water without one of his safety divers. Now normally I understand this, but I had guys who had way more experience with sharks, and big sharks, than his safety divers did. And on our trip with him, the only sharks we had in the water, were these little 3 foot blue sharks. It was terrible. We had a mako do a fly by, of course we were all on scuba so the mako did not stop... I was so naive back then.
I did a dive in 2006 with the ultimate Mako man, Walter Heim. Not only is he is really good at finding makos, he is also a great photographer. The key to his success, is patience, and time in the water. He has snapped some signature shots that pro photographers spend their lives dreaming about and hoping for. Walter has multiple shots like these.
Issue # 13, cover by Walter Heim
South Cal. is going to be an amazing time. Before we head out to makos, we will spend time seeking out the leopards again, and also soupfin sharks in the Kelp Beds of La Jolla Shores. There are also rumors of seven gill sharks out there!
I will keep you posted. Daily reports from California... keep checking back!
July 30, 2007
The day went by fast yesterday and we had to say goobye to the Aquarium. Paul left us early in the day. It was a tragic day at the Spielvogel family. Their oldest son Aaron has enlisted in the Navy, to become a SEAL of all things. Joining the service and becoming a Navy SEAL has been his life long dream. He was ready to enlist right out of high school. His parents said 'NO' They insisted on him going to college first. Then after he got his degree, he would be allowed to sign up. Out of respect for his parents, Aaron did as they asked and went to school. He graduated from Texas State this year, finishing in 3 years. On the day of his graduation, he walked into the recruiters office, grabbed a pen, and signed on the dotted line.
Aaron with the Aquarium staff, Behind the Scenes, during the shark feeding presentation.
Paul was hoping that Aaron would have gotten it out of his system, and gone on to a successful career somewhere, way out of harms way. Aaron has an adventurer's spirit, (he is his father's son, just a notch crazier), and nothing was going to change his mind. He is a good friend, and we have shared many an adventure together; chasing great whites, sandtigers, scalloped hammerheads, and whale sharks together, Drinking many a beer together also... Missing you already brother, good luck out there! Charge HARD.
Quick note, the photos were added to yesterdays blog!
July 28, 2007
Today we spent the day at Landrys Aquarium, I had been talking back and forth to Rob Brown the Aquarium's general manager about us being out there for a Shark Week promo.
With Rob Brown, discussing the agenda
We were scheduled to do some talks while we were here. The best part about being out here was meeting up with some of our readers. I had been posting us coming out here in my blog for readers to stop in to say hi, and a few of them did, so that really made my day.
SDM readers stopping in to say hi. Thanks guys, you all are the reason we continue to do this year after year!
We had a full SDM crew today, Raf was there, Paul, Rusty and Steve... all da' boys were out there.
The Rolling Stones, our film crew, Steve and Rusty...
Raf, my u/w cameraman, business partner and friend, and our staff photog, Paul Spielvogel, and me.
Andy was the only one not there. He just got back from Australia, to his home in Canada shooting a bunch of new shots of the bottom dwelling sharks, and one albino sandtiger shark... pretty interesting. We will run into him in San Diego for makos next week.
Incredible image of an Ornate wobbegong shark. Agian showing why Andy is one of the greats...
This was Landry's first attempt to try something like this, coordinating a shark themed weekend, so some of the smoothness of it still needs to be worked out, but we began talks with them about going out there and offering talks on a quarterly basis. So we will see how that goes. Today was a record Saturday for them, so they are all pumped up about doing something else together.
It really is a nice Aquarium, the place is sharky as hell. The big restaurant has a huge aquarium in the middle of it, with plenty of fish, and more importantly, a very cool sawfish.
An observation worth commenting on
It is funny, tonite I went to the hotel bar and ordered up a beer. While I was there I listened in on a couple of guys talking next to me. They were discussing, at length, cell phones. The long winded conversation was about service, and the razor phone and signal strength, and blah, blah, ba-f-ing, blah. I thought to myself, shit these guys need a good hobby. Some of you may say, maybe that their hobby, cell phones. And you now what for some, that's ok... I guess. But honestly if cell phones are your hobby, damn brother, you need to step it up in life and do something. I am not saying it has to be shark diving, but something that will enrichen your soul to your very core. You can't tell me that cell phone signal strength does that?
Now, maybe if they were discussing cell phone signal strength because one of the guys was up in the arctic circle, and he was trying to call his wife or office and it was a bad connection. I would think that the conversation was super interesting, and these were people that I would want to party with. They weren't talking about being up in the arctic, they were just discussing cross town cell signals... these were boring ass people.
A message to the world; step up, and charge damn it! This life your living is all you have... Live it well.
Just a few more hours before we leave for Houston and the show this weekend. Just a last minute reminder to all you Houston folks out there. We will be at Landry's Aquarium shaking hands, passing out magazines, they have a couple of Q&A sessions set up for me and the public, sort of a, what it's like to be a pro Shark Diver kind of thing. I always know what those first few questions are based on, 'Have you ever been bitten?' It is good I guess, because the public has been fed so much miss information about sharks, this is an opportunity for them to learn the truth from first hand experiences.
I got some pics via email today. While I was out at Holbox this year I ran into a few of our subscribers. Paul, Bill, John, Craig, and Chris... It was so good to see you all out there, Livin' the Dream!
Staff photog, Paul Spielvogel, Craig & Chris Hebel, Eli - Classic Hebel pose, Holbox, Mexico 07'
Craig learned something about Holbox that he wished he had not learned, other than the Holbox hangover. The real reason the locals had named this island, Isla de Tiburones', or Shark Island.
Local shark fisherman bringing in the days catch. One very young tiger shark
This was a dark reality we learned last year. Holbox Island was once a shark fisherman's paradise. Everyone on the island used to fish for sharks. In the 50's and 60's, they would sell the shark oil, in the 70's, it was their skin and oil, the vendors were after, in the mid 80's and above, it was the fins. Now the vendors want the entire shark. The 'coyote', that is the name of the guy who purchases sharks on the island. He takes the sharks and the sharks ultimately end up getting cut up and sold to different countries in Florida. Nice! Of course the islanders are not fishing for sharks anymore. They decimated the entire population of local and migratory sharks, to the point that the island can only sustain 3 to 4 shark fishermen now.
I will be bringing you all a Saturday report from Houston... See you then!
July 26, 2007
The prep work continues. This time it is for this weekend and Landry's Aquarium. I leave tomorrow to Houston, which is about a 6 hour drive. I would normally fly, but we are taking the shark bus up with us. The shark bus is the RV we used when we were out filming our Chasing Sharks series.
Da' boys Andy, Paul, Eli, Rusty, Raf -The Motley Crew in front of the Shark Bus
So Rob, the general manager at Landry's wants us to have it there for everyone to see. It is a big Shark Weekend there at the Aquarium, so that is cool. This weekend will be my pro speaking debut. I have been speaking at schools and Libraries for the past 4 years now, with sometimes up to 100 kids, and I have refined and gotten better at public speaking and keeping little kids entertained. But the talks at Landry's Aquarium will be my first experience on a podium, with a mic, and lots of people, so here we go. I will do fine, I have been doing it a long time, but it still can be nerve racking.
I make my pro debut as a cameraman this weekend also. A production company out of the UK, Brooks Lapping, contacted me, asking for footage of sharks for a documentary they were making. I sent them some of my mako stuff and they ended up purchasing a few seconds worth of footage. It turned out that the show is one of the episodes that will be featured in Discovery's Shark Week this year. I thought that was pretty cool. It may not be a full episode on us, but hey, Baby Steps.
We just signed on with an Agent who is going to help us market our show and our mag, Micah Johnson is our new rep. Which is great, it helps me concentrate on what I am good at, which is ?????????? Damn, I had it in my head a minute ago... I'll get back to you.
Hope to see you in Houston this weekend!
July 25, 2007
The day begins with a typical mad rush of things I need to do. Today's priority is mailing mags and merchandise. I also have a lot of merchandise and caps that needs to be sent over to the print shop. Damn so much work to do.
Moment to Remember;
Hey I just remembered something. Did you all read the New York best seller, 'The Devil's Teeth' ? The book is all about the white sharks of the Farallon Islands, off of the San Fransisco coast. Well the reason I bring that up is our mag is mentioned in the book. Thats right, SDM is mentioned in a New York Times, best seller. I thought I would mention it because I looked up and saw it there on my book shelf. We are mentioned in it with my buddy Lawrence Groth, the writer mentions that he is advertising in places like Shark Diver magazine... pg 54. Ok my moments gone.
So the prep work for makos has already begun, my buddy, THEE mako man, Walter Heim has helped me find the chum and hang baits for our trip, so that will help me out a lot during my time in Cali. Walter has turned finding mako sharks in San Diego waters into an art form. Attracting multiple sharks to his boat. Plus he is already seeing signs of larger sharks returning to these waters. Makos baby!
Me, Walter Heim, and staff photog, Andy Murch. Walter's boat behind us...I love that boat!
I got a call from Captain Ashley yesterday. The shrimp boats are running again, and he has been getting reports from the fishermen that the sharks are becoming a pain in the ass, which translates to the sharks are thick out there. It makes me sick that I can't get out there right now... I just don't have the time right now.
July 24, 2007
Airports are highways to the world. I left Holbox Island, Mexico yesterday and arrived back in Mcallen, Texas to my waiting family. Home never felt so good. The trip was a huge success. I have been out to Holbox 3 times and everytime I have been out there, it has been different and special in its own way. This year the shark action was amazing, and the crew and group that I experienced it with made it that much more exciting. It was such a great trip, I am happy to be home, but I am missing it already.
So now that I am home, the work begins. The mags did not arrive, there were some printing issues while I was gone, which I have to work out now. So sorry about that everyone. I am hoping to have it resolved today and have the mags before I leave for LA.
I need to call Rusty and see where we are at with the 5 minute video we are cutting together for Landry's Aquarium in Houston for this weekend. FYI, a reminder to everyone, we will be at Landry's Houston Aquarium this weekend. They are promoting Shark Week, and we will be there as sort of a sharky addition to their weekend show. I will be giving shark presentations to the kids while I am there, I think they have 6 different presentations scheduled. So I am excited about it. A room full of kids to speak to.
It gets wild. I did a presentation to a room full of about 100 kids once. It was interesting, I was not able to finish the talk, the kids just went wild with questions. I am hoping for a room full of inquisitive kids there also.
I am also getting ready for our mako shark trip. I am excited, over the past two years we have been refining our chumming techniques. I know it all boils down to luck and sharks, but some skill is very important. My good friend Walter Heim emailed me with the results of his last chumming session, here is what he had to say;
"I did a drift yesterday and had 6 makos to the boat. Conditions were great; clean water and 71 F. I tagged all of them. One was 6 foot long and aggressive. Be careful with your readers as that shark could easily bite someone. The larger fish should be for very experienced shark divers with a significant object between them and the shark (not a small camera outfit). "
Now how can you not get all fired up and excited over an email like that? I am less than two weeks away from our first chumming session with the makos and it is going to be awesome. I will be hooking up with Walter when I get to San Diego. It is always good to visit with your friends. And hey if your from the San Diego area and want to stop by the pub and drink a beer with us, drop me an email and let me know. Shark friends are always welcome... hope to see you all there!
July 22, 2007
Last day in Holbox... Today was a total repeat of yesterday. We woke up to a flat calm glassy sea. The clouds were reflecting off the ocean surface. It was amazing. The sharks today however would prove to be a bit challenging. They were not feeding on the surface today, they were hanging around just below the surface, my guess is they ate themselves silly yesterday, and are today taking a siesta. Yup, that is my scientific interpretation.
We ran into our first shark right when we got there, a very young shark. It was not more than 15 feet long. The shark was moving at a clip and the interaction ended just as fast. It dropped down, so we decided to move on. The second shark we found was a big shark, but it too was swimming at a clip. The rest of the sharks we encountered were just as hard to keep up. And we ended up finding no players to interact with. We did find around 10 different sharks though, and swam with most of them for a little while.
Our ray lovers were still on the look out for manta rays. They really wanted one. Sandy had been asking our captains about rays everyday, and so far the manta we saw on the first day was the only one we had seen so far. So this being our last day, she wanted to see one. As luck would have it, we saw what looked like a whale shark's tail sticking out of the water. It turned out to be the wingtip of a 15 foot manta ray. It was a monster. We kept trying to get in the water with it, but it kept dropping down into the murk. So we were only able to interact with it from the surface.
We kept trying though, but the ray did not tolerate us at all. Finally we quit trying to get in the water, and just watched it from the surface. The ray got about 50 yards in front of us, when bang, it breached! Sandy saw it first and she screamed with excitement. We all looked up and then bang it breached again. It was beautiful watching this monster explode out of the water. Then the manta, swam towards the boat swimming directly underneath it, upside down exposing its belly. As if to say, 'there you go guys, hope you enjoyed the show.'
All of us were thrilled to death. The day and this trip could not of ended any better. This was one of the most amazing times I have ever had in Holbox, and all those moments, this mother of an adventure, and those smiles on their faces will forever be in my memories...thanks guys for sharing it with me
Aaron Spielvogel -after his first whale shark encounter
Jeff and Sandy, our ray lovers. Sandy quote "where is the shark?" we yell, put your head in the water... "SHIT!"
Doug and Jennifer, our crazy Cajuns
Princess Daphne, "can you get the whale sharks to swim to me?"
Staff photog, Paul Spielvogel at work!
Charles Dyer, a seriously sharky guy, Ningaloo, Cocos, Galapagos... to name a few
HOLBOX JULY 18-23, 2007
Livin' the Dream!
July 21, 2007
We have dubbed this place 'Whale Shark Lake.' One of our guests Sandy came up with name. We woke up to a calm still morning and a glassy ocean.
These are the days you dream about when you plan trips like these. And well, we got the dream. We hit the whale shark grounds and it did not take long to find our first whale shark. They were all feeding at the surface, and with a calm glassy ocean we could spot them easily.
The first few sharks were really hard to keep up with because they were cruising along at a clip, feeding off the surface plankton. So those interactions were brief, but as the day wore on, some of the sharks were moving slow enough for the interactions to last a good while. There were a lot of sharks today and the count tally was somewhere between 16-20 different sharks seen from the boat, and seven sharks in the water.
Paul's camera was working fine and we were on a mission. A writer out of LA who is doing a story on us asked me to take a picture next to a whale shark. So it was our goal to try and get one. That is a lot harder than it sounds. Even though some of the sharks are slow moving they are still hard to pose with.
Paul was not happy with the shots we got, and wanted one more try at it, but we ran out of time, and so we left. I thought they were ok, but he had this shot in his head, and this was his last day in the water. He is leaving one day early. But the captain said no, so off we went, homeward bound. Paul was not too happy about that, he really wanted one last shot in the water.
We were going home at a trot when one of our boat captains, Rene spotted a huge school of golden rays. We turned the boat around, found the rays. It was not hard to spot. The school was huge. We asked if we could jump in. Captain said yes, and so off we all went.
Captain Rene, or Captain Jack Sparrow for short... at the helm
I threw on my mask and snorkel, put my fins on and I went face first over the side, banging my ankle on the boat as I went in. The pain shot through my leg, but what the hell, pain is temporary, this moment will last forever. I thought the rays would swim off the second we got in the water, but they stuck around, hanging out just below us. It was an amazing sight. There was at least 500 rays in this school.
I am not a ray guy, but this was way too cool to pass up. The rays broke off into two groups. I somehow ended up drifting off with one of them, and I got some alone time with them all. It was just breath taking stuff. The rays began swimming in a circle around me. I was totally blown away, they would swim up high, then back down low, then back up, and down. It was awesome.
One of our guests Jeff and his wife Sandy are big ray lovers, so they were overwhelmed with the experience. In fact, I don't think Jeff waited for the ok from the captain, he just jumped in, didn't even put on his fins. Total canonball dive as well.
Sandy with Jeff below
We all boarded the boat, jabbering on about how cool that was and it was a perfect way to end the day. With one day left in the water, I just can't see how this trip can get any better!
July 20, 2007
Photo Frustrations! Paul Spielvogel our staff photographer had a bad day at sea, his camera broke down today.
Reader and very seasoned Shark Diver, Charles Dyer, and Staff photographer Paul Spielvogel
The button to snap photos fell off, and without any super glue on the panga he was forced to dive without a camera. Well sort of, one of our guests, Doug Nehrbass, lent Paul his little point and shoot camera, so Paul tried to shoot with that for a while. And today we had some sharks stop swimming, a photographer's dream. They just sort of hovered there for a while, not really doing anything. When they would swim, they moved slowly up and down. Dropping into the murk below, then coming up and swimming right below the surface, then dropping again, then up again. We were swimming with them, easily able to keep up, swimming in front of them, on the side, it was so much fun today. I am really looking forward to tomorrow... two more days of diving to go! No mantas today.
Eyeball to eyball with a 30 foot whale shark
Livin' the Dream!
July 19, 2007
Our first day diving in Holbox.
Today we woke up to clear blue skys, and a flat calm sea. Which was a perfect way to start our day. The ride out to the whale shark grounds was fast, due to the smooth crossing, and this gave me hope, as the sharks also love the flat calm seas to feed at the surface. So finding our first shark of the day did not take long at all
I am always nervous when out chasing sharks with our readers. I am nervous that we will not find sharks, I am nervous that when the sharks do show up that we will not have a player. A player is a shark that will hang around and allow us to interact with it. If a whale shark wants to get rid of the divers, all it needs to do is give a quick flick of its tail, and it is gone. There is nothing we can do to catch it. Or they drop down to the depth, and we lose them in the murky water below. So we need a player, otherwise the photographers won't get the shots. So when the first group jumped in and the shark dropped down into the murk, I was thinking oh shit, here we go.
Another day of short 20 second encounters (like I had for the two prior days in Cancun with the researchers and Cali film team. So I was a bit tense.)
We decided to abandon this shark and go deeper into the whale shark park and find another shark, which is my no-no. "You don't leave sharks to find sharks." But I took a gamble based on my ariel flight the day before, I knew there plenty of sharks. So after a 10 minute ride or so, we found another shark. This time the shark hung around, feeding at the surface. Minutes later another shark popped up in the distance. Then another, and another. At the end of the day we had seen 14 different whale sharks and swam with 4 players.
The group was super happy. The day was just amazing, our guest Doug Nehrbass, one of our readers said that this trip was way better than I advertised it. That kind of stuff is so good to hear, it makes me feel proud of what I do.
Doug Nehrbass, You just can't feel this good everyday.
At the end of the day we were preparing to head back when we saw a manta ray swim by. A couple of our guests jumped in to try and swim with him. I thought they were wasting their time, manta rays are notrious for taking off and leaving swimmers in the dust. But this manta decided to stick around and let the divers swim with it.
The manta also did something totally unexpected. It swam upside down, exposing it's belly to everyone, and it stayed like that for a while. Paul shot it several times and we thought his camera settings were totally off, but it was not that the camera was off, the sun was reflecting off the mantas belly giving it a flourescent look to it. It reminded me of the movie, 'The Abyss'
July 18, 2007
I spent the day in the spotter plane. It is something I have always wanted to do, see the whale sharks from the air. It was an amazing day. We took off from Cancun International airport.
It was a wild ride. I have never been in a plane like that before, so just jumping in it was an adventure in itself. And we took the door off so I could shoot footage with a clear unobstructed view. But it was gnarly, if I stuck my leg out a little, the wind would catch it, and push me hard.
I almost lost the camera a couple of times from doing this. They had me tied in with some huge straps. I felt safe. Of course during my ride back to the airport, something was slapping me fierce. It turned out to be one of the straps. It had come undone during the flight and was whipping in the wind. Nice!
I shot a bunch of video footage of sharks from the air, and I tried to shoot a couple of stills, but I did not have the right lenses for it, so it came out like a tiny little spec.
Whale shark shot from the air.
Being up in the air filming whale sharks in Mexico was one of those check points in life. These are moments where you sort of step back and look at your life and say, "damn, life is pretty f-ing good!"
After I finished up with the spotter plane ride. I hauled ass to the other side of the airport to pick up our guests for the Holbox whale shark trip. We made it to Holbox without any incidents other than pouring rain along the way. Everyone settled into their rooms and I went to go see some friends. I stopped in to see my buddy Banana who owns a dive shop here in Holbox. He was there and happy to catch up with me. Getting me up to speed about whats been happening here in Holbox, and all the whale shark politics, (yes there are lots of politics regarding the whale sharks).
Banana, me and Aaron Spielvogel-cold beers, and good friends.
July 17, 2007
Today started out pretty rough. The off shore winds were whipping and the waves were rolling even higher than yesterday. So when we finally made it out to the whale shark grounds, an hour and a half later the sharks were hard to find because they were staying low. Normally the sharks here feed at the surface. Fortunately it did not take long to find our first shark. However the encounter did not last very long. The shark dropped down into the plankton rich water and disappeared in the murk. So the footage I got was brief, maybe a minute long.
After that we cruised around for a while trying to find another shark, but they were hard to find with the rolling waves, and no sharks were at the surface. It was nothing, nothing, nothing, till finally we got a break and we found another shark. After that we found another, then another and it kept on like that for the next couple of hours. I think the tally was 7 whale sharks. None of them were true players, all the encounters were brief. the vis was terrible. We took some stills of the sharks, but all the images were terrible, too murky. But I still have four more days in the water so I will dial in my camera to deal with really bad visability and see if I can get some shots worth publishing. I hope.
We spend the morning in a spotter plane, and then I pick up our readers from the airport and head to HOLBOX! No more Cancun...
July 16, 2007
It is 10 PM and I am so tired, today was a long ass day. I will get to the beginning and the highlight. We ran into, and swam with 3 different whale sharks, all very good encounters, but also very brief. It was a slow day for whale shark sightings, but the ocean was very choppy and the sharks did not want to come up and play. Especially in rolly surface currents. Plus we were not near the waters of Holbox. We were near our starting point which was Cancun.
I am so sick of Cancun, I dislike this place. It is too fast, too busy, and dirty. I really do love the laid back, slower paced life of Holbox. But the whale shark field researcher Rafael, from the Domino project, that is taking us out from CONAAP is based out of here.
I have been working with the Cali team on the research project, filming all their underwater stuff, and some of the topside as well. Model, Kirsten Turk is leading this project. Well she is a retired model, now the working executive producer on this whale shark documentary.
Becasue we had a lot of down time, we did some interviews on the boat. Talking about the project, why she is doing this, where she is going next. It was fun being the camera man, I am usually the guy in front of the camera. It was different, but I learned some things.
I also brought my camera, with Aquatica Housing, but it was way too murky to shoot stills. The plankton was way too thick. As we were swimming, chasing the sharks, you could see it flying by. So overall, it was a good start, we were able to capture some ok clips of the sharks. Hoping for some better weather tomorrow, as the chop really made it hard to spot the sharks.
|Day two in the water. Another 5:50 AM wake up call....
July 15, 2007
I am in Cancun. I arrived yesterday, and met up with the film team around 8 PM that evening. We went to dinner to get to know each other a bit and plan out the next few days. The plan was to do the spotter plane today and go shark chasing over the next 2 days. Well the plane was down today due to maintenance. So we are on stand by. I was afraid that they were going to cancel the plane trip totally but it turns out that it has been rescheduled for the morning of the 18th. So that will leave me racing around all morning.
That is fine, as long as I am back in time for my readers who will be waiting for me at the airport around noon. It won't be a problem, I will make it back in plenty of time, but it will be a frantic pace. It is frustrating though. The whale sharks are out there and I am so close to them, yet so very far away. Oh well only one day... one day till I will be diving with them again. I can't wait.
So I check my emails this morning, and our staff photog, Paul Spielvogel, reads my lastest blog, and decides that sitting at home while I am here on Holbox Island is too much to bare. Paul has purchased his plane ticket and is headed out to Holbox to help me document the adventure. So I will have a wingman after all. His son Aaron is going to join him. It will be their last trip together for a while. Aaron has gone off and joined the Navy, he signed up to be a SEAL. Can you believe that? Navy SEAL training. My hats off to him, crazy kid. Aaron is always a lot of fun to travel with and he has yet to see whale sharks, so it will be great to share that with him before he leaves.
We get picked up at 6:30AM tomorrow morning, and the boat leaves for the whale shark grounds... hoping for a great day at sea.
wish you all were here!
July 14, 2007 (8:36 AM)
I am sitting at the airport waiting for my plane. I finally feel a slow down within me. I have been racing around all week trying to get everything done that needed to get done. I wish I could relax, but I am restless, The whale sharks are calling. Airports are amazing places, they are highways to the world. many people hate them. I don't, I love them. Even the long lines, the snooty workers, the testy security officers. All of it. Because airports always mean I am going somewhere amazing. Like today, I am walking into this airport in Mcallen, Texas, and walking out into Cancun, Mexico. And this time tomorrow I will be jumping into a spotter plane, to seek out whale sharks. The Mexican field researcher, told our Cali film crew that they had spotted 112 whale sharks from the air two days ago! 112 whale sharks from the air... Holy shit that is exciting.
This season is a solo journey for me. None of our SDM crew is joining us for the adventure. I normally travel with one or two of our staff photographers, but everyone is scattered. Andy Murch is in Australia shooting LBS's (little brown sharks), Paul Spielvogel just got back from Costa Rica, seeking out bull sharks at Cat Island. The sharks were a no show, but he did find plenty of whitetip reef sharks to keep him busy.
Raf is??? You know, I don't really know where Raf is, I think he is on walk about. Heading to Florida, or Ohio? Or I don't know. He called me from somewhere, I don't remember where. Rusty and Steve, are busy cutting a 5 minute promo for the Landrys Aquarium shark presentation in Houston. So it is just me chasing sharks on this one. So if you are in Holbox, you can find me in one of four places, the water, the internet cafe, my buddy 'Banana's Dive Shop, or the Pub with my buddy Banana. I will be keeping a daily journal with photos from this adventure everyday that I am in Mexico...
I hope to see you out here!
July 12, 2007
Two days till departure. Still way too much to do. I got plenty done yesterday. I mailed out a bunch of magazines, prepped issue 15 for the printer, spent some phone time with Rusty and Steve to discuss the show. We have a late afternoon meeting today, to discuss details of the upcoming episodes and to discuss a special 5 minute promo we are cutting for Landry's Aquarium in Houston. We will be part of a special weekend they are having to promote Shark Week. For us, it is an opportunity to talk to more people about sharks, and in front of a very large audience. I will be giving scheduled talks throughout the weekend, so it should be a lot of fun. This is scheduled for July 28-29. So if your in the Houston area, stop on by, pick up a copy of the new issue and say hi.
I spoke with Captain Charlie of Snappa Charters out of Rhode Island yesterday. He owns a shark diving, tag and release, shark fishing business out there. He was returning my call. I had called him last week, looking for an image. A production company out of the UK was looking for jumping mako shark images, so they asked if I knew anyone. I knew that Captain Charlie either had some photos or had some leads, so I called him. Anyway he returned my call, and we got to talking about his shark diving adventures. I had asked him how it was for him out there. He told it was pretty good, sometimes the sharks were a no show, or a slow show. I told him about our mako shark encounters and he was blown away when I told him that we had mako sharks hang around for up to 4 hours.
He said the longest they have ever had makos for was 45 minutes. I told him that was the shortest encounters we have had. I then told him he needed to be on snorkel, that scuba only spooks the sharks away. Charlie always thought it was the cages that were spooking the sharks. I told him that if he would put everyone in the water on snorkel, the sharks would hang around. This just blew his mind. Then he started thinking about it. He has this surface cage that people often use, they lay on it and have their faces in the water, they would use just mask and snorkel for it. He said often the snorkeler would yell out that a mako shark was below, people would gear up and jump in, of course the sharks would take off. He thought it was because they would jump in and the noise would scare them away, not the scuba gear. I told him he needed to be on snorkel.
Then he told me the thing I am so familiar with, "yea but we have some pretty hard core divers, that insist on being on scuba, that don't like snorkel." That is a very typical reaction to snorkel, scuba divers hate snorkel. So I told him to do both. Start everyone off on snorkel. That way, everyone gets a chance to see the sharks, the sharks will come in close, stay longer. Then after everyone has had a chance to see the sharks, maybe snap some photos, you convert to scuba. Once people hit the water on scuba and the mako sharks bolt, they will become believers. At least you hope they do... some people really love their scuba tanks.
July 11, 2007
Another day begins. Today I will be dealing with the printers for the next issue, trying to make all the arrangements with them before I leave. If I don't, I will get here and the mags will still be at the printers office. I don't want them there, I want them here when I arrive.
I also will be packing up camera gear today, making sure it all fits nicely and that I have everything ready for the trip. I normally pack things the day before I leave, so this is a big improvement for me. I am taking 2 Sony FX-1 HDV cameras, my Equinox Housing, lovingly named (Sheila), my Aquatica camera housing, with my Cannon camera for both topside, and underwater documentary stuff. I need to make sure all my paperwork is in order before I leave. I have my filming permit, but I also need all the copies of my receipts, as well as some notorized copies of ownership of these cameras. Just to make sure I do not run into any snags.
I need to make copies of my passport, one to leave here at the office, the other to take with me. You just never know, too many horror stories of lost or stolen passports. Our show series editor, Steve Pavon lost his passport in Honduras, and the unspeakable things that happened to him because of it, is scary. I don't think he will ever be the same, he has a nervous tick now. Something to do with a cattle prod, and a body cavity search. He even wears a wig now, I'm not sure why?
I'm kidding, just a little ribbing, nothing happened to him, the state department had his info on the computer and he was able to get home. (Sorry Steve, but see how boring the real story is!)
(Image: Steve documenting topside for us at Tiger Beach, Bahamas. Image by Paul Spielvogel)
THE FUTURE OF OUR READER TRIPS
The idea this season is to bring you daily reports from all our adventures. So on our land based adventures, any images we get from their will be posted that same night, that way those of you who were not able to join us for the adventure will get to see it first hand, as it happens. I write about the different adventures I am on, but there is nothing like writing it all down right when it happens, because your still on that emotional high, and maybe the writing is a bit chaotic (like always I guess), but it is pure.
Anyway, I will be starting this for both the whale sharks, and the mako trip in August. Possibly for the porbeagle as well. I can not do it for the tiger shark adventure because I do not have internet access out at Tiger Beach. But I will be updating it each night, and then uploading it the evening of our return, which is on November 30. Then for our 2nd trip out there, I will be uploading it evening of our return on December 8. We are doing 2 trips there back to back.
July 10, 2007
The day begins with me reading my filming permits for Mexico. Finally, now I can releax and move forward for this trip. I still have much to do and to prepare for. But that is typical of any adventure we head off on. The plan for this year is bring you daily blog reports and pictures straight from Holbox Island. The cool thing about this place is it is a land based adventure and the island has an internet cafe. So after each days dive, I will write up the report and blog it to you all from the island. Normally when we get back from the whale shark grounds, we clean up then head out for some ceviche and beers. So while we are at the cafes, I will be taking my laptop with me, so I can up load images and write in our daily journal. You all will get play by play action each day from the island...
So here is my schedule for Holbox this year;
Day 1: Arrive in Holbox, take taxi to a hotel in Cancun. Sometime during the evening I will meet the California Production team.
Day 2: We jump in a spotter plane and film the whale sharks from the air.
Day 3 & 4: We head out with the research team on their boat, and film them doing their research on the sharks.
Day 5: Say goodbye to Cali team, and I pick up our readers at the Cancun International airport and we take off for Holbox Island.
Day 6-9: We will spend it diving with whale sharks and the very fast manta rays. Hoping to film a breaching manta this year.
Day 10: We return home.
Of course I return home to mail out issue 15 to all our readers before I head out to California for mako sharks. There is also some rumored EPIC spots for some cool shark encounters out there. So I am trying to get out there a few days early to check them out. Which means I have a week to mail out the mags before I leave for Cali, of course it normally takes me 2. But I have help this year, so it will not take me that long.
Makos shark Image by Andy Murch
I am also making preparations for one of the most EPIC adventures of my life, because it is less than 2 months away... My porbeagle adventure. This is the big one for me, maybe it will be a stinker, but then again maybe it won't. I have been keeping a second journal for this one. If it is a good story with a happy ending then it will become a chapter in a book that I am writing.
It's funny, a month ago I was bitching and moaning that I needed to get back out in the water and I needed to go shark diving. Now here we are, and the shark diving is just around the corner. I love it; The new mag is coming out, and a whole new shark diving season is about to start for us...Livin the Dream!
July 9, 2007
No time, I got no time. I am writing my blog at 1 AM in the morning. I can't sleep. My mind is racing with everything I have to do for this week. I leave for Holbox at the end of the week and I am going nuts with all the last minute details of this trip. So much is left to do before I leave, and as always I leave everything till the last minute. I still don't have my filming permits yet. They have been approved, but I do not have them in my hands, so I consider them non-exsistant till then. Of course that puts me in a touchy situation. I am going over there 4 days early to film for a California production company, and they are the permit holders, but I have yet to receive them...
The mag is going to the printers this week. I know I am a week behind schedule on it. But I am happy to say it is done, and getting shipped off. I was hoping to have the new issue going into Holbox, but I won't get it till my return on the 23rd. Then it is a mad rush to get the mags out to everyone, before I leave to California for mako sharks. I have less than a week to do that. Which reminds me, I need to purchase my plane tickets, damn it. (Issue 15 cover)
On Friday I hung out with one of my best friends, David Arcaute. He was my very first hardcore adventure buddy. We used to go mountian biking, bungee jumping, surfing together, he even tried to ride a couple of bulls. It wasn't his thing, but he tried it, just to see what it was about. So while I was out on the rodeo trail, he was out there surfing. We would do our thing, then get home and go out for beers to talk about our latest adventures. In fact, Dave got his scuba certification first, and I followed in his footsteps and got mine. It was because of Dave that I even tried scuba, I had forgotten about that? Anyway, he had not been home in 5 years. He moved away to Ohio to pursue his dream of working for one of the big car companies as an engineer. He made his dream come true, now working for Ford, but in the process, his adventuring spirit has died. He got consumed by the rat race, chasing that dollar, raising his family.
There is nothing wrong with chasing a buck, or especially raising your family; but there is something wrong with it, when YOU are no longer YOU. We were talking about one of our adventures that we shared over 10 years ago. It was around 5 AM on a Tuesday morning, we had woken up early to go mountain biking, we wanted to get an early session in before we started work. We were smiling on our way to the trails, laughing about how all the people in the cars around us, had this dead look on their faces; just miserable as they drove to work. We said something to the effect that, that would never be us, because we knew how amazing life was, and there was so much to do and explore.
Anyway, David told me that he had become one of those people we would laugh about, how he had lost his way. I told him, tonite is your F'ing wake up call man. This is why me and you are here drinking a beer together, to shock your ass into remembering who you are. We toasted, and he vowed to change his ways. The rest of the night is a blur, but I remember laughing all night, and trying to talk him into going sharkin' with me. He has never been shark diving before, it is time to show him my shit, and what I do. I know that all he has to do is go out there with me once, and that travel bug will awaken within him once again.
The adventurer's spirit never dies my friends, it may lose it's way sometimes, or fall asleep. But the facts are that once you have tasted that freedom, breathing air that few people breath, seeing things that so few actually ever get to see. Once you have hit that road less traveled, it gets in your blood, and it remains there... forever!
Still Livin' the Dream, I hope all of you out there- are as well!
July 6, 2007
The day begins with a bang. I got my INON
strobes in today, just in time for our Holbox trip for whale sharks. I have been really pushing to get my camera gear set up. It is time to get back behind the lens and shoot some stills again. I have not shot anything since December 2006. I shot tigers, lemons and bull sharks. The images came out good, but they were too blue. Due to the fact that I did not have any strobes to help me out at depth.
On the surface when I am topwater diving on a sunny day, the images come out great, with or without strobes, but I just think about how great they could be with strobes. So I called Steve of INON
America and he set me up. Now it is time to set up my camera!
I am one week away from heading out for hopefully some EPIC sessions with whale sharks. I know the whale sharks are there, but now it is weather watch time. Hopefully the weather will treat us good and we won't get smashed with bad weather. I know it is bad mojo to talk about it, but it is the reality we Shark Divers face...
Have a good weekend everyone, I have some more shark news to report on Monday, so check back.
Chasing my dreams, I hope you are too...
July 5, 2007
I have been sorting through images for a writer from LA, who is writing up a story on me, and the evolution of our magazine; how it all started, my background, how I came up with the concept. Which is pretty cool, as he is asking me a bunch of stuff that I had forgotten about. It gave me the opportunity to look back and see where I have come from, how far I have gotten, and how far I still have to go. He also wanted to talk about my bull riding background, how I evolved from a bull rider into a Shark Diver. I understand why, it is not often someone just decides to quit riding bulls to go shark diving, not a normal thing, I know.
I remember my first riding goal. It was to ride 200 bulls. I can still remember in detail that first 8 second ride. I think I had been on about 50 bulls, before I finally made my 8. I was not a natural at the sport, it took a lot of work. That feeling, that moment is etched in my memory as one of the proudest moments in my life. After I accomplished that first goal of riding 200 bulls, I set my next goal, which was to win a rodeo. I ended my career, finishing 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, but I had not accomplished my goal of winning a rodeo. Bull riding is a very hard sport, and I was on my way, until that fateful day in Cozumel. My very first ocean dive, I am dropping down and I saw a shark. That was it, I was hooked from that very second, and I quit riding bulls to chase sharks. There is a little more to the story than that, but I'll save you the details, the point is I fell in love with sharks the moment I saw my first one. I came out of the water and I knew that is what I wanted to do. I wanted to go shark diving, and I wanted to see as many different species of sharks as possible.
Bull riding was a lot of fun, and I credit the sport for molding me into the person I am today. Without the lessons I learned through my 6 years of riding bulls, there would not be a SHARK DIVER magazine. Getting kicked around, and stomped, and gored, and learning that to succeed in the sport, I had to grow thick skin, and accept that losing was a part of the learning process. I learned that the only way I was ever going to succeed in this sport and life, was to accept the bad days, appreciate the good... and always keep charging forward.
From the Trenches,
July 3, 2007
July is here and July is a Kick Ass month!
Why you ask? Because our magazine reader shark trips begin in July. I love it. I get to hang out with old friends again, and meet new ones as well. I get to hit some of the old stomping grounds again, chasing sharks in some of the world's greatest shark diving destinations. Issue 15 is going out to the printers as well, so I also have a new mag this month, with lots of great stories and cool images for you all also. Like I said, July is going to be a kick ass month.
It is going to fly by fast though. I will hopefully get the new issue before I leave to Mexico so that I can ship it out to everyone. It normally takes around 2 weeks to get all the mags packaged and mailed out, but I have help for this issue. The kids from the county bootcamp detention center will be helping me mail out this issue. The officers asked me if there was anything the kids could help me with, any work around the office? I told them I needed help mailing out subscriber magazines. They said they would love to help, the kids need to perform hours of community service, and I really need help in that area. You can't beat that!
I talked to some good sharky friends today; Jeff Trotta, Captain Al Walker and the legendary Gary Adkison. Jeff is one of the pioneers of Florida diving, and Florida shark diving. He was there, back in the day when diving was new and fresh, and hip. he was there when the oceans were teaming with life, and lots of different shark species could be seen without chum. It was good catching up.
Shark Operator Captain Al Walker, was on his way to Venice, LA to go diving. He was telling me about a spot he has been working that has a couple of resident tiger sharks. "Eli, I have never seen tiger sharks so big, they got to be around 16-17 feet. They way over 1,000 pounds each." Of course the next thing he asked was when you coming down? Soon Al, very-very soon.
Gary was on his way to a meeting in Florida when I called him. The last time I talked to Gary, I called him on his mobile phone and he was sitting under a palapa, drinking a beer in Africa, watching the sun go down. He was out there tagging whale sharks. They got chased out by a Hurricane, so the tagging did not go well. Well I called him today to catch up and see what he was up to. Gary was out there doing his thing, promoting his shark conservation group, and enjoying life. I love that guy.