Saturday, December 03, 2011

Behold the Bottle!

Silvertip by Ozzie Sam - note the underside of the pec - click 4 detail.

And now compare to this Grey Reefie, pic by Lill!

Oh, the fond memories - including the Shark strike!
Check it out.

Here's what the caption tells us.

Myself & my dive buddy were diving off Pidgeon Island in East New Britain Papua New Guinea.
The two days previous we had been shark calling (rubbing a plastic bottle to create vibrations and sound that attract sharks) at around 30-40 metres looking for silver tip and grey reef sharks.

We were pretty keen to see if we could get some bigger sharks and so decided to go deeper.
I will point out that both of us are very experienced divers and fully knew the risks of diving so deep (and without the right kit too!). We descended fast down to around 57 metres , it was about 3 minutes into the dive when my buddy turned to see a big Silver Tip Reef shark charging in at him fast. He managed to roll over as the shark hit him and unbelievably he was unharmed. Apart from a severe headache he was completely unscathed having not so much as a scratch on him. My buddy had said that when he saw the shark coming in at was going very fast but then slowed down just before hitting him, also it's mouth wasn't fully open and it made no attempt to bite.

We think that what happened was that at that depth the shark would have been hunting and zoned in on the vibrations to go for a kill, upon realising we weren't food but a couple of idiot divers it turned round and went away.

I'd like to point out that my buddy has done this literally hundreds of times before without incident as have a number of divers in the area over a period of years. What's different about this particular dive is that it is the first time it had been attempted by us below 40 metres.

A Silvertip? Hmmmmmmmmm...
I've now watched it over and over again and that sure aint a Silvertip. Although I can't really discern whether the tail has a black terminal band, the dark underside of the pec makes me intuit that it's a Grey Reef, a species that is very easily attracted - but then again, Silvertips are so distinctive that a mis-identification is all but impossible.
JSD - whatcha think?

But back to the bottle.
I must confess, I'm kinda feeling guilty here.
Thing is, the bottle is a gizmo we developed during the infamous Pelagian Voyage of Discovery in 2002, and yours truly and our dive master Didi did spend the better part of one year and close to a thousand dives perfecting it. We managed to raise heaps of Reefies and Silvertips, two Tigers and a Silky, whereas it proved to totally freak out the Whitetips and Reef Blacktips.
We always refused to teach it to the customers, but scores of local divemasters in the various destinations saw us do it, learned and propagated it further, as did some friends like the Saffron Pimpernel and others. And yes, should you have seen it there, I'm also guilty of having played with it in some French Polynesian passes - and lemme tell 'ya, that's an interesting experience! :)

And on Shark Reef? Never ever!
The dive sure is plenty exciting as it is without having to try and amp it up by getting swarmed by highly excited macro predatory Sharks.
Also, the thing is actually pretty useless in a commercial setting like ours as after 3-4 attempts, the individual Sharks catch on to the fact that they are being duped and completely stop reacting, something called Habituation and yet another indicator for the fact that they're smart as hell.

Anyway, the thing is plenty tricky.
No, no instructions here, the more as I concur with Patric that this is not something one should just go out and try (yup I know I know, look who's talking...) - but since people undoubtedly will, here's a couple of safety tips.
  • Don't do this alone as somebody must be there to help you if there are problems - and trust me there will!
  • If you're diving with other people, make sure that everybody knows what you're about to do. Being caught unawares by Sharks rushing in out of nowhere is a recipe for disasters!
  • Everybody needs to be positioned so that his back is covered and with an unobstructed view of his surroundings - especially you! Head on a swivel!
  • You need to keep the bottle on a 1 meter lanyard. For that, make a small hole in the conter of the cap, insert the lanyard, make a knot on the inside and attach the other end to your BCD. When you see the Shark rushing in, stop playing and let go of the bottle as the animal will strike it - better he bites the bottle than your hand!
  • And finally: don't be stupid!
Enjoy and keep safe!
Head on a swivel!


JSD said...

I am struggling on the ID! It seems to have no pronounced fin markings (other than the underside of the pecs) and be fairly hefty.

My first thought was the bignose shark C. altimus but the snout appears to be bluntly and rounded.

Pigeye shark?

DaShark said...

Im shocked! :)

One thing's for sure: no Silvertip!

And, after talking to you I agree, probably not a GR either!
Small Pigeye or why not small Bull, tho the Shark just doesn't feel as familiar as it would if it were a Bull.

OfficetoOcean said...

Can I throw my hat into the ring?

location, size, shape, build and colour as well as depth tolerance...

Graceful Shark?

JSD said...

...Wouldn't one expect to see more dark fin markings for the graceful shark?

The other curious thing is how the first dorsal fin is flapping around: I thought it was missing 1/2 but you can see what is presumably the (undistorted?) whole at 1:33 or 1:34. That doesn't look right for a bull. Do bull shark first dorsals wave around like that? I don't recall seeing anything like that at Walker's Cay but there again they weren't charging.

OfficetoOcean said...

I hadn't noticed the flappy dorsal fin until you mentioned it, very odd! An injury maybe? Birth defect?

It was the very last slow mo run through that brought me to the Graceful Shark possibility as it looks like a good third of the left pectoral has a pronounced black marking.

I do however think that the Java/Pigeye Shark is a very good call as well though :)

Either way, great video!

DaShark said...

Well gents, we now know that we don't know and never will - as in the infamous known unknowns! :)

But I hope you concur that whatever it is, that aint a Silvertip - agree?

OfficetoOcean said...

Most definitely!

Sam C said...

HMMMmm. I've just shown it to the team here (3 shark scientists + CSIRO white shark members) and they rule out grey reef due to the tail notch (although they did say it is impossible to rule out). 4 out of 5 said 'juvenile bull' or certainly whaler family. But a few minutes later the conversation got heated.....then they gave up!!!!!

DaShark said...

The conversation got heated - among Shark people???

You don't say!

Tropical Selkie said...

Do we want sharks biting and possibly ingesting plastic bottles? What about the bottles that get left behind? I'm not a fan of this, at all. Sorry.

DaShark said...

Never seen that happen, ever, in 100ds of attempts - so that's not the issue.

The issue is that it is inherently dangerous as it excites the Sharks, so it shud not be done liberally - and in all honesty, it isn't.