CROCS ARE THE NEW SHARKS   Leave a comment

ARE CROCS THE NEW SHARKS?

diving with american crocodiles

It was inevitable that sooner or later I would start running crocodile trips. Collectively, crocs, alligators, caimans and gharials have that same primal allure as sharks, and what they lack in sleekness they make up for in sheer prehistoric gnarliness!

Our first crocodilian trip will be next August to Chinchorro, Quintana Roo, Mexico to encounter American Crocodiles. Chinchorro is part of a marine biosphere. Consequently, it is one of the few places in North America where there is still a relatively abundant population of crocs. Because the islands are 20 miles off shore, there is no river run off so the water in the lagoon where the crocodiles live is clear enough for in-water encounters. And, its not just going to be crocs. The expedition includes a mangrove to find and dive with West Indian manatees and we’re even planning a morning chumming for sharks. For more pics, a  great video by Pelagic Life and all the logistical info, follow this link:American Crocodiles of Chinchorro Banks

 

THREE AWESOME BACK TO BACK TO BACK EXPEDITIONS

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

 

SOCORRO AND ROCA PARTIDA EXPEDITION

whitetip reef sharks at Roca Partida.

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

 

ANOTHER AWESOME TIGER BEACH EXPEDITION

Diving with a big tiger shark

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

 

A RECORD BREAKING OCEANIC WHITETIP EXPEDITION

diving with oceanic whitetip sharks

The oceanic whitetip shark expedition to Cat Island was so sharky that against all I have said about trying to run new trips, I am going back again next year 🙂

We had somewhere around 15 oceanics on our best dive plus we saw a blue marlin, some mahi mahi, and dusky and silky sharks. Cool pictures and more about the trip here: Oceanic Whitetips 2013 Trip Report

 

 

ONWARD TO AFRICA

Next week, Big Fish Expeditions is heading to South Africa. This is my first shark safari in southern Africa and I couldn’t be more excited. We have the possibility to see around 14 species of sharks. Some of these I have not photographed before so if all goes well there should be some new species pages added to the shark and ray database on Elasmodiver.com over the next few months.

This is a land based trip so assuming I can find a wifi connection, I’ll try to load a new shark onto the Big Fish Facebook Page everyday of the trip. If you want the images to show up in your Facebook Feed, please go here:  BIG FISH EXPEDITIONS ON FACEBOOK  and give us a like!

 

 

BASKING SHARKS, WHALE SHARKS THEN BLUES AND MAKOS.

diving with whale sharks and basking sharks

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

 

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

 

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

 

ONTO WHATS BUBBLING:

 

BACK TO THE BEACH!

In October I’m leading yet another great trip to dive with Tiger Sharks at Tiger Beach. Join me on theTiger Beach Shark Safari for more epic tiger shark encounters.

Tiger Shark diving with Andy Murch

 

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

diving with striped marlin

 

A NEW PREDATORS IN PERIL EXPEDITION IS IN THE WORKS

Then at the end of the year, there’s blue whales in Sri LankaOrcas in Norway and Great Hammerheads in Bimini. But, before I run those guest trips, its time to put some of my air miles to good use. In November I’m flying all the way down to Punta Arenas to look for another new catshark species. This one is called a narrowmouth catshark and (like most small deepwater sharks) there are virtually no images of it. So, I’m meeting up with Eduardo Sorensen from Oceana Chile to see if we can find and document one or two while there are still some left. It will be a complicated trip involving us flying tanks and weights all the way to the end of the Americas and then braving the Humboldt Current for as long as time and finances permit.

After the catshark dives in Southern Chile, I’ll be traveling with my partner Laura up the coast of Argentina to record as many endemic Argentinean elasmobranches (sharks and rays) as we can find. I’m sure that it will be as exhausting as it is rewarding. More on this expedition as it approaches.

 

2014

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

 

See you down there,

Andy Murch

 

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SWORDS AND HAMMERS   Leave a comment

SWORDS AND HAMMERS

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

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

 

 

BASKING SHARKS

Next stop is Socorro for some quality time with giant mantas and then Tiger Beach, Cat Island for Oceanic Whitetips and down to South Africa. All sold out trips which is a great endorsement for Big Fish Expeditions!

Still a couple of spots left on the Basking Shark Adventure in Scotland. No doubt the water temps have scared a few shark divers away from this encounter but this will be an amazing trip with basking sharks, grey seals, puffins and who knows what else, so if you want to dive with the second biggest fish in the sea, get in touch! Here are some pics from last season:

 

 

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

 

RHODE ISLAND MAKO & BLUE SHARK WEEKEND

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

 

 

 

STRIPED MARLIN EXPEDITION

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

 

 

GREAT HAMMERHEAD ADVENTURE

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

 

MARINE LIFE PICS .COM

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

 

 

These images and around 10,000 more of my marine life pics can now be found on a new website that I just loaded onto the world wide web. Feel free to check out the new site and give me feedback:MARINELIFEPICS.COM

There’s a corresponding Marine Life Pics Facebook Page that you can ‘like’ if you want to know what has been added to the website each week.

 

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

See you down there,

 

Andy Murch

NOTHING BUT SHARKS ALL YEAR LONG   Leave a comment

NOTHING BUT SHARKS ALL YEAR LONG

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

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2013
Next year is shaping up to be the biggest year so far for shark trips. Unofficially, the shark season kicks off at Socorro Island during our Manta Trip. I expect that we’ll bump into at least 3 species of sharks at Socorro but the first dedicated shark expedition will be at Tiger Beach in April. Shark magnet and award winning film maker Joe Romeiro will be joining me on the boat; adding some extra magic to the shark encounters. We’ll be visiting all the best spots like Tiger Beach, Fish Tales and other sharky reefs and probably exploring some new ones. Grab the last spot if you’d like to join us: Tiger Beach Expedition or join our second Tiger Beach trip next October.

OCEANICS
After one day back in Florida, BFE’s final oceanic whitetip expedition starts in Cat Island, Bahamas.This year’s oceanic expedition was outstanding with more oceanics than anyone expected plus some silky sharks mixed in just for fun. We also pioneered some unique split frame photo ops with the resident nurse sharks right in the marina.
With so many new adventures on the books, this will be our last chance to dive Cat Island for a while (sad but true) so join me if you can: Oceanic Odyssey

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

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

 

Here is a beautiful video shot by Simon Spear in the area that we’re heading to:


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

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

THRESHER SHARKS
And finally, next December I’m putting together a thresher shark trip. I’ve wanted to photograph threshers for a very long time but I’ve been put off by the no-flash photography rules and dwindling encounters at Malapascua in the Philippines.
Fortunately, there is a new hotspot for thresher sharks. After fairly consistent reports of sightings at ‘Brothers Reef’ in the Red Sea I have decided that it is worth an exploratory liveaboard trip. I don’t have a page on BigFishExpeditions.com for this trip yet but I can tell you that we’ll be heading there next December and its a surprisingly affordable place to dive. Email me if you’d like more info: info@bigfishexpeditions.com

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

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

2015….
I know its a long way off but this is a big ticket trip. Join me in February 2015 for leopard seals in Antarctica!

Don’t let your gills dry out over Christmas!

See you down there,
Andy Murch

SWARMS OF WHALE SHARKS + PREDATORS IN PERIL   Leave a comment

Swarms of Whale Sharks and Predators in Peril

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

 

PREDATORS IN PERIL

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

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

Please, please share BYCATCH on your social networks!

 

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

 

 

Ok, onto upcoming Big Fish Expeditions:

 

 

KILLER WHALES!

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

See you down there,

Andy Murch

Andy Murch

The SECOND Biggest Fish in the Sea   Leave a comment

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

 

BASKING SHARKS!

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

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

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

 

diving with basking sharks

 

 

MANTAS, TIGERS & OCEANIC WHITETIPS

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

 

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

 

diving with oceanic whitetip sharks

 

WHALE SHARK AGGREGATIONS

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

 

whale shark trips

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

 

THE SEA OF CORTEZ WHALES AND HUMBOLDTS EXPEDITION

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

sea of cortez diving

PREDATORS IN PERIL

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

 

gulf smoothhound

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

 

 

2013 EXPEDITIONS

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

 

diving with sailfish

 

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

 

tahiti diving

 

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

 

 

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

Big Fish Expeditions Schedule 2012/13

 

See you out there!

For the oceans,

Andy Murch

Andy Murch

DIVING POLAR SEAS AND THE SOUTH AFRICA SHARK SAFARI   Leave a comment

DIVING POLAR SEAS AND THE SOUTH AFRICA SHARK SAFARI

 

HOW THE POLAR SEAS EXPEDITIONS WERE BORN

I am lucky enough to live on Vancouver Island in western Canada. Believe it or not, the island is warm. We get a little snow some years (not this year) but so does Texas. Its a great place to live and play.

The Salish Sea which separates the island from the mainland is considered ‘temperate’ but virtually everyone that dives here picks up a drysuit sooner or later. A wimp like me wouldn’t be caught dead diving wet in our local waters.

A lot of divers that I meet in the tropics tell me that they’d love to see a giant pacific octopus or dive with a tumbling gang of adolescent steller sea lions but they just don’t relish diving in the restrictions of a drysuit.

 

dive with steller sea lions

Adolescent Steller Sea Lions off Vancouver Island

 

I get it. Diving is about freedom as much as it is about seeing the wonders of the ocean. Its about that feeling of underwater flight. No restrictions. No boundries. Traditional inflexible drysuits took away that freedom and left divers feeling clumsy and confined. And then, Whites Manufacturing changed everything by designing the Fusion – a stretchy , form fitting drysuit that feels like you’re diving in a wetsuit. My fusion has made such a profound difference to my cold water diving that I’ve started looking at the world’s ‘non-tropical’ diving destinations very differently.

Recently, I was sitting in Whites office raving like a lunatic about my Fusion and talking about all of the places I’d like to dive in it. Instead of slapping a restraining order on me, Whites Brand  Manager Justin Balaski suggested that Whites and Big Fish Expeditions team up to create a series of Polar Seas Expeditions to the world’s most amazing cold water destinations. Sometimes the focus would be on big animals and sometimes it would be on diving the world’s best cold water wrecks and reefs (wrecks tend to stay better preserved in colder water).

We would promote the trips together. I would lead them and White’s would send me off with some extra Fusions for anyone that wanted to find out how comfortable it is diving in one. I jumped at the idea and started looking for destinations worthy of both companies.

Combining the best of Big Wrecks and Big Animals, our first Polar Seas Expedition will be in July of this year to Newfoundland, Eastern Canada. The Bell Island Wrecks consist of four 400ft long merchant ships that were sunk by U-boats in 1942. Think of Bell Island as Truuk Lagoon with Icebergs!

For the hardcore big animal divers, on the days that we are not diving on Bell Island’s world class wrecks, we will have the opportunity to jump in with friendly humpback whales that cruise up and down the coast of Newfoundland during their summer migration. It’ll be epic. Join me if you can. Click on the pic for more info:

 

SOUTH AFRICA SHARKOHOLICS EXPEDITION

Yep, we’re heading to South Africa to shoot sharks. 14 different species if all goes to plan: great white sharks (breaching and underwater), mako sharks, tiger sharks, Bull Sharks, Dusky Sharks, Ragged Tooth Sharks, Blue Sharks, Blacktip Sharks, Broadnose Sevengill Sharks, Spotted Gully Sharks, Puffadder Cat Sharks, Dark Shy Sharks, Pajama Sharks and Leopard Cat Sharks. That pretty much sums it up except to say that we’ll likely see lots of other stuff too like Cape fur seals, lots of pelagics, African penguins and a whole bunch of land based critters like lions and cheatahs because the trip also includes a big game drive. Click on the Pic for more info:

 

 

 

KICKING OFF THE 2012 EXPEDITION SEASON

The 2012 expedition season is about to kick off at Isla Malpelo which is famous for its wild pelagic shark action. I couldn’t be more excited as (like most divers) I have never seen a smalltooth sandtiger shark and there’s a very good chance we see some there. If we nail the shots there will be one more shark listed on Elasmodiver.com and many new pics of old favorites like schooling hammerheads, silkies and Galapagos sharks.

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

 

CONSIDER THIS A STANDING REQUEST FROM ELMODIVER: LOOKING FOR HELP FINDING NORTH AMERICAN SHARKS AND RAYS

To keep Elasmodiver growing I need to keep shooting new species. In the big picture I’ve barely made a dent in the total number of sharks out there but you’d be surprised how hard it is to find new species once you have shot the standard elasmobranchs (sharks and rays) that divers regularly see.

Right now I am focusing on finishing up the North American Elasmos. There are three main areas that I need help with: Skates in Alaska, Smoothhound sharks in California and Baja, and some of the more elusive species from the Gulf of Mexico such as finetooth sharks, smalltail sharks, night sharks and Atlantic Angelsharks or ‘sand devils’.

If you know where or how to find any of these critters (whether diving or fishing) please let me know and I may plan an expedition based around that info.

Remember, the rarer they are, the more we need images to make sure the world knows about them. Invisible animals don’t get protected.

 

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

 

For the oceans,

Andy Murch

New Sharks, New Ideas and a Fin Free Canada   Leave a comment

New Sharks, New Ideas and a Fin Free Canada

 

Big Fish Expeditions

 

BREAKING THE MOLD OF TRADITIONAL EXPEDITION COMPANIES

Most companies that run expeditions, find their niche. Its easier to run trips if you go to the same places each year. Thats not why I started Big Fish Expeditions. As I’ve said many times before: life is short, especially for divers! So rather than taking the easy route (even if its to amazing locations) I’m planning to look for new adventures with new animals every season. The only exception will be Tiger Beach. Its the perfect place to run shark photography workshops and after eight years I still feel that I have lots more to shoot there.

So, for anyone that has been thinking of joining me on one of the adventures listed on BigFishExpeditions.com , be warned! Most of those trips are now a one time opportunity.

In 2013 there will be a brand new selection. Some will be well known destinations like the South African Sharkoholic Tour that I have planned, and some will be so ‘off the beaten path’ that you may not even recognize the name of the destination.

I can’t spill the beans on too many trips yet but in 2013 you can expect expeditions in and around Southern Africa, South America, French Polynesia and the arctic. As the trips take shape, I’ll be blogging about each one between now and 2013 So bookmark this page!

 

NEWS FROM ELASMODIVER: THE DEEP SHARK SHOOT

If we’re friends on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/andymurch then you’ve probably already seen the new shark species on Elasmodiver.com. For the rest of you, a couple of months ago I had the chance to join researcher Edd Brooks from the Cape Eleuthera Institute on an abyssal shark tagging project. It was a great trip that I will talk more about at a later date but from a photography standpoint, I got to jump in with three deepwater shark species and swim them down to depths where they could more easily get back to the abyss. The resulting images are of free-swimming animals that have rarely (if ever) been photographed by a diver. It was a fascinating shoot. You can read the new species accounts and see some of the resulting images here: Gulper sharkCuban dogfish and Bigeye sixgill shark. Watch out for stories about the project in a couple of forthcoming magazines.

 

Gulper Shark

A deep sea Gulper Shark from the Cape Eluethera shoot.

 

2012 EXPEDITIONS

 

Malpelo

Many of next year’s trips are sold out or almost full. There are two spots left on the Malpelo Shark Safari in February. Malpelo will be extraordinary – big sharks and lots of species including schooling hammers, Galapagos sharks, whitetips, silkies and possibly other requiem shark species and pelagics like whale sharks and giant mantas. Plus we’re going at the right time of year to see smalltooth sandtigers which you won’t see anywhere else. Here’s a great pic of a smalltooth shot at Malpelo last year:

 

Smalltooth Sandtiger Shark

 

Socorro

The March Socorro Humpback and Manta Expedition has just one spot open. All the info about the humpback whale encounters and the amazing manta and shark diving around Socorro is listed on BigFishExpeditions.com but to make the trip that little bit more special, I’ve arranged a couple of days diving and accommodation at Cabo Pulmo before we board the boat to Socorro. Cabo Pulmo is a sleepy little village in southern Baja that has the best mobula ray encounters in the world. At that time of year, mobulas school in their hundreds (sometimes thousands) and jump out of the water in acrobatic courting displays.

This isn’t actually part of the trip but most of the guests have decided to join me at Cabo Pulmo to chase these dynamic creatures: 

Mobula ray jumping 

 

Cat Island

The are two spots left on the Cat Island Oceanic Shark Expedition in April. This is unquestionably the best spot in the world for oceanic whitetip shark encounters. As well as scuba diving with oceanics in bottomless blue water, we’re going after reef sharks and other inshore species such as tigers and lemons. That will make this a really well rounded trip but the operator recently told me that he has a spot where he thinks we can find silky sharks too. If we get them all, this will go down as one of the most diverse locations for shark diving in the Bahamas. It sounds crazy, but this is my last trip to Cat Island!

Silky sharks

Silky Sharks are very curious open ocean sharks.

 

Isla Mujeres

In July we’re heading to Isla Mujeres in Mexico to play with whale sharks. Four spots left right now. I’ve been amid scores of whale sharks in Holbox which is just down the road from there but I wanted a location with clear blue water, nice hotels, and easy living. If you want to relax and have a world class big animal encounter, this is the place. Whale Shark Expedition

Big whale shark and diver

 

Sharkfest 2012

Sharkfest was featured in the November issue of Scuba Diving Magazine. That generated a lot of interest so the boat is getting full already. This year’s film list is looking good too with films from Africa, England, the Bahamas, Hawaii, Indonesia and more. If you haven’t been to Sharkfest yet you really need to come sandtiger shark diving in North Carolina with us and enjoy talking sharks and watching brand new shark films with the rest of the shark junkies.

http://bigfishexpeditions.com/sharkfest.html

 

Sea of Cortes

If you want to see HUMBOLDT SQUID AND FINBACKS, PILOT WHALES & SPERM WHALES all in the same week long expedition, this is your chance. The Sea of Cortez Expedition was amazing last year so I’m running it again. We got to see everything we hoped for plus schooling hammers, whale sharks, hundreds of sea lions and some beautiful Mexican reefs. I’ve been so busy since this year’s trip that I haven’t had the chance to load the humboldt squid pics onto Elasmodiver.com until now. But if you want to get a better idea of these magnificent 2m long creatures, follow this link: Humboldt Squid Pictures

Humboldt Squid

 

Isla Guadalupe

I’ve added a new trip to the 2012 rosta! Guadalupe Island is so famous among shark divers that it really needs no introduction from me. In September we are going to the best place in the world to see huge great white sharks. Crystal clear blue water, enormous sharks (by September the big females have arrived) and a spectacular backdrop with Guadalupe fur seals and Northern elephant seals. This is going to be a very special trip. The Up Close With Great White Sharks Expedition.

White shark trip

How close do you want to get?

 

Saving Sharks

Lastly, I wanted to chime in on the shark fin debate in Canada which is where I live. Our Prime Minister Steven Harper recently stated that he is not opposed to the import of shark fins as long as they are killed humanely. That’s a very naive opinion expressed by a politician that is either ignorant of the facts or cares more about votes than doing the right thing.
As brutal as shark finning is, the real issue is that we’re running out of sharks, not that they’re killed in a wasteful, barbaric manner.
Many shark species are on the brink of commercial extinction or have already crossed that line. This is not just a protectionist opinion. Drastic declines in shark numbers have been clearly documented by numerous well respected researchers and independent monitoring agencies around the world.

This is a call to arms to support FIN FREE CANADA. We can’t all be banner waving activists but we can all vote for change. Please sign this petition to ban the importation of shark fins into Canada:

http://unitedconservationists.org/what-we-do/fin-free-campaign/sign-the-petition.html

 Also, a personal message can got a long way. Mr Harper understandably does not want to ostracize our large oriental community in Canada. However, he needs to be reminded how many votes he’ll lose if he doesn’t change his stance on this critical subject.

If you’re Canadian, please let him know that he will lose your vote over this issue. If you’re not, please tell him that the world is watching and is not impressed. Remind him how endangered sharks are and that any fins coming into Canada are not coming from sustainable fisheries regardless of how ‘humanely’ they are fished.
Please email Mr Harper with your personal message: pm@pm.gc.ca

For the sharks as always,

Andy Murch

P.S. Expect another blog post very soon with a great new 2012 location. Get ready for the cold when Big Fish Expeditions partners with Whites Manufacturing!