Archive for the ‘shore diving’ Tag

Saved by an Angel (Shark)   Leave a comment

Saved by an angel (shark).

5th May 2009

In retrospect, driving north from San Diego when the bad weather hit may not have been the brightest thing to do. Refugio and Tajegis beaches were so churned up that we didn’t give them more than a cursory glance.

By the time we hit Monterey the surf had wrapped right around the headland and was hammering the usually tranquil inner harbour. We talked to shark researcher Sean Van Sommeran who conducts an annual elasmobranch distribution study at Elkhorn Slough north of Monterey. Sean has a lot of experience working with smoothhound sharks but his organization (PSRF) has not geared up for the season yet. Although he was very friendly and gave us all the pointers he could, it was obvious that mother nature was not going to favor us this time.

We retreated to the world famous Monterey Bay Aquarium and I spent a frustrating but enjoyable day watching the leopard and sevengill sharks swimming around their tanks. Claire spent her entire time among the sea dragons and pipe-horses. Apparently, they are as interesting to some people as sharks but I don’t get it.

Rolling with the punches is an important part of shark photography. Surface weather, underwater visibility and sporadic shark appearances are all factors that can wreck a trip when luck doesn’t run your way. Patience and the stubbornness to keep returning to a location for that illusive encounter are critical traits for anyone who thinks they might like to pick up a camera and become a serious shooter.

Sean graciously invited us to accompany him later in the summer when the weather will probably be better and with that idea in the back our minds we headed back south through Big Sur (a breath taking stretch of rugged so-cal coastline) and caught a ferry to Catalina Island.

Left: Big Sur. Right: Claire jumping in at Casino Point, Avalon, Catalina Island.

Sadly, the promised torpedo rays had come and gone from the marine park three weeks before our arrival. For three days we scoured the sea floor hoping to find a straggler limping over the sand but it was not to be.

At night we hooked up with Jon Council who taught me to fly submersibles many years ago. Jon having done thousands of dives around Catalina gave us his take on the torpedoes. Apparently off the western side of the island there is a deep reef known as Farnsworth Bank. According to Jon and confirmed by other local divers, torpedo rays regularly gather in great numbers along this reef and those intrepid divers that are prepared to risk the extreme narcosis that accompanies diving to 190ft may be rewarded with the site of dozens of torpedo rays literally laying on top of one another. Intriguing but very scary. Compared to most divers I get ‘narked’ very quickly so I am not the ideal candidate for very deep air diving. Jon suggested that we go there when Claire and I return to Cali at the end of the summer to look for smoothhounds. He offered to arrange a boat and bring scooters so that we don’t have to kick too hard at depth which brings on narcosis that much quicker. Claire, is not convinced.

Although the torpedoes eluded us on this occasion, the trip was not a complete washout. On our second day on Catalina we found a sleeping Pacific angel shark near the wreck of the valiant at about 90ft. Angels are very patient sharks and although it was completely buried under the sand when we arrived, it let me settle beside it and dust practically all of the sand off of its back without it moving a muscle.

This was only my third Pacific angel and the clear water around Catalina resulted in much sharper images than I could have gotten on the mainland.

We also came across a number of California bat rays but they are notoriously difficult to approach. Each time I saw the telltale plume of sand that indicated a bat ray was feeding nearby I would try to hold my breath and swim slowly up to it. It never worked. On our last dive in the park I stumbled upon one more bat ray and decided to try a different tactic. Kicking furiously I swam straight at it with my camera strobes blazing. Surprisingly, it worked quite well. The bat ray froze as I appeared in front of it and I managed to get some colorful head on shots before it came to it’s senses and darted away.

That was our last west coast elasmobranch and brought our tour total up to 13 species in five incredible weeks.

The next morning we dragged all our gear back to the mainland and headed east. 2 days and 1500 miles later we arrived in Houston to catch up with Shark Diver Magazine shooter Paul Spielvogel and to visit with Jerry and Melanie from Kickady Scuba who recently became the US distributors for Poseidon.

Jerry had me drooling over Poseidon’s latest Closed Circuit Rebreather.

We now have one day to rest, catch up this tour blog and prepare for the east coast leg of our adventure. Tomorrow we leave for Mississippi to accompany Dr Eric Hoffmeyer’s research team out to the barrier islands to look for a number of shark species that are rarely encountered by divers. We’re very excited about the opportunity to shoot some unusual sharks and to document Eric’s work.

After Mississippi we are heading to Venice, Louisiana to join Captain Al Walker and Eli, Nathan and Paul from Shark Diver magazine on a one day hunt for Dusky sharks and scalloped hammerheads. It just keeps getting better!

for the sharks,

Andy Murch

Sevengill Sharks in San Diego   Leave a comment

Sevengills in San Diego

24th April 2009

We have just left San Diego but we will definitely be back! San Diego is one of the sharkiest cities in North America period.

To recap, we arrived just over a week ago to storm like conditions and had to sit around frustrated while the waves pounded the shore line. After a couple of days the weather abated and we were able to get out with our good friend Walter Heim who found us some beautiful blue sharks to shoot. See our previous blog Blue Dogs off San Diego.

Walter’s friend Dave Hinkel (Owner of Blue Abyss Photo) was also on the boat and he was kind enough to give us some pics of us in the water with the blues.

After boat diving with Walter we heard that there had been a broadnose sevengill shark sighted in La Jolla Cove. We have always wanted to dive the cove so we arrived early and kicked out to the kelp forest cameras at the ready. We didn’t really expect find a sevengill shark but we had also heard that the cove is a good spot to find horn sharks so we were excited either way.

The forest is a fair distance from shore and as we wound our way back to the beach, looking under ledges for horn sharks, a curious sevengill suddenly materialized out of the kelp and did a quick circle around us. If you don’t know your sharks you could be forgiven for not understanding how unlikely this encounter was. Looking for horn sharks and finding a 7ft sevengill is like looking for nickels on the beach and digging up a diamond ring. Local divers that dive the bay every week may see a sevengill once a year or so if they’re very lucky. I don’t even know how to describe our luck in seeing a sevengill on our very first shore dive!

The shark let me get a couple of snap shots. Nothing particularly great and I couldn’t get in front of him no matter how fast I swam but at least we were able to record the moment.

I think Claire was in shock through the entire minute long encounter. She told me later that she was torn between shooting the shark and modeling for me to give my shots a sense of scale. As usual she did a great job.

After that we were hooked. We returned to the beach and switched out our tanks and dove straight back in but the illusive broadnose sevengill had given us our moment of contact and we spent the next three dives at the cove shooting horn sharks, banded guitarfish and shovelnose guitarfish.

The horn sharks made great photo subjects. We were able to shoot them hiding in crevices and swimming over the brilliant green sea grass beds that waved back and forth in the surge.

The banded guitarfish were the same species as the ones that we shot in the coral reefs in the Sea of Cortez. It is quite surprising that they are able to tolerate such temperature differences. Shooting them in kelp made a nice backdrop instead of coral but I now have so many banded guitarfish shots that I really have to start deleting some off my hard drives.

The other guitarfish that we encountered, the shovelnose, is usually a very skittish subject. I have tried to shoot this species at the beach and they invariably explode out of the sand in a puff of silt and swim for the depths before I can get anywhere near them. We were a long way off shore when  I found this one in the kelp forest and I think it was a little surprised to see me. Even so, I only got one shot off before it returned to its senses and headed for the hills.

Between dives we drove over to the Marine Room which is a snorkeling spot named after the restaurant of the same name. This is the best place on the planet to find leopard sharks but it was a little early in the year for the leopards to congregate in big numbers and I could not see more than some shadows in the distance – just one more reason to come back to San Diego.

We also tried a night dive at La Jolla shores in search of angel sharks but after an epic surface swim and a long, freezing cold night dive we returned to the shore empty handed. That isn’t such a big deal as we are heading up to Tajegis Beach near Santa Barbara soon. Tajegis is a good spot for angels but a bad spot for surge so if we are lucky enough to arrive there when the weather is cooperating we will get one more kick at the can.

We had planned to slowly work our way up the coast to San Francisco but the forecast for shore diving is not good so we have decided reverse everything and get to San Fran as fast as we can and then slowly work our way back down to San Diego before cutting across to the Gulf of Mexico to start our east coast leg.

Another development that we just couldn’t pass up; we have decided to squeeze in a trip to Catalina on the advice of Ron Clough who conducts the California Shark and Ray Count. I have never seen a Pacific Torpedo Ray so Ron (who’s advice has always panned out in the past) gave us the skinny on where to reliably find pacific torpedos:

“Torpedos are at Catalina Island, Casino Point.  Go deep, 70-90 ft. out toward the corner buoy on the left hand side, as you stand on the stair case facing the ocean. I’d give you a 99% chance.  Also, look forward to great vis there and some great shots. Hope I get a chance to dive with you.” With advice that detailed how could we resist! So, we are cutting the Grand Canyon off of our itinerary (it’s just a big hole in the ground anyway) and penciling in two days at Catalina.

Our east coast shark diving itinerary for May is starting to fall into place so if you’re anywhere between Texas and Florida come out and say hello.

For the sharks,

Andy murch

Bluedogs off San Diego   Leave a comment

Bluedogs off San Diego

20th April 2009

Just a quick update to let you all know that for the next few days we are hanging out in Southern California diving around San Diego. When we arrived four days ago La Jolla Shores looked pretty daunting but the seas have now calmed down and the shore diving is looking good.

Yesterday we got a chance to head out with our old friend Walter Heim. Walt is an all around great guy and a master at chumming in blues and makos.

We were a bit early for makos so we headed way off shore to where the water turns from green to blue and laid out an irresistible chum slick that attracted a couple of plucky little blue sharks. Its tough to do justice to the beautiful iridescent colors that reflect from the back of a young blue shark but we gave it a good try! As the sun was getting low in the sky Claire and I bobbed around behind Walter’s boat snapping frame after frame.

The second shark (about 5ft long) was happy to pose from just about every angle so I was able to add some really nice portraits to my blue shark collection:

A rare shot of me! Seems like I’m always on the other side of the lens.

Photo © Claire Pianta.

While writing this blog I got a couple of emails from Walt saying that the first school of Leopard sharks was spotted off La Jolla shores today and a diver encountered a sevengill shark in La Jolla Cove so tomorrow we’ll probably be in and out of the water all day. By the time we rendezvous with another one of Walt’s buddies for a night dive with horn sharks we’re gonna be chilled to the bone but how can we resist with so many sharks and so little time!

For the sharks,

Andy Murch

via Elasmodiver North American Fairwell Shark Diving Tour.

Life and Death in the Sea of Cortez   Leave a comment

After striking out with the fishermen in La Paz we headed north. For the past few days we have been camping on the beach near the dusty little town of Mulege about a third of the way up Baja’s east coast. Initially we thought that this would be a place that we could shoot all the species of round stingrays that are common in this region but after chatting in my terrible Spanish to the longline fishermen that work the bay I managed to convince one Captain (Martén) to let me accompany him and his crew on one of their longlining trips.

The boats mostly bring in tiny Pacific sharpnose sharks and (over the winter) juvenile smooth and scalloped hammerheads. When I told the fishermen that I wanted to jump in the water with the sharks they thought that I was a little crazy but they were ok with it as long as I didn’t get in the way.

We set out early in the morning but it took a long time for them to get any sharks. In total they put out four kilometers of longlines containing 1400 hooks baited with chunks of yellow striped fish that looked like some kind of grunts. For their effort, the fishermen landed 7 sharks weighing a total of around 20kg. I asked José, the other fisherman who has been in the industry a long time, what it was like in the old days. He told me that 20 years ago on his best days he could land over 1700kg of sharks.

Rows of shark hooks ready to be baited

I spent my time swimming around the panga shooting the sharks as they came up the line. It was a depressing thing to document. The sharks were still alive but beyond recovery by the time they were tossed into the bottom of the boat.

I took some shots of the carcasses and then sat there wondering if I was really cut out for this kind of thing. I believe that getting images of long liners doing their work is important from a conservationists perspective but to sit idly by while sharks are left suffocating in the bilge of a panga is a tough gig.

80cm long Pacific sharpnose sharks piled in the bottom of the panga

While I sat there, José pulled up a very lively sub-adult sharpnose shark and tossed it at the others. It immediately started flapping around so I figured this one still had a chance. I asked Marten what he thought this shark weighed and he said around 1.5kg. They had already told me that they get just over a dollar per kilo from the traders that periodically show up to buy the sharks so I explained as best I could that I would like to buy this particular shark. They got the idea and from the bemused look on their faces they obviously thought that I was completely loco but they agreed to sell me the shark and I grabbed it gently in front of its tail and dropped it back in the water before it could beat itself senseless on the deck planking. Two bucks for the life of a shark! What would it cost to keep these fishermen home for good?

Possibly these are the first images of a free swimming Pacific sharpnose shark

I know that I didn’t really achieve anything by liberating one little Pacific sharpnose shark but maybe my token act had some effect even if it was a small one. After I released the shark we talked as best we could in broken Spanish about the problems that sharks are facing and their important place in the ecosystem. They already understood the big picture maybe even better than me. I asked them what they would do if they couldn’t fish for sharks and they shrugged and said that they would fish for something else. Doing anything other than fishing seemed to be a bizarre concept that they did not want to entertain. If any real change is to take place it will have to come from the next generation.

Marten’s son in Law Aaron proudly holds up a sharpnose shark

After bidding farewell to the fishermen Claire and I went for a long hike along the rocky shore north of Mulege. Just before sunset we spotted some birds in the distance and went to investigate. What we found was a shoreline littered with discarded shark and ray heads. It was a tragic site. They were mostly Pacific sharpnose sharks and small smooth hammerheads but there were also a number of guitarfishes and the carcass of a butterfly ray. All in all it was a grim day.

Discarded shark heads littering the shoreline north of Mulege

The next day we returned with our cameras to photograph the grizzly remains and then spent the afternoon chasing round stingrays in the shallows next to our campsite.

In 5ft of water the stingrays were everywhere. It was a refreshing change to see so much life after so much death. We must have seen two or three hundred rays. Mostly round stingrays and a few Cortez stingrays.

The rays were very skittish and exploded out of the sand and darted away as we approached their hiding places but one older male round stingray let me get really close. I followed him around for a good half an hour and just as I was planning to head for shore he ducked down and latched onto a female ray that was sleeping under the sand. For the next 5 minutes I was able to watch an amazing spectacle as the male ray struggled to subdue his mate. The female put up a valiant fight as they spiraled around and around each other oblivious to the flashes emitting from my camera system.

That night I slept a lot better. The balance of species may be shifting but at least there is still life in the Sea of Cortez.

Stingray porn – a male Round stingray (Urobatis halleri) latches onto the tail of a female before mating

We were planning to look for Mexican Bullhead Sharks further north in Baja but it appears that they are so rare that no one I have spoken to has ever seen one. So we have decided to spend a couple of days slowly driving north and then cross the border into Southern California. San Diego here we come.

For the sharks,

Andy Murch

Shark Pictures

Leaving La Paz   Leave a comment

For the last few days we’ve been based in La Paz trying to hook up with the artesanal shark fishermen that ply the waters on the north side of the bay. Last time we were here I managed to get some good shots of smooth hammerhead sharks but this time the fishermen are even more illusive than the sharks and we have had a great deal of difficulty tracking them down. I was hoping that we could document them while they fish for Pacific sharpnose sharks. This is their main target species that lives year round in La Paz bay and elsewhere along the coast. It is a fairly abundant little shark but it still needs to be carefully monitored to make sure that the sharpnose stocks do not fall to critical levels.

The fishermen average about 5 sharks per trip at this time of year but they take considerably more in winter. The sharks are too small (max one meter) for the Asian fin market but the locals relish the meat and the sharks fetch around 60 pesos (4US$) per kilo at the fish market. That makes their trips worthwhile even if there are not that many sharks around.

We’re planning to try one more time tomorrow to catch them at their fishing camp and then give up and move north.

The Easter holidays (Semana Santa) ramp up over the next few days. Easter is a massive event in Mexico and in Baja anyone with a tent heads to the beach. That means that the beaches around the main population centers down near La Paz will be zoos for the next few days. We want to get as far north as possible in the hopes that we’ll miss the flood of Mexican holiday makers but the chances are that wherever we end up we’ll probably still be swept up in the festivities. That’s ok; ‘when in Rome’ and all that.

I haven’t been in the water much since our last blog but I’ve still been talking sharks. A few days ago we met up with Documentary Maker Mike Hoover at the La Paz opera of all places. I haven’t seen Mike since our last trip to Guadalupe Island. Mike is a fascinating guy. His career in the film industry has been colorful, exciting and tragic in equal measures but his resilience and no nonsense astute personality are what I like about him the most. He is best known for his frontline work in Afghanistan during the Russian invasion and his cutting edge mountaineering films (among others) that have been well received by audiences around the world for decades. He has also worked on blockbusters like Forest Gump, Crimson Tide and The River Wild. More recently, he has been involved with numerous films about Great white sharks aboard his expedition ship the Captain Jack which is how I met Mike for the first time last year.

This time we only managed a short conversation before the singing started so I hope that I get another chance to talk and work with him soon.

Our next stop will be a day’s drive north on one of the white sand beaches around Bahia Conception. There are many beaches that we have never had the time to visit and some that are old favorites. All of them are home to hundreds of tiny Round and Cortez stingrays so we’ll be strapping on the snorkels once again and chasing rays until the sun goes down.

We wanted to keep this tour as fluid as possible but everyone we plan to visit has schedules so we’re slowly having to nail down dates for each adventure. The good news is that we have had a great response from all our friends and some once in a lifetime offers to do some very exciting diving. It now looks like we may be able to take a crack at sevengills in the wild with our shark tagging buddy Walter Heim. And, when we finally get to the Mississippi Delta we have an invitation to join a field trip with Dr Eric Hoffmayer from the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory. The GCRL is conducting an abundance and distribution study on coastal sharks and rays so that means that we will get to photograph lots of hard to find species like finetooth, Atlantic sharpnose, juvenile bulls and who knows what other sharks, not to mention all the illusive ray species that inhabit that part of the coast – I’ll be in elasmogeek heaven.

You can now follow our schedule at the following link:

http://www.elasmodiver.com/northamericansharkdivingtour.htm#Itinerary

For the sharks

Andy Murch

Shark Pictures

Mobula Rays Don't Play Nice.   Leave a comment

We have just left the sleepy village of Cabo Pulmo which is at the end of a very bumpy ‘washboard’ dirt track in Baja California Sur.

We were there to shoot mobula rays but unfortunately mobulas do not like to be photographed. There were certainly plenty there to shoot (they were schooling in their thousands) but as soon as we slipped into the water they would descend as deep as they could and stop breaching until we were so exhausted from chasing them that we had to get back on the panga. Then, they would start jumping again a few hundred meters away. It was fantastic to be in the water with such an enormous biomass of animals moving below us in formation but utterly frustrating to not have the chance to get close enough to record the encounter. If I was a better free-diver I might have been able to swim around at 40 or 50 ft and nail the shot but breath hold diving is not one of my strong points. If anyone out there wants to try the same thing next season I have one piece of advice; bring a rebreather. I believe that it is the only tool that can really do the job. We did manage to take a few snap shots of them both breaching and some murky shots of them gliding by in the darkness but none that are print worthy.

While we were out on the panga we tracked a humpback for a while and shot some pretty tail pics and then swum with sea lions and played with a giant school of big eye jacks but all told it was meager pickings for jaded shark divers.

The highlight and most productive session in Cabo Pulmo came right on our door step. While snorkeling off the beach where we were camping we came across a very accommodating banded guitarfish. It picked up and swam a little at first but eventually it got used to the flashes and let me shoot frame after frame. The pics are some of the best I have of this ray.

Camping on the beach outside town was a great way to start this adventure. There were no ‘facilities’ so it was a big change from crewing and living on a megayacht! All went well until I drove a little too close to the sea and my VW camper van got bogged down. After much wheel spinning things went from bad to worse. I’ve played this game on ice and snow but I’ve never been stuck in sand before. Unlike snow, sand just gets deeper. We started digging and thought we were making progress but the wheels continued to spin and then I realized that the wheels were no longer touching. We had sunk so low that the floor pan of the van was sitting on the sand! After about an hour more digging and a push from some passers by we finally managed to reverse back onto the hard pack. It was a tense couple of hours!

Claire digging us out (I helped too)

A VW shaped hole in Los Frailles beach!

North of Cabo Pulmo we tried navigating another dirt road and almost exactly the same thing happened but this time we were able to get a tow from a passing truck. Kimberley currency (cold beer) got us out of that fix.

I don’t think that VW had this kind of off roading in mind when they came up with the Eurovan! Fortunately, what goes around comes around and we were able to squeeze a family of six onto the bed in the back of the van to give them a lift into Cabo Pulmo when their rental car broke down. My van (which is missing a bushing on the front axle) groaned and clanked most of the way but we finally arrived in the village in one piece.

Next stop will be the artesanal shark fishing camps north of La Paz (along another dirt road). We’re not sure what reception we will get or how much we’ll be able to communicate with the fishermen in our rudimentary Spanish. Hopefully they will let us accompany them on their fishing trips but more about this in the next update.

Since we posted this blog about the trip we have had many emails from friends old and new asking when we will be in each area. It’s great to know that we will have the chance to catch up with so many people and we’re looking forward to every encounter. Unfortunately it is really tricky to estimate exactly when we’ll get to the next town let alone when we’ll be in Miami or Massachusetts! But, don’t let that put you off if you want to catch up with us. we’re going to cram as much diving and socializing into this tour as we physically can.

It now looks like we will get a chance to go out with a Mexican researcher on the Pacific coast of Baja that works with smoothhound sharks. We also got an invite to socialize with shark tagging veteran Walter Heim and maybe hunt for sevengills in San Diego. That would be amazing if we can pull it off.

Sean Van Sommeran of PSRF up in Elkhorn Slough also agreed to give us the skinny on Gray Smoothhounds where he conducts his research so our west coast agenda is looking fantastic.

A quick thank you to our friends in Cabo Pulmo: Muchas Gracias Javier and Juan for trying everything they could think of to help us get the mobula shots. If anyone wants to take up the gauntlet and carry on where we left off, these brothers will get you to the mobulas. The rest is up to you. You can contact Javier at: Javycastro@yahoo.com.mx he says Fidel is his uncle but I didn’t notice a resemblance.

For the sharks,

Andy Murch

Shark Pictures

North American Shark Diving (Farewell) Tour   Leave a comment

We’re leaving. The owner of the boat we were working on turned out to be a tyrant and life is simply too short to waste time tiptoeing around angry people. Consequently we are free. We have a little money saved and we’re hell bent on embarking on the craziest, most ambitious road trip that we have ever dreamed up.

After this epic adventure we will fly to Australia, get married and spend the foreseeable future photographing the hundreds of shark and ray species that call Australia home so this trip is our last chance to take in the incredible sights and diverse elasmobranchs (sharks and rays) that North America has to offer.

Our starting point is the southern tip of the Baja peninsula in Mexico. We have our ailing VW camper loaded to the gills with diving and camera gear and enough tunes on our IPods to last for 37 days. Our first stop driving north will be Cabo Pulmo. Home of diamond and longtail stingrays, banded guitarfish, schools of pacific cownose rays and (at present) jumping mobula rays that seasonally converge on this isolated reef system in their thousands.

Next stop La Paz to join shark researcher Mauricio Hoyos for one more visit with the artisanal shark fishermen that ply the bay for smooth hammerheads and Pacific sharpnose sharks. Then up to the beaches south of Mulege; Urolophid central. Camping on the beaches by night and snorkeling with round, cortez, and bullseye stingrays by day.

We’ll skip through the rest of the sleepy towns in the lower Sea of Cortez and cross the desert into Northern Baja. Then cut back east to the remote village of Bahia de los Angeles where I have a hunch we can find Mexican bullhead sharks near the sea lion colonies.

After that it’s time to cross the border. First stop in Cali is San Diego. Leopard sharks at the marine room in La Jolla, possibly soupfins in the cove, and horn sharks at night in La Jolla Canyon. Its all shore diving so we can dive our hearts out and still have enough cash for a feed. Gotta shoot the harbour seals too.

North to Santa Barbara. Camp at Refugio Beach north of the city and hunt for swell sharks in the kelp forests. 15 minutes further north, Tajegis Beach is one of the few places where angel sharks are reliably found but the vis is often horrendous.

After Tajegis we’ll drive along Big Sur and resurface in Monterey. Hit the aquarium (the sevengill sharks are awesome) and then go play with the seals and sea lions and look for big skates. Then cruise north as far as San Fransisco.

San Fran pier fishermen report that they catch brown smoothhound sharks by the bushel (mostly at night). We’d like to do some exploratory dives under the piers to see if they’re approachable. SF Bay may be like diving in coffee so if anyone has some experience diving there, I’m all ears.

Then its adios west coast. Death Valley, Grand Canyon (hey, Claire is an Australian tourist) and then Texas. Maybe dive the gulf on the way to Venice, Louisiana. Splash out in Venice for some big critter diving. Scalloped hammerheads, duskies and silky sharks are common on the humps about 70 miles from shore. It will be a real highlight because we’ll be hooking up with the Shark Diver Magazine crew: Eli Martinez, Paul Spielvogel and Nathan Meadows. Haven’t seen the whole gang since we shot Summer of the Sharks so it’ll be a great reunion.

Mississippi beckons with the promise of numerous little sharks in the estuary. Finetooth sharks and Atlantic sharpnose sharks among others. I don’t have any contacts in the Gulf of Mexico so if anyone reading this blog can introduce me to some friendly researchers willing to let a coupla shark photographers tag along on a field trip please let me know.

Next stop Panama City, Florida. Camp at the state park within camera schlepping distance of the pier. This is a great place to shoot Atlantic stingrays and occasionally bluntnose stingrays too.

We have to stop at Crystal River on our way down through Florida. I know that manatees are not sharks but come on, manatees! they’re so cool! Down to Tampa, visit Mote Marine, kick up a few prehistoric mako teeth on Venice Beach and then head through the Everglades to Miami.

Would love to go look for smalltooth sawfish but they’re pretty tricky to find. Through the keys for a couple of days to dive with nurse sharks, southern stingrays and yellow spotted stingrays then we’ll head up the east coast.

We will probably drop in on some old friends in West Palm Beach that regularly go spear fishing among bull and lemon sharks and then we’ll say goodbye to the oppressive heat of Florida and drive directly up to the outer banks of North Carolina where sandtigers rule the wrecks.

Further north still, in and around Maine, there are plenty of blue sharks and spiny dogfish to keep us entertained. If possible we’ll try to stay posted on the basking shark migration. If they’re in town when we head up the New England coast we’ll have to find a way to get out to where they are feeding.

Our final stop in the US will be in Massachusetts. The beaches around the Cape Ann Peninsula are home to winter skates in the winter and little skates in the summer. I’m not sure when the transition takes place but if we’re lucky we’ll be able to shoot both species. Cape Ann also has a population of Atlantic torpedo rays but so far I haven’t seen any.

By the time we cross the border it should be warm enough in eastern Canada to go diving without having to break the ice first 🙂 Before we get there, I’ll check in with the porbeagle shark fishermen to see what they are up to. I’ve done two trips to the Bay of Fundy and the water is always like green tea so I am hoping that this time I can shoot porbeagles in NS where the water is much clearer.

Then northeastward to Gaspe to shoot harbour seals (they’re different to the californian ones) and then a ferry north across the Saint Lawrence River to chase Greenland Sharks in Baie Comeau.

That pretty much sums it up. After that we’ll drive west to Ontario and sell my camper (assuming it makes it that far) and fly to Western Australia. We figure that should take around three months unless we stop to work along the way. If we’re frugal, we have enough cash to keep the van fueled up and pay for groceries, tank fills, the occasional dive charter, truck stop showers and the odd campground.

Along the way we will try to hook up with as many of our old friends as possible. We’re also looking forward to bumping into other shark divers, shark researchers, and anyone else out there that wants to talk shark. We’ll be updating our blog once or twice a week with pictures and stories of our encounters both underwater and above and posting them on a new page on Elasmodiver.com where you can follow our progress: northamericansharkdivingtour

Our first stop Cabo Pulmo is totally off the grid at the end of a long dirt road but as soon as we make it into a town we’ll upload the first progress report. Well, it’s 1.30am and we’re leaving in the morning so I guess I better call it a night.

For the sharks,

Andy Murch

Shark Pictures