October 23, 2010
Written by Amos Nachoum
My striped marlin adventure is leaving on December 4th, 2010. Want to come along? To get you started, here are the ten best things I know about the striped marlin.
1. You might have seen a marlin on the wall of a sportsman’s lodge and were impressed. I can assure you that the striped marlin is much more impressive in person.
2. Sport fishing is really big in Cabo San Lucas, and marlin are some of the most prized catches. I’ll tell you a secret, though. If you come with me to warm and sunny Todos Santos, a Baja California artist’s colony and surfer’s mecca up the coast from Cabo, you’ll find a special kind of inner peace in a beautiful location. And you get something else: You can scuba dive with a legend of the ocean.
3. Marlin are legendary animals, and not just because Ernest Hemingway wrote about them. The striped marlin we’ll encounter are said to be among the fastest fish in the ocean. I’ve seen them attacking schooling mackerel “bait balls” with their spear-like bills and I can tell you, they’re fast. They can even use their spear as a defensive weapon and to help catch food.
4. If you want to come on my expedition, the timing is critical. First of all, there are only a couple of spots remaining. The people who have signed up know that in December we’re in the peak feeding time for whales, seals and marlin. When the ocean’s that busy – it’s good news for scuba divers. We’ll see some spectacular displays of striped marlin feeding on mackerel, but we’ll also see the intense aquatic competition between the Bryde’s Whale and California Sea Lions. See it once, remember it forever. The photographs you get of this feeding frenzy will be among your most treasured.
5. Our boat is meant for 24 divers, but I like to take just four people on this trip. We can move fast to the best spots for marlin. How do we find them? We watch carefully for birds who are fishing for mackerel. Down below, we’ll find big groups of as many as a dozen striped marlin going after the smaller prey. They’re joined by seals, sea lions and Bryde’s whales up to 40 feet long.
6. It’s likely that you’ll see a lot more striped marlin with me on this trip than if you go anywhere else. Other divers report seeing just two or three, and they have to travel as far as Tonga or Ogasawara, Japan to have the experience.
7. On our adventure, we are there to capture the spirit of the animal, not its life.
8. Little known striped marlin fact: They can change the color of their stripes. When feeding or courting, the stripes on this amazing animal can light up – glowing with a blue or lavender phosphorescence.
9. If you check out Todos Santos on Google Earth and have the new Oceans plug-in, you can get a taste of what it’s like without leaving your desk. I recommend leaving your desk, though. You’ll have an experience on this expedition that you’ll never forget.
10. Did I mention that the timing is critical? December is when it’s all happening. I hope you can join me in this incredible adventure!
October 20, 2010
Written by Amos Nachoum
Last week I advised you to “stay tuned” for the second part of our Guadalupe Island expedition. We were diving – sometimes “cage-free”– with Great White sharks. Here’s one moment from the shark’s point of view.
Over the two weeks of this expedition a total of 20 divers learned first-hand about the Great White shark with some real “face time” experience. When they returned to their homes all over the world - Germany, Greece, New York, Florida and California – they all instantly became ambassadors for aquatic wildlife. Why is that possible?
Everest of Shark Diving
When you are introduced to this — the Everest of Shark Diving — you are never the same afterward. It’s a soul-shaking experience and it simply changes your life forever. I know it’s been that way for me, and it’s fresh each time I visit Guadalupe Island to see the Great Whites. For me, and for the divers I bring along on these trips, that’s the only way – you just have to go there. The experience is unfiltered. Completely real. This is a lot better than reading a newspaper or getting a TV reporter’s view of the ocean and its wildlife. Certainly, there are a lot of good sources out there: The Monterey Bay Aquarium, BBC Science News, and Google Earth with the Oceans plug-in is a fantastic resource. But nothing can replace actually going there yourself. Seeing these animals for yourself changes everything. You can be your own reality filter by getting up close and personal with a Great White shark. Like in this picture:
While I was in Baja California for the Great White dive, I learned that yet another body surfer along the California coast became the fatal victim of a shark attack. It happened in Santa Barbara County and it was a tragedy. But it also sparked yet another media frenzy about “predator” behavior of the Great White. In fact, a California Fish and Game official called the Great White involved in the attack a “perfect predator.” This makes me sad, not only because of the human tragedy, but also because so many of the positive, peaceful encounters I’ve lead for years get very little coverage. I’m all for dispelling the hype and myth of danger. But this can only be done when we dive with great responsibility and respect for aquatic wildlife. Here’s it it looks like with a real shark, real people, real life.
I say it’s the responsibility of the conservationists, the photojournalists and the environmentalists to keep the information flowing freely, and avoid spreading panic and the “witch hunts” of a shark attack. We need to help create a shark image makeover.
Will you join us? We’re ready to go with next season’s adventures. It promises to be another classic Big Animals expedition. I can tell you that life is good when you have three sharks around you.
October 20, 2010
Written by Amos Nachoum
Great White Shark Diving Field Report: Guadalupe Island
Here’s a field report from Baja California, Mexico as I wrap up part one of this year’s shark diving adventure. I’m getting this out to you before the next group of guests arrive.
Under my leadership, nine people just had the trip of a lifetime. They gathered from across the USA, South Africa, Australia and Germany to encounter the Great White Shark as only as biganimals.com expedition can deliver it. For five of them, “once was not enough.” They had been with me already on as many as six other trips – and, amazingly, one was back for the second time for an adventure with the Great Whites. It’s always gratifying for me to reconnect with people with a passion for adventure. This trip was no exception.
Cage-Free Diving with Great Whites
Shark dives off Guadalupe Island are usually done inside a protective shark cage. But with through preparation and very close supervision, it is possible to have the “cageless sensation” for a select few. On this trip I carefully chose five divers to join me, one at a time, for a cage-free experience, described by some as the “Everest of Diving experiences.” Here’s one guest as he’s getting ready to leave the cage.
I go about this very carefully. I started everyone in the surface cage at first. As you can see from the picture below, when guests leave the cage, they are always escorted by a safety diver. Though we saw sharks during the whole five day-trip ranging in size from 12 feet up to 15, the pace of shark visits on the first and second days was slow. But then, on the third day, the pace of the sharks frequenting our cages picked up and on the last day and last dive out of the cage we had four Great Whites circling the cage while we were swimming with them…carefully yes, and very much aware. Everyone returned home safely this morning, and now I’m waiting for the second team of this year’s Great White shark expedition.
The weather was calm and sunny, the sea was flat, and the team — they were an extraordinary group of adults who clearly understood what is at stake, the risk, and the adventure. All of the guests did a great job, and know very well how to work as a team, and take part in my know-how to manage risks as I lead them to experience the Great White in this dramatic way. Together we were able to dispel the myth of the “mindless predator” the Great White is so often made out to be. But the myth can only be dispelled when it is done thoughtfully, with responsibility and respect for these magnificent animals.
The water temp was a chilly 66-degrees F at 40 feet and at 80 feet, even cooler at 64 F. The semi drysuit by Bare was very helpful! A good thing, because the lower we took the cage obviously the colder the water got – but also more and more sharks were around us. We even recognized a few from last year. (We named them Lucy and Schroeder.) The year before as well as saw and ID’d some newcomers. One of them we called Noreiga. Once you see a Great White up close, like in the picture below, you’ll never forget it.
Next year’s Great White trip is scheduled for October 9 – 16, 2011, and only five spaces remain open. I suggest that you reserve your spot to see the great white shark for yourself as soon as you can.
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October 12, 2010
The Great White Shark and Guadalupe Island
If you want to swim with a Great White Shark you can come along on my next expedition to Mexico. A select few of us will be going “cage-free” – which is about a close to a totally free fish-like experience as any human might ever experience. We’re interested in underwater photography, catching these amazing creatures close up in their natural habitat. We travel just 150 miles off the west coast of Mexico’s Baja California, Guadalupe Island. Visibility is fantastic – 60-100 feet – and the water is warm – about 72 degrees. Conditions that are just right to merge heart and soul with the sea.
Swimming with Sharks
That state of becoming “one” with the ocean has been something lots of divers have tried to feel, and not just on a Great White Shark dive. An Israeli inventor I read about recently named Alon Bodner has been working on an underwater breathing apparatus that lets you swim like a fish without carrying compresses air tanks on your back. It sounds like science fiction, something out of Star Wars (Obi-Wan used an underwater breathing apparatus in “The Phantom Menace”). But there’s really more science to it than fiction. Nuclear subs and the International Space Station use something called electrolysis to split oxygen from hydrogen to get you something you can breathe. It seems like a system like that would work underwater, since even at a depth of 200 meters (nearly 700 feet) there’s still 1.5% dissolved air.
Scuba like the Fish Do It
You can’t mention SCUBA without mentioning Jacques Cousteau. With Emil Gagnon, he receives credit for basic design of the equipment we use today – a portable air supply. Alon Bodner’s idea is to use the same system fish use. The fish’s breathing apparatus work by allowing them to extract oxygen from seater, even deep in the sea. Amazing! But can we do it that way too, and dive without a tank? There’s a problem. And it brings us back to sharks.
Sharks are cold-blooded. That they don’t have to worry about regulating their body temperature – they rely on the water to do it for them. A shark has to stay in a part of the sea that has temperatures he can work with. He also swims all day with his mouth open and water streaming through his gills. That’s because seawater supplies just a little oxygen, and to extract it and support his large body, a shark has to keep moving. According to experts, only little fish, with little bodies, can sleep. But big sharks have to keep moving, and keep processing that seawater so they can breathe.
What’s that mean for you and me? We’re warm-blooded, so we have to regulate our temperature. That requires a lot of oxygen, more than anybody can figure out how to extract from seawater using a compact technology. (The technology they use on subs is really big and requires lots of energy to work.)
So I think that swimming completely free at depth, like a fish, might be pretty far off technologically, but I can give you that experience in real life. Just sign up for one of my adventures. The two most recent expeditions to see Great White Sharks in Isla Guadalupe sold out quickly. But you can sign up now to be part of the next one.
October 4, 2010
By Amos Nachoum
Great White Shark Diving is a Great Teacher
When I travel to the Galapagos Islands, or lead a Great White Shark expedition to Baja California in Mexico, or journey to Antarctica to see Leopard seals and other animals, I find that these places have a lot to teach me. They teach me not only as a photographer, but also as a human being.
Every time I suit up and jump in I rediscover a deep connection with nature. Personal encounters with large animals are life changing. The people I take on my trips tell me that all the time. Whether we’re diving in the Galapagos or walking in the footsteps of Ernest Shackleton in Antarctica, there’s this amazing paradox that happens.
You get what one participant called “an unparalleled intimate experience” with an animal many times larger that you are.
I’m excited to talk about all this at Google headquarters in Mountain View. On October 5th, I’ll be leading an invitation-only audience at Google through images and stories of personal encounters with awe-inspiring blue whales, cage-free encounters with Great White sharks, close-up experiences with polar bears, Leopard seals, anacondas and more. I am passionate about image-making, but I think there’s even more going on when we document the activities of these big animals. I love the work and the adventure, and it’s fun, but I also think it’s important – a reaffirmation of our deep connection with nature. At my Google talk, I’m going to highlight the place wildlife has in our culture.
We co-exist on Earth with amazing creatures. We may think of ourselves often as “the boss,” but when you experience the presence of a Great White shark close up, you start thinking other things. It’s more likely that we’re not “the boss,” but something like stewards of the planet. And first things first, we have to understand the animals we share the planet with.
One of the clients I’ve dived with wrote me to say that Great White sharks are “the most misunderstood animal on the planet. Once you have an opportunity to dive with them, you begin to understand their true nature and predicable behavior. They are not the mindless eating machine that the media portrays them to be. The thrill and excitement cannot be compared.”
I keep leading these trips and creating these encounters for myself and for others because they create a kind of magic. I have never felt more human – and more vulnerable — than in the presence of a magnificent animal. It might sound a little mystical to you, but when you look into the eye of a whale from very close, and experience that creature’s focused and calm regard, you feel its intelligence in your bones. Maybe even its soul. The memories I take away from these experiences are epic. They also demand of me that I share them with others.
That’s the reason I keep taking it to the edge, pushing the envelope, living outside my comfort zone and even sometimes testing common sense. I feel driven to highlight the meaning wildlife has for us, deeply experience the places where the world’s biggest animals life, and understand how their future co-existence with humanity is going to work for all of us. Wish me luck at Google! I’m looking forward to it.
There are some upcoming trips that I’d like you to know about. We have an October 16, 2010 departure to Mexico’s Baja California for a close encounter, both in-cage and out of the cage, with the Great White shark. We’ve already sold out one of these trips this year, so book now to catch the recently-added October 16th departure. For details, visit the trop page for the Great White shark expedition.
In Mexico, December 4 – 12, 2010, there are just three spots left for an intimate look at the world’s greatest game fish, the striped marlin. We’ll venture out on a 36-foot dive boat to see the secret places where magnificent striped marlin gather to feed. Our home base will be warm and sunny Todos Santos, near enough to Cabo San Lucas if you feel the urge, but with its own quiet charm if you want to drink that in.
April 17 – May 1, 2011 we’ll be in the Canadian High Arctic, following in the legendary footsteps of Henry Hudson, Robert Peary, Matthew Henson, Richard Byrd, Roald Amundsen and Nanook for an unforgettable adventure in wildlife photography. Expect long sunrises and sunsets filled with warm, golden light – perfect for photography. We’ll see polar bears, seals and whales, with icebergs calving in the distance, and also get some experience of Inuit camp life. Just four spots left on this trip, so book now.
Coming up on February 9-26, 2012 I’m going to take just five people to Antarctica to experience an encounter with the Leopard seal. We’ll be aboard the 158-foot luxury ice-class yacht Hanse Explorer.