Amy’s most challenging aspects

July 09, 2012 by dyertrust

What has been the most challenging aspect of your project?

There is one glaringly obvious challenge with this project and that is not getting your equipment damaged or eaten by a great white shark, owner of the most famous and notorious jaws in nature and popular culture. On the flipside you dont want a shark to injure its mouth if it does try bite your gear. Using a pole-mounted camera/laser rig has its advantages: I dont have to take up a spot in the cage on every trip, and thus I have some flexibility in where I aim it. Slashfin has an amazing set-up where I can be posted onto a specially designed platform, safely harnessed out of the way; I call it the Shark Shelf. Its located on the side of the boat, conveniently away from most of the chum particles. However on an overcast day, it can be quite nerve-wracking. Even with polarized sunglasses and preparedness for the unexpected, one cannot deny that white sharks are cunning predators with incredible camouflage, and very difficult to see when the glare gives the water a mirror-like appearance. Ive had a fair few heart palpitations at the sudden appearance of a great white face near my rig. On these days I sit with the rig out of the water, to be on the safe side, only submerging it when a shark I can see swims by. This is less than ideal though because submerging the rig momentarily creates bubbles which obscure the cameras view of the shark (shoals of mullet can be a similar inconvenience). If Im too slow off the mark I miss capturing footage (ie. data) of most of the body. The curiosity of certain individuals about the new shiny metal object, in addition to the usual bait and decoy, is undeniable, and on a clear, sunny day, can be comedic rather than terrifying; a white shark doing a double-take is quite something!

When the boat excitement and data collection ends for the day, the real work holds its challenges too. Thankfully, my previous work experience has meant that the not-so-glamorous squinting at a laptop screen hasnt come as a great shock. Extracting optimum stills from the footage is time-consuming. The cataloguing of individuals I mentioned in my earlier post is tiring on the eyes and brain after a while, and then the sharks will have to be converted into numbers to run statistical analyses. Just as it sounds, the stats are where the fun begins