Short Term 12
Magical Moments | Shark Attack!
This is quite a short clip for "Magical Moments", but it is not every day that you get attacked by a shark is it?! Of course popular media would have you believe that if you jump into the sea then you will be devoured almost instantly, but despite their fearsome reputation these days there are just not that many sharks out there and they very rarely attack humans. Very rarely, but not never...
So we were in the Socorro Islands recently, a wonderful place full of Sharks, Mantas, Dolphins and Whales which reminds you a little of what the ocean should look like without human interference. One natural phenomenon that they have been seeing a lot of lately are baitballs, which is when fish group together for protection as they are hunted by a predator or predators working as a team. The baitball that we encountered at Socorro was of juvenile Jacks which were being hunted by Tuna, Silvertip, Silky and Galapagos sharks.
As soon as I'd entered the water I felt an almighty smack on my back and I was pushed underwater. I assumed that someone had jumped off the RIB on top of me, but when I turned around no one was there. I later found out from the guys on the boat that a Galapagos shark had literally jumped on top of me as soon as I'd entered the water!
The action was fast! The bait fish were swimming everywhere in an effort to confuse the predators and make their escape. It's not advisable to get into the ball of fish themselves as sharks will often lunge through with open jaws hoping to snag a fish and if you are in their way you could get a nasty surprise. So when the fish start to congregate around you for protection you know it is time to try to move out of the way.
The Baitball had broken up and I was backing away from a group of fish heading in my direction when the Galapagos shark from earlier made its return. It had obviously taken a liking for the electronics in my camera housing because rather than following after the fish it diverted towards me and as I pushed it away it proceeded to take a chunk out of my brand new Amphibico housing. It was the first time that the housing had been in the water and it was attacked by a shark! Believe me that is quite an achievement!
So not really a shark attack on me, but certainly a reality check and a reminder that you can never become complacent when sharks are around and in hunting mode! And remember - sharks are in far more danger from man that we are from them!
Magical Moments | Friendly Manatee
During cold spells Manatees head in droves for the fresh water springs around Crystal River, Florida as the water temperature in this area remains a constant 72 degF.
On one exceptionally cold winter day a few years ago I managed to film this incredibly friendly Manatee. They really are wonderful creatures and although it is illegal to pursue or harass or even touch a Manatee they will often seek out snorkelers and divers to interact with them and maybe get a belly rub.
Sadly their numbers appear to be in a steady decline so it is unknown how much longer we will be able to share experiences like this one.
Magical Moments | Common Dolphins
The west coast of Scotland is a truly magical place and it is one of the few places on earth where I feel totally at peace. Something about the light, the air and the lack of people no doubt!
In June 2011 I spent a week sailing around the islands of Mull, Tiree, Gunna and Coll looking for Basking sharks. We had some amazing wildlife encounters and (Baskers aside) one of the most special was with a playful pod of Common Dolphins.
Anyone who has spent any time out on the water around the UK knows just how unpredictable our weather can be. The number of days I have spent in harbour looking out at rough seas is uncountable and up until that point the spring and summer weather of 2011 had been atrocious. Yet occasionally, very, very occasionally we can chance upon perfect conditions and that day was definitely one of those days.
As we were heading out from the harbour of Tobermory over totally flat seas we came across this pod of anywhere between 50 - 200 dolphins. I sat on the bow for an hour or more as the dolphins surfed the bow wave and played all around us. Most people wouldn't even believe that encounters like this were possible in UK waters. Truly Amazing.
Oliver Spear - Homo Aquaticus
For someone who is in love with water, watching your little boy or girl learn to swim is a joyful experience. We first introduced Oliver to the water when he was 12 weeks old as part of the same structured training programme which enabled his big sister Gracie to earn her 100 meters distance badge only a few weeks after she turned 4.
From birth babies have a natural reflex to close their epiglottis whilst submerged underwater but unless trained they have normally forgotten this by the time they reach 6 months old. The Homo Aquaticus (Aquatic Ape) theory has now been largely discredited, but it is nice to let your imagination run wild for a bit and imagine that it was our ancestors interaction with water rather than de-forestation in East Africa due to climate change that set man on a different path to the other creatures on our planet.