February 9-21, 2014
Once again, William found himself in Bimini, Bahamas, to follow up on the first expedition of the year. He returned to the tiny island to place more acoustic tags on great hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna mokarran) for research conducted at the Field Research Station.
This round of expedition was supported by long-time friend and colleague Fred Buyle and Lukas Müller, a passionate young marine biology student from Germany who already volunteered to two other shark tagging expeditions.
As bad luck would have it, a snow storm system paralyzed the Eastern US coast again, on the eve of the Presidents’ day long week-end, making it completely impossible for half the participants to make their sunny destination without almost a week of delay. Oh, how disappointed they were !
For the others who made their flights, a week full of spectacular diving awaited them.
For one of them in particular who really wanted to cross “freediving with sharks” off his bucket list, he got more than what he had bargained for. He did get to freedive with sharks on his very first day, on a 27-meter deep dive spot called the “deep barge”. There, he saw, not one, not two, not three, but seven bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas). A group of them, attracted by the presence of the handful of scuba divers that were diving the barge before us. To say that our newbie shark freediver was impressed is an understatement. This dive took care of his nerves for a long time to come. After that experience, seeing a great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran) felt like a walk in the park !
There was also a father with his two young sons, 15 and 11 years old. None had dove with sharks before. They dove to their heart’s content with nurse sharks (Ginglymostoma cirratum), great hammerhead sharks and the occasional bull shark. Anticipation and nerves soon gave way to excitement and satisfaction. Being face to face with the large predators became an enchantment.
Mission accomplished! In addition to the additional nine acoustic tags which were placed on the great hammerhead sharks, the participants left the island with plenty of stories to tell. Nothing replaces irrational fear of sharks like diving with them, in safe conditions. The predators are respected for the wild creature they are and everyone goes home with a better understanding of these otherwise vilified creatures.