29 May 2009

Team 3 Earthwatch Woodside TeachLive Day 7

Well today wraps up a pretty spectacular time here in Exmouth for all involved, including me! The last two weeks here have seen some amazing creatures (and people) and plenty of balmy sunshine to soak up before heading home to the "real" winter of the south-east coast.

Today was our final snorkel together as a team, back at Lakeside, which is the best spot I've seen while I've been here. Even better than last week, there were plenty of sting rays, black tip reef sharks and finally I got to see a green turtle which is all I wanted to see before I left! He was a cruisey turtle swimming through the shallows at the back of the reef area who didn't seem to mind that I tagged behind for a while. There were cod, there were trevally, there were snub-nosed dart fish which were pretty spectacular and the usual small reef fish busy in the currents and busy protecting their little patches of delight. The current was a bit stronger today so it was interesting if you paused for a second to adjust your goggles, you'd look down to return to what you were looking at and find an entirely different system! Hang on a second! Where am I???? You had drifted well beyond where you thought you were, but it just created a new paradise to explore. So much to see, so little time. I would highly recommend a snorkel at this site any day. I'm glad I got to see it twice.

The team have done a superb job of sighting whale sharks all week, and entertaining each other during the nights. Tonight is our last night together before we all go our seperate ways, but I am certain it's been a fabulous time had by all and an amazing week or two of marine discoveries. There have been mermaids around the place.....hmmmmmm......

Lighthouse for sunset again tonight before we go which puts the icing on the cake really.
Cheerio to Exmouth.


28 May 2009

Team 3 Earthwatch Woodside TeachLive Day 6

Go Team 2 !! Today was the most awesome day in the history of Earthwatch Teachlive whale shark swimming ( according to Julie). The day started off with a very deep but interesting snorkel in a great spot called Central Station where many manta rays and sharks come to get cleaned by other fish. In the same vicinity there were many other turtles and sharks which certainly gave the folks scuba diving a thrill. Back on the boat, after consuming a healthy morning tea, we were treated to a smorgasboard of minky whales and humpback whales which kept us well entertained on our way to the main event of the day – the whale shark swims!!

We weren’t disappointed. The water clarity outside the reef was the best all year
(according to the spotters) and the whale sharks came to the party!!!

Our first drop was on a long time visitor – No Back Jack who was a delight to swim with and allowed us a very long and relaxed swim. The next sharks came in quick succession with 2 more sharks in a very short space of time allowing us time with them in the water. But the best of all was our final shark which we swam with in 12m of water over coral for such a long time. He was a slower swimmer and his time spent with us was amazing, wonderful, beyond words – he was an incredible last swim to end a fantastic day and our week spent in Exmouth, which we will never forget!

Team 3 Earthwatch Woodside TeachLive Day 5

It was WOW for most days of the past week but today left them behind for whale sharks. While we saw about five today but ended up with about 6 dives. So we had a good look at each shark.

The weather was very kind with a rolling sea and small chop that lowly dropped away. The boat we were on was new this season to Ningaloo but were a good crew to be with. Each boat has been different but all were good. Young crews are all out there and full of energy while today’s was less laid back and more formal and demanding that you did everything their way.

Visibility was very good at about 15 metres, which meant there was not a lot of plankton in the water column, but still the sharks were there and one was not fully feeding but was opening its mouth for food. Many of today’s critters were going up and down like roller coasters.


26 May 2009

Team 3 Earthwatch Woodside TeachLive Day 4

Heading out this morning, the sky was grey but the breeze was warm. Hoping the rain on the northern skies would stay where it was we headed out for a morning snorkel on a deeper dive than Sunday, here there were many more fish of all sizes and colour feeding on coral, jellyfish and more. Then coming from a distance crept a white tip reef shark who wasn’t impressed by our presence and soon left the rest of the reef in peace.
We jumped back on the boat ready for the whale sharks, but the cloudy skies made it hard for the spotter planes to find where they were hanging out today. Not long after we had our first sighting and jumped in for a brief encounter before the shark dived. Surrounded by a possie of sucker fish and baby trevally and whale shark disappeared into the depths.
However the swims came again and again with 3 different whale sharks all cruising just below the surface making visibility great watching with a more experienced eye the small identifications of each shark could be seen, a research tag, a nick in the fin and brightness of spots on one and the distinctive pattern on another. We had so many swims lunch was postponed and although in need of food the swimmers jumped in for one last swim with the whale sharks all hastily trying to keep up. They day ended with the sun appearing a great lunch. The experience just gets better the more you swim! Have some great photos to prove it too! Tomorrow we will process the photos and see what sharks we sighted today.


25 May 2009

Team 3 Earthwatch Woodside TeachLive Day 3

Thankyou Caroline for finding this blog so I can describe what a fantastic day we had at Ningaloo Reef, with its wealth of species and incredibly large biomass. We started the day on the reef with a make-sure-you-don't-sink snorkel, meet a few turtles and 3 Tawny Grey Nurse Shark, one who was not pleased with us. Then once the staff were happy we could swim it was off to meet our first Whale Shark, sighted just after our talk on what to do when in the water with the Whale shark. Team one in, team two get ready, check camera, camera failed then shark dived, swim aborted. Next shark team 2 first in, camera worked, go go go!! Shark was great, big majestic and nonchalent. Thanks for the experience.

Another shark is sighted, so is an Ocean Going Manta Ray, so we detour, meet up have a swim and a chat, then off on another detour this time to a 1000 member pod of spinner dolphins. These were great. These mammals were going crazy, jumping, racing the boat and doing their name thing and a couple of crew decided to come back as spinner dolphins.

Next another Whale shark who was just great he thought of our boat as home, under the boat, around the boat, then all over again, followed the swimmers almost onto the marlin board. Obviously this shark had not read the 3 meter rule.

End of the day a quiet snorkel for those who had the energy. Did I mention the great food, the informative staff, the great company and the ambience of the water and coastline. Looking forward to another day on the water getting used to new experiences and mind expanding experiences.


24 May 2009

Team 3 Earthwatch Woodside TeachLive Day 2

The day I nearly got eaten by a shark.

We departed south of Exmouth this morning in search of whale sharks. First we had a training dive and I’ve never seen so many fish in all my life, all colours, sizes and shapes. One of the other people in the team saw a shovel-nosed ray. We moved on waiting for the spotter plane to find the whale sharks. We waited for a while before the first whale shark was sighted but unfortunately it was a little too deep for me to see, so it was suggested that I maybe open my eyes!

So it wasn’t long until we could jump back into the water on another sighting and this time I was right in-front of the whale shark. Out of the murkiness came the whale shark face on. I was able to get some really good photos of him as he passed just to the left of me. Everybody was swimming like mad to keep up with him. We boarded the boat again and everybody was ecstatic at their first whale shark sighting and eager to get back into the water. It was estimated to be about 4-5 metres long and surrounded by small fish. We had to then wait a while for the sharks to come to the surface again. There was a frenzy of diving as several whale sharks came to the surface over a short time. It was a case of into the water, swim along with the shark and 7 other divers, out of the water and back again 4 times. The last dive turned out to be extra special as the whale shark swam away from us and all of a sudden it decided to turn back giving us the best viewing of the day. An experience I can’t really explain but has to be done.


22 May 2009

Team 2: Counting Time Again...

It's been another busy and exciting week for the six Earthwatch volunteers. With another there days on the water and three and a half days in the lab each, the volunteers came up with the following (highly impressive) results:

Sharks seen and photographed: 24

Encounters submitted to the ECOCEAN Photo-ID Library: 112

Additional images processed to be uploaded by next week's team: 40

Hours spent swimming with sharks: 9

Kilometers traveled in the ECOCEAN signature van: 120+

Hours spent on computers: 24 (plus an additional several by each of the TeachLive volunteers as they answered their eager students' whale shark inquiries)

All in all, it was a fantastic trip from start to finish. After a cloudy and slightly uncomfortably cold first day on the water (with 5 sharks seen to help neutralize the chill factor), the expedition ended with a perfect day out at the national park, and a swim at Lakeside with sharks, turtles, rays, and a delightful array of Ningaloo corals and fish.

Thanks for all your hard work Susie, Robbie, Damon, Trent, Richie and Sean!

Until next time...

-Steve and Darcy