Part 2. Summing up the surprises of the 2016 white shark season, Seal Island, False Bay Successfully snatched our decoy and gaping at it in the flawless water conditions Further, seeing some of our favourite sharks returning to the boat over consecutive days, a special mention (and thanks) to some of the stars this year: “Zebra,” “Dodgey L,” “Prop,” “Jika,” “Patches,” “Captain MF Hook” “Stumpy Freddy,” “The one with the bent dorsal (Orca/Nemo)” and a few OCEARCH tagged sharks, including “Vindication” and “Maureen.” Of course once we’ve named them, we get very emotionally attached. They become like a puppy dog, really cute but with rather sharp teeth, eating all your personal belongings. When naming and identifying individual white sharks, its usually from a distinguishing feature, scar or behaviour. However, it is incredible to see how much their behaviours’ vary, not only between the different individuals, but even for [...]
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Summing up the surprises of the 2016 white shark season, Seal Island, False Bay Leigh de Necker White sharks typically visit False Bay’s Seal Island to take advantage of vulnerable young of the year Cape fur seal pups when they start entering the water to feed. This is generally between March and September, however, this season showed a number of deviations from the expected norms. We took a trip to the Island towards the end of January and before we even had any bait in the water, we had seen a shark. We were beyond excited by the chance of having an early start to the season. This was the first of many unexpected surprises the season had to offer. For February and March, we had amazing shark activity around our boat, seeing an average of 4 sharks a day and still enjoying the late summer, early autumn warm [...]
Cape Fur Seals at Dawn Cape Fur Seals at Seal Island Cape Fur Seals are intensely curious animals, using their large, well developed eyes and sensitive mouths to investigate virtually everything in their environment. But when White Sharks are about, such curiosity is abandoned and all eyes search anxiously beneath the surface. Seal Islandis populated by approximately 60 000 Cape Fur Seals. Adult male Cape Fur Seals are up to 2.7 meters in length and 350 kilograms in mass. They usually mature at about 3 years, but generally do not become large and powerful enough to defend breeding territories until around 10 to 14 years of age. Experienced bulls often attempt to reclaim the same breeding territories they held the previous year. Adult females are less than 2 meters and 100 kilograms in mass. Females mature at 2 to 3 years of age. In late October, the adult [...]
Geography of Seal Island, False Bay Seal Island, False Bay is a small, elongate rocky islet with its long axis oriented roughly north-south, measuring approximately 400 by 50 metres, and with a maximum elevation of about 7 metres above the high tide line. The island has a narrow western shelf, with the water depth dropping off to a depth of 20 metres within 5 metres of shore, and a broad eastern shelf, where the water does not drop off to comparable depths until about 20 metres from shore. Off the southern tip of the island is a small, craggy outcrop, the portion which protrudes above the surface at high tide is approximately 4 metres long and 2 meters tall. Water temperature off Seal Island varies little throughout the year, hovering between 13 and 14°C at the surface and a degree or so cooler at the bottom where the depth [...]
"Polaris Attack" by a Great White Shark (Partial Predatory Ethogram of the Great White Sharks at Seal Island) Great White Shark ‘Polaris Attack’ – the attacking shark performs a swift, vertical rush; often leaping partially or completely out of the water, with or without a seal in its mouth. If a seal is in the shark’s mouth, it typically shakes its head violently from side-to-side, possibly facilitating death or severe injury via neck trauma caused by the ‘Lateral Head Shake’. This is typically devastating, usually killing or incapacitating the seal in the initial strike. Those seals which are wounded but not killed in this strike typically bear slashing wounds on the posterior abdomen (probably inflicted by the attacking shark’s lower anterior teeth, which form the first point of contact between predator and prey), usually located on the rearmost quarter of the body. Great White Shark ‘Surface [...]
Great Whites often sport numerous scratches on their heads, most likely caused by seals defending themselves during predatory events. From direct observation and data collected, Cape Fur Seals apparently reduce their vulnerability to Great White Sharks by: taking advantage of the expanded vigilance of entire groups. Sub-surface vigilance while rafting is accomplished via assuming a head-down posture, with only the tail and the tip of the rear flippers showing above the surface. leaving Seal Island as co-ordinated groups of 8 to 12 animals. Multiple groups – ranging from 2 to as many as 5 - leave the island at intervals of approximately 45 seconds. single or small groups (2-5) of individuals executing a finely controlled zig-zaging evasive maneuver when a Great White Shark is spotted stalking below them. This tactic is referred to as “working the shark”. when an individual is actively pursued by a Great White Shark, [...]
Great Whites will often target lone Cape Fur Seals during predatory events. From direct observation and data collected, hunting White Sharks apparently: stalk surface-swimming Cape Fur Seals from near the bottom, probably relying on camouflage afforded by the murky water and the dark, rocky bottom against which their dark dorsal surfaces render the predators all but or wholly invisible. Direct observation indicated that Great White Sharks at Seal Island were very difficult or impossible to detect visually below a depth of about 2.5 metres, and that all recorded attacks took place in water at least 6 metres deep. target young seals, which are presumably less experienced at predator avoidance and smaller than are older seals. This probably makes them easier to catch, overpower, and consume. target lone or small groups (2-6) of seals which may be more vulnerable due to limited vigilance capabilities of such a small group. [...]
It's here! Winter has arrived and she's greeting us with strong winds, lots of rain and great viz to come. On recent shark cage diving trips to Seal Island in False Bay we have noticed a large increase of Great White Sharks ranging from mostly new sharks and a few of the old faces too. One shark in particular we have seen a few times on natural predations, scavenges and he has even breached on our decoy seal once or twice. We like to call him chopper due to a large portion of his dorsal fin being chopped off. Up until a couple days ago chopper had never come to the boat but rather focused on hunting around the island instead but the other day he decided to come pay us a visit giving the cage a few passes. Chopper is a rather large Great White Shark pushing 4.5m [...]
What happened at lunch time May 19th at Seal Island...?! The last week has been hugely varied in terms of shark action on the African Shark Eco charters’ trips. Today was a prime example. Our morning trip started relatively slowly, we towed our seal decoy, had a shark make a slight lunge for the decoy but then head off. So we moored up, saw one great white shark swim past and then it went very quiet for a while. The call was made to change sites, and obviously as we pulled anchor only a few metres from our boat a great white took a seal! This is a very distinctive shark, as although we have never seen it come to our boat, we do see it in the distance chasing seals and breaching. Its dorsal fin looks like it has been chopped off at the top, so instead of pointing [...]
The Unique ‘Flying’ AIRJAWS Great White Sharks of Seal Island We have had incredible activity the past few weeks at Seal Island in False Bay. The great white sharks have been giving our tourists quite the show. We may make you wake up and get out of bed very early in the morning (and on vacation too!) but I hope it’s worth it to see our famous ‘flying’ sharks hunting seals with a vengeance. Seal Island is the only place in the world where great white sharks consistently jump out of the water as part of their hunting strategy; the unique topography of the island is the most significant contributing factor to this behaviour. The island’s underwater topography goes from being a few meters deep just off shore to dropping dramatically to 18-25 meters almost immediately. The great whites use this deep water around the island to patrol for [...]