Saturday, May 5th by Virginia Ansaladi, RJD lab manager
It’s that time in the semester again when you can’t even remember what the ocean looks like – or the sun for that matter. 5-Hour Energys are your best friend and all nighters are like that guy from high school who just realized you’re the only one he knows in the chemical oceanography class he’s having trouble with – you can’t avoid them no matter what you do. Needless to say, I was PUMPED about spending a day on the water to get away from it all. Little did I know what a truly amazing day it was going to be.
We RJD folk like to carpool to relieve that monotonous 2 hour drive down to Islamorada where we go fishing, so I was up by 5am collecting my things before heading out to pick up my fellow RJD buddies. Turns out it had been a long week for everyone so I had a couple bobbing heads on the way down that highlighted my own tiredness. Luckily, fellow intern, James Komisarjevsky, is a grade A copilot and supplied me with energizing fruity V8 deliciousness, because as soon as w got there it was go go go. We loaded the boat, collected forms from our participants, and we were off – with quite an eclectic group might I add.
We had members from Shark Whisperers charity, Shark Savers advocacy group, and shark lovers from the community at large out with us today. A really great group to have aboard – lots of questions, lots of interesting conversation, but most of all, lots of enthusiasm.
The conditions were perfect out for sampling one of our deeper sites (a chance we don’t get often), so we attached some extension lines to our drumlines and dropped our first ten 150 feet down into the blue. And what do you know? Not only was the weather cooperating, but so were the fish.
Our first round we landed a sweet little juvenile tiger shark. Male, about 170cm in total length, this little guy still had his spots (tiger sharks won’t actually get their characteristic stripes until they mature). Everyone worked quickly to get him back in the water and, just as fast, we reset 10 more drumlines.
Another 1500 feet of rope later and we were riding high. On round two a beautiful hunk of a male bull shark graced us with his presence as we adorned his dorsal with a lovely little satellite tag. Then, an 11 foot scalloped hammerhead – the first I had ever seen! By this point I’m running around telling everyone we already got the “besties.” Tiger shark, bull shark, hammerhead – I mean, WOW. But wait, there’s more.
Round 3 we got a great hammerhead nearly 9 feet long – a great opportunity to explain how to tell the two hammerheads apart. You can tell the difference by the grooves in their cephalofoil, or “hammer”. Scalloped hammerheads have more pronounced grooves while great hammerheads have a smoother edge along their cephalofoils.
We also got 2 sandbar sharks and boy are those guys feisty! By this point my arms are shaking from helping to pull up 6000 feet of rope and thirty 40-pound weights from 10 feet deep, and I seriously thought I wasn’t going to be able to hold them down. But we did, and everyone did such an amazing job that we had them back in the water in record speed – really. I have to give a shout out here too, since I mentioned all that pulling, to the amazing women that joined us today. You guys were awesome! They for sure pulled up more than half of what us measly interns did!
On the way back we all ate cookies and melted into the floor of the air-conditioned cabin. Do I need to say how perfect a day it was? Just in case, for all you non-believers, this was indeed a perfect day.