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Drew

Sardine Run 2007 the Unofficial Wetpixel Group

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My trip will start the 2nd week of June. SEAL guys, I will probably see you all at Mboyti at some point. That's if I'm welcome there still. :)

Anyhow, see you all at sea and may the best boat find the first action :)

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I'll use this thread for updates as the trip continues.

Having just flown from East London, the activity has picked up abit but the vis is crap. Been doing mostly topside stuff. Hopefully a weather system will come in and clear up the water!

No superpods of common dolphins, only pods of a hundred or so. Same for the gannets. Haven't looked for sharks as the water is too dirty to try.

Thus it begins...

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Nice one Drew...

 

Looking forward to the coming reports..

 

Dive safe

 

DeanB

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Good luck Drew - may the weather and viz be on your side mate!

;)

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We're going to try to get images and text from Drew as he's away (to post on the front page). Hopefully, GPRS will be fast enough for Drew to send some images over. ;)

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Unlike Eric (who is rumored to be online 24/7 and posts from sit down time ;))

I think I'll work on the text and let Shawn deal with the pics. Always let it be said that Drew is lazy on holiday. Plus he has other things to do besides sit on a boat.

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Well, the start of the first day and the team is eager. Numerous reports of 'activity" including superpods and gannets. Viz is still crap but it's about finding the right conditions with action.

New equipment to the run for me is the HVR-DR60, the Sony hardfisk which allows cache prerecording of up to 14 seconds before you hit the record button, essentially catching the stuff human reflexes (slow like mine) misses.

Also the other problem of the wetsuit neoprene shrinking a bit so the fit is "snug".

Will update once we get into the water. The Beeb come in a few days and they may miss the party. There's a french Imax crew down in Port Elizabeth (who aren't really here) trying to catch the surface action.

Seems production crews aren't done with the run.

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Pilot schools have started showing up.

The Wetpixel boys got in with small sardine baitballs throughout the morning, in viz varying from 16-24ft (5-7m). Superpods have formed and there are common dolphins everywhere.

Birds are arriving early so it seems the sardines will run pretty well this year. Oh and my skipper insists it's due to the aloe plant blooming bigger this year.

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Hope the wetsuit shrinkage does not make your voice too high pitched. Never saw underwater aloe.;)

Sounds like all hell is about to break loose!

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Today brought some big smiles to the boys. The morning started with a few hundred birds diving on sporadic action, then 3 different species of dolphins converged (pan tropical spotted, bottle nose and common) and were everywhere. Since South Africa was playing Australia in rugby, my skipper insisted the weather(while sunny and nice) was going to go "pear shape" at 1.30 sharp (the match was at 3). As we rode in, I spied a pectoral fin of a humpback splashing about a mile away. Turned out to be 3 humpbacks trying to get bottlenose dolphins off their backs. The dolphins were again everywhere and thus the boys jumped in to enjoy the dolphins when the humpbacks circled round while trying to shake off the dolphins.

Suddenly the team was in the water with 3 humpback whales as they tried tail and fin slapped dolphins. Unfortunately, in the ensuing euphoria, NickJ put his camera in tele mode and Jbonehoss didn't set up his camera correctly. ShawnH was miffed he didn't get any clear shots.

Still not a bad 3rd day for newbies, some of whom have been devirginated for uw humpback encounters X 3.

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Day 4:

Started with almost zero activity. A few dozen gannets flying south and no dolphins. Almost like the sea swallowed up the life.

After a break for tea humpbacks whales decided to show in force. We'd spotted 5 different ones when suddenly a group of 6 humpbacks started breaching and showing all sorts of behavior including peduncal throws, head, jaw and tail slaps. It seemed the bulls were fighting for escort duties for the female.

We followed the whales for 3 hours as they argued and tussled, when suddenly a bobbing shape popped in and out of the surface. This mysterious figure was swimming fast and went right under the boat... it turned out to be a cape fur seal, a good sign as they tend to follow the sardines up from the Cape. As even more humpbacks came out, cape gannets began showing in numbers heading south, indicating the main show is about the start, which means we should have something awesome to look forward to the next week.

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man oh man... am i jealous

 

good luck all of you

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I'm with Mike ... gits ... i could live during those months down there .. like a ground hog day .. and drew said we didn't even get it that good .. i am dying to see some pics !

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Sounds like you guys are having a great trip. Hope it continues to get better!

 

Cheers,

 

Tony

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This all sounds like it's very exciting stuff... Has anyone managed to get any good shot to show us yet?

New equipment to the run for me is the HVR-DR60, the Sony hardfisk which allows cache prerecording of up to 14 seconds before you hit the record button, essentially catching the stuff human reflexes (slow like mine) misses.

Hey Drew, Is this just an add on to the actual camera unit? Does it fit into housings or this just for topside use? This cache system is what the real high end cameras have and definately has to be the way forward...

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Day 6

Started with huge breaks which cancelled our morning launch. While we idled away the morning at Silaka Reserve, I spotted activity at sea and phoned the skipper, stopping him from playing golf to attempt a launch, since the wind and sea had quiet down a bit. After battling 25 mins at the river mouth through 3-4m tight swells, we broke out to find a mini superpod of about 400 common dolphins where the boys jumped in to shoot them a few times.

Lots of bad things happened in a camp north of us. 5 divers were lost at sea for several hours when their buoy sank. The high seas made spotting them hard and only after having 2 microlight searching for the divers did they find them. Thankfully no one was hurt in that ordeal.

Not so lucky was another video shooter who was bitten by a shark in bad viz while in a baitball. The viz had been dropping from 2m which in my mind isn't a safe environment to put divers in. Fortunately it only required stitches and with a bit of plastic surgery, the scar should be minimal.

 

Day 7

With Imax and a local production crew arriving, we launched to be first on the activity. After the baitball died out, the light still wasn't enough to jump in. So we followed the birds north until I managed to find a good baitball for the boys. NickJ blew an o-ring while under (and did not notice as he was shooting) so his dive was cut short. Still the others stayed with the action for 30 mins before the predators moved on.

The great news is that the predators all returned in force so it seems the action is still yet to hit full steam.

 

Graham, it may fit some housings and has been great for dolphins and breaches.

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ouch....

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Day 8

The morning started with about 1000 gannets diving over a 5km area, mostly in dirty water. With the newly trained runners now able to respond to commands almost militaristically, the team was ready to jump at any moment.

Still nature is quite the teaser as the action was in dirty water so we decided to follow the dolphins when a humpback whale BREACHED 5 FT from the boat. As we tried to avoid the whale, it was breaching often within 20ft of the boat. Somebody was pretty frisky. This was by far the best topside whale action I've ever seen on the run.

After we managed to shake our cetacean behemoth, all the predators seemed to disappear along with it. It was like we drove into a big void in the ocean. Seemed even the ocean inhabitants take off for lunch, so we had ours too.

Then the oceans woke up with a pod of playful bottlenose dolphins, with leaping bulls 'displaying' their wares in great spinning leaps. The team spent time in the water with them.

As we prepared to call it a day, the ocean began to bubble with life. 4-500 gannets were diving on the fast moving common dolphins as they chased red eye herring. We noticed a spout in the midst of the chaos. The skipper and I immediately thought....Bryde's Whale! We followed the pandemonium as the predators continued to hit the fish and suddenly the Bryde's whale came rising out from the depths, mouth wide open and engorging the baitball (and probably a few gannets too). The action was too fast for the divers to get it even though they tried.

Sharks were ever present everytime they jumped in the water. And the wind was making the waves choppy. With the fading light, we went home reluctantly as the action still went on.

Today all hell broke loose, and what a hell it was!

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Day 09

With the reported main school of sardines 150km south of us, our attention was forcefully and happily turned on the cetaceans. First a pod of 300 common dolphins got the gannets into a frenzy of diving, really for nothing . The blonde birds of south africa are known to do what I coin as "desperation diving", just diving when dolphins are around just hoping there'll be food where dolphins are. However the dolphins were not feeding but just relaxing.

As they traipsed north, we turned our (long) lenses onto 4 charging humpbacks, challenging for escort duties with the female. They steamed on like runaway freight trains. In fact they were going so fast, we abandoned following them for 2 other whales travelling at a more relaxed pace. So what did they do to greet us? A double breach continued by even more breaching and head slapping. We followed the pair for an hour or so til they tired. But so were we. But the cetaceans didn't stop coming as we spotted a large disturbance of white water on the flat seas. We rushed out to meet the turbulance, revealing a pod of 70 odd bottlenose dolphins charging at speed. There's nothing like charging dolphins to get the blood racing, inspiring us to humm Wagner's Die Walkure. What a great way to end the day.

 

Day 10

What the ocean giveth, the ocean taketh away. The seas were barren. A manta, a shark, 2 whales, a loggerhead turtle and 3 dozen birds were all that were left. I believe the conspiracy of the boat skippers was responsible. Tri-Nations rugby between the All-blacks and Springboks made the skippers make up all sorts of excuses to watch the match live. Except the most used excuse of bad weather was obviously not going to work because the seas were flat and temperature was in the 70s. After so many campaigns, I'm seeing a trend of inactivity during big rugby matches. Such is the power of the rugby sangorma. In fact I'm writing this as we watch the Springboks kill the All Blacks.

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Only "A manta, a shark, 2 whales, a loggerhead turtle"....!!!!

We're almost feeling sorry for you guys! :(

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Update... all blacks won!

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Update... all blacks won!

 

 

Oh good, balance has been returned to the universe :(

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Day 12

3 of the guys fell to some sort of stomach bug that kept them off the boat. We still launched to find humpbacks in force, 14 sighted in all. However other than that, the day was pretty dead. But with reports of sardine activity only 60 km south of us, the spirits while dampened remain relatively good.

 

Day 13

In truth, balance did return to the run universe today as we had over 600 common dolphins, 100 oceanic bottle nose dolphins, 2 mola mola and 5 humpback whales all in the space of 3 hours. Of course the 6-700 gannets diving like a waterfall right in front of the boat made the day for all the guys after a few days of inactivity. Add to that high seas caused by strong winds and ocean swells, the ocean was boiling with life. Sardines arrived in patches but the seas were too rough to dive on them. The school was so thick the dolphins didn't even form a baitball, hence the gannets had no luck reaching the sardines which came up to maybe 25m, just a little beyond the range of the gannets.

Hopefully the winds will die down tomorrow and the action will still be around. It's coming down to the last 2 days for this group so it'll be close to find that perfect ending to their expedition.

Wish us luck!

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