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Shark Bytes

August 2005 Shark Bytes

written by Monique Fallows

Posted on Wednesday, 31 August 2005

August has been a very up and down month for us. First up the weather Gods that had been treating us so well in June and July decided that Cape Town needed to be reminded about how winter is supposed to be. Most of this month has been cold, wet and windy making shark viewing more challenging.


One particularly strong cold front rolled through the Cape last week. We left the wind reader going on our boat and the strongest gust recorded was 63 knots, about 120 kilometres and about 80 miles per hour. The main part of the system was 600 miles south of us where the barometric pressure went as low as 950 bar. These systems do not normally come so close to us and this resulted in spectacularly large swell. By chance we had planned a weekend up the east coast and were able to admire these impressively huge waves on the drive up. Chris also had a few great surf’s with his mates in 8-10ft uncrowded conditions at a secret spot.


Having the chance to view the sea in this state increases one’s respect for nature even more. I couldn’t help thinking how wild and unpredictable Mother Nature is as we watched these brute waves crashing against the shore after having travelled hundreds of miles to reach their final destination. I can’t imagine what is must have been like 600 miles south in the Roaring Forties…

As much as we love the sea we know that we always have to have our guard up and it is good once in a while to have a reminder of what she is capable of.


The sharks were hunting pretty intensely up until about the 18th of August. During this time we were seeing in the region of 15 to 20 separate events each day that we were on the water. Throughout the season the sharks have been more or less constant with their success rate when hunting the cape fur seals. This is just under 50% and August was about the same. In the natural world this makes the white shark a very successful animal. To give you an idea lions are successful only 20% of the time. In think the most successful animal is the wild dog at about 70%.


An interesting observation we made this month was a successful kill about 3 kilometres (1.5 miles) from Seal Island. This is the longest distance from the island we have recorded an event. That being said attacks on seals have occurred in False Bay infrequently in other areas. I have just read on a Birding report that while on a bird-watching trip out of Simonstown the group saw a white shark successfully attack a seal just outside the harbour, some 8 miles from Seal Island. These attacks probably happen more often than we think; it’s just that the chances are seeing these are pretty slim. Of course there is nothing to say that a shark can’t attack a seal just because it is not at Seal Island especially if the opportunity presents itself.


We have yet again spotted our mate “Wonky tail” making a kill. We have seen him feeding in June, July and August but still have not had him visit our boat.


After the 18th the predatory activity tailed off quite dramatically as did breaches on the decoy. We were still seeing in the region of 5 events per day, but we definitely got the feel that there were less sharks at the Island towards the end of the month.


While the predatory activity was busy during the first past of the month we struggled to get sharks up to the boat again. Also, when we did get a shark it did not wanted to stick around and would most times make two or three passes and disappear. We had more success once the predations started slowing down but it seems to us like the white shark season at Seal Island is slowly coming to an end. Some mornings we have not seen a single predatory event, usually the first sign of the season coming to an end. We are still seeing a few sharks around the boat so we hope this will at least continue for a couple of weeks.


The other day we saw a 1,9 meter shark (about 3.5 foot) around the boat. Seeing small sharks is just as rare as seeing very large sharks. This shark would be about 2- 3 years old and was very confidant around the boat. This often happens until a larger shark inevitably arrives and displaces the smaller shark.


Always news that that I love to share is a Rasta sighting! Last week Rob saw her as she apparently followed his decoy but did not breach. Unfortunately she did not visit the boat but it is enough for Chris, Rob and I to know that she is still around and doing well.


Rob has also just phoned us now to say that Cuz has been around his boat this morning. Just shows how the sharks come and go. We have not seen Rasta since late May and Cuz since late June. I sincerely hope that Chris & I get one last look at them before the season comes to an end.


During this time we were seeing in the region of 15 to 20 separate events each day that we were on the water.

August usually signals the return of Southern Right Whales into False Bay. They migrate from feeding in the Antarctic to breed and calf in Southern Africa. When we arrived one morning we were surprised to see two Southern Rights very close to Seal Island. They weren’t in the least bit bothered when a shark began chasing a seal 80 meters from where they were. I guess size has to count for something…


We also had a unique situation where a brydes whale and calf were moving past Seal Island. We were on anchor waiting for sharks but watched as the mother and calf seemed to be making a beeline for our boat. We were amazed as the two animals came within a few meters from us and we could clearly see them underwater as they swam past. They are usually very shy whales so we were thrilled at seeing them so close.


In September we will be doing the last few white shark trips as well as hopefully trying a few pelagic shark trips. September has in the past not been a very successful month for this but it is still worth a try. It is also the best month for pelagic bird viewing with a chance of seeing fairly rare Albatross species such as Wandering and Royal, so this is also a motivation.


A fair number of Shark Byte Readers joined us on trips this month. Thanks to all of you who made the visit, it is fantastic for Chris & I to be able to show shark enthusiasts the very special sights at Seal Island. I know it was very exciting for all these people to finally see what they have been reading about and I hope that more of you will be able to do the same thing in the future.


For the months of September and October we have a special on large size prints running on our website, and we have updated Photo’s of the Month with a couple of new images.


With best wishes from Cape Town,

Monique Fallows


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