Archive for baitball

Isla Mujeres Sailfish – 2012

Posted in news, photography, production, travel, video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 4, 2012 by shawnheinrichs

Sailfish lights up as it strikes baitball

We returned to Isla Mujeres for our 4th season of sailfish action aboard the Lilly M and Andrea M of Keen M International. Captains Anthony, Rogelio and David did an outstanding job as usual. Despite challenging weather conditions and fluctuations in the activity, each trip was huge success with epic sailfish baitball action. In addition, we encountered many other species of marine life, and scored some terrific interactions.

Richard and striking sailfish - close one

In our first trip, Richard Branson and his family joined us to give the sailfish a try. Having already experienced the whale shark aggregations in July, he was ready to turn up the heat several notches and experience one of the most exciting and intense marine spectacles found anywhere in the Ocean. Also with me was my good friend John Petry who was trying his hand at a “Shawn Epic” for the first time. Lawrence kindly invited us as guests to join him on the his vessel the Chachalaca for some incredible action!

Sailfish lines up on Richard Branson

Sailfish makes a very close pass by Richard!

Whale shark swoops through with ball of bait fish

Manta ray comes in close to investigate and turns right under Richard

The trip was a huge success with baitballs lasting for hours and sailfish ripping apart the sardines just inches from our masks.  We also swam with groups of giant mantas, a whale shark. One curious manta decided to give Richard a closer look, coming nose to nose before ducking right under him. For Richard’s son Sam, his interaction with a whale shark was a first in his lifetime. Everyone left with huge smiles, excited to return to Isla again from more marine mega-fauna activity.

Sailfish poses with Branson family

Richard Branson and family in the sailfish mix

Sam Branson swims up from the blue

Team Shot: Bransons, Anthony and Shawn

Great trip with Lawrence on the Chacalaca...thank you!

I also had a second group with me during that first week. Sean Havas, Sterling Zumbunn (Backscatter) and my older brother Brett Heinrichs. The group was incredibly proficient in the water and I even struggled to keep up with the furious pace that we chased down baitball after bait ball. Day one we landed a 3 hour baitball and another 2 hour baitball. Day 2 was much the same. Day 3 and 4 I was off the boat and the success continued without me. Day 5 we regrouped and found sails again, but this time conditions had turned and we called it an early day. Overall the trip was a huge success and everyone came back with epic imagery.

Sailfish bites down on sardine

Sean Havas gets up close on the action

Brett Heinrichs photographs sailfish

Sterling Zumbrunn working the baitball

Sailfish blocks retreating sardine ball

On our second trip, David Vic and Debbie, Phil Sokol and Greg Redfern joined me. Except for Greg, the entire team were sailfish veterans so I knew we are going to get it done right. With several very slow days from the outset, I was beginning to get nervous. The team however remained upbeat and positive, and on day four we landed the mother load.

Sailfish charges head on, inches from my dome

We spent 4 hours on a single baitball (5 hours is my record length baitball )with 75-100 sailfish tearing it apart. The action never let up and we documented the ball whittle down to the last few sardines. Two days later we scored another baitball that lasted another 2 hours, and with 6 hours or intense baitball action for the week, the group left with full CF cards and lifetime memories.

Sailfish uses sail to block sardines

Sailfish hits sardine

Sailfish in perfect harmony

Frigates pick up scraps from sailfish

Frigate birds hover right above baitball

Our third and final trip faced just as challenging sea conditions, with persistent winds and upwellings creating green/turbid waters. I was joined by Lupo Dion, and Michael and Nadine Umbscheiden. Unfortunately, Mary O’Malley was booked to come but fell sick the day before the trip and had to cancel. We missed here dearly, but there is always next year!

Chaos - Feeding frigates and pelicans

Day one we chased down a baitball and spent 2 hours with it. Unfortunately the waters were green but we still managed some great shots. On day 3 we landed a 2 hour baitball of epic intensity. In four years interacting with the sailfish, I have never experienced such ferocious activity. The sailfish boxed in a very tired ball of sardines and set about tearing it apart. The passes were fast, furious and often terrifying. Though the entire group were no strangers to intense bill animal action, I have never seen so many defensive postures and dodges. The sailfish would slice off a few sardines from the ball, who would race toward us for cover. The entire swarm of sailfish would set upon them, charging by us at light-speed as we winced behind our cameras. Way to many close calls for my liking!

Sailfish flares in front of Lupo

Very close call!

Sailfish strikes sardine

Full Sail

Sailfish shows it colors

Sailfish chase down baitball

Day 4 turned out to be especially memorable. While motoring across blue waters in search of sailfish action, we came across 100-150 whale sharks feeding on the surface. This looked to be exactly the same scene as we witness in July/August during the annual whale shark aggregation here. At this time of year, satellite tagging data indicates that these whale sharks are meant to be at the furthest extent of their migrations from Isla. But here they were? We dove in and discovered the water was full of tiny clear eggs that looked very much like the eggs we see the whale sharks feeding on in July. It was a mystery why the whale sharks have arrived 3 months early, but one thing was clear; we were going to snorkel with them! We spent 5 hours with these majestic animals, filming as groups of whale sharks, swimming up to 5 abreast and 4 deep came cruising by. It was an incredible prelude to the summer whale shark trips that lay ahead for us.

Whale sharks feeding on surface

Whale shark feeds on surface

Whale shark gulps down fish eggs

Whale shark with snorkeler

Split shot with whale sharks and Lilly M

Juan, Nadine, Shawn, Rogelio and Lupo

Overall this year was a huge success and offered even more diversity of interactions than prior seasons. In addition to sailfish, we encountered:

–       Whale Sharks

–       Giant Mantas

–       Caribbean Mantas

–       Mobula Rays

–       4 species of dolphins

–       Wahoo (hunting)

–       Barracuda (hunting)

–       Jacks  (massive school)

–       Bonito schools (hunting)

Gulping Whale Shark

Manta ray glides overhead

Caribbean Manta passes below

Dolphins hunt bonito

The diversity, quantity and quality of big animal interactions sets Isla Mujeres apart from other locations on the planet. Working in small groups, we achieve the best interactions possible. I can’t wait for next year!

Home away from home

Hunting Mobulas of Misool

Posted in production, travel, video with tags , , , , , , , on October 12, 2009 by shawnheinrichs

I just received an update from Marit at Misool Eco Resort in Raja Ampat. Looks like this year the anchovy shoals have arrived in full force. Feeding on them are squadrons of Mubula Rays, pelagic fish and sharks. I was there last year during this season and what I witnessed rivaled the baitballs of Cocos and Sardine Run. Below is an update from Marit and a quick video I shot of some of the hunting action.

From Marit:

“September sees the annual migration of anchovies north from the Banda sea to Misool in southern Raja Ampat. This year has been a bumper season with huge numbers schooling on the reefs all  around Misool Eco Resort. Since the inception of MER’s no take zone, none of the anchovy fishing boats are around. Good news for divers. The anchovies don’t come alone. Schooling Mobula rays of up to 50 individuals round up the anchovies into bait balls then storm in for the attack. Spanish mackerel, giant travelies, schools of jacks, tunas and sharks are all there for the feast.

Swimming out from the wall, divers instantly are surrounded by the pulsating mass of fishes, sometimes so thick that you lose sight of the reef just feet away. It’s a mesmerizing sight with so many fish moving in unison, alternatively flashing on and off as they catch the light each time they turn. The action goes on well into the new year as the mobula and hunting fish feast on their abundant prey.”

SEAL Sardine Run

Posted in production, travel, video with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 1, 2009 by shawnheinrichs

This June we began work on a film about the Sardine Run. Incredible numbers of dolphins, sharks, cape gannets and whales converge on the Wild Coast during the Sardine Run. Ready to great them are a select group of people who have planned their lives around this extraordinary event. This is a story about the Sardine Run and how it has shaped the lives of both the marine creatures that depend upon it for their survival and the people who can’t escape its call.

The target audience for this film is wildlife enthusiasts, dive tourists, eco tourists, adventure travelers. For this audience we intend to offer a new perspective on the Sardine Run, where viewers become part of the chase and are drawn into the lives of the people who have committed themselves to the Run. Viewers will be captivated by heart pounding action and mesmerized by stunning footage of diving gannets, charging whales and dolphins, swirling baitballs and hunting sharks.  At the same time they will discover how the pioneering work of certain individuals have made the Sardine Run accessible to the common man, that the Sardine Run is so much more than baitballs, and that once it gets in your blood, you can never escape its pull!

Blue Sphere Media teamed up with Sea-Air-Land Expeditions (SEAL) in 2009 to film this documentary, with the goal to capture the essence of the Sardine Run  through the eyes of SEAL, their crew and guests. With more filming to do in 2010 to complete the documentary, we created a short musical piece of 2009’s adventures, a film that captured the motion, excitement and incredible energy of the Sardine Run!

Gathering of Giants – Whale Sharks

Posted in conservation, production, travel, video with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 15, 2009 by shawnheinrichs

This May we began work on a 3 part series call “Gathering of Giants – Whale Sharks of the Meso-American Reef”. In three special locations along the Meso-American reef, whale sharks gather in numbers during certain times of the year, creating some of the most impressive marine aggregations found anywhere on Earth. What draws them here?  Where do the come from and where do they go? And, what is being done to protect them?

The target audience for this film is conservationists, dive tourists, eco-tourists and adventure travelers. We travel to Gladden Spit Belize, Isla Mujeres/Holbox Mexico and Utila Honduras to document in full HD, the amazing aggregations of whale sharks. Through first hand documentation and interviews with researchers and park rangers, we reveal what draws these gentle giants to these special locations and unravel some of the mysteries of where the whale sharks come from and where they go to. And finally, we learn about the measures that have been put in place to ensure these aggregations continue into the future.

The goal of this film is to reach a broader audience who will be captivated by the impressive footage of the whale shark aggregations and will also learn how easily these aggregations could be destroyed. We will highlight how certain organization and individuals are working hard to ensure that never happens. Through engaging visual footage and inspiring conservation stories, viewers will be motivated to get involved and support future measures to protect these gathering places.

Our first stop on the journey takes us to Gladdens Spit, Belize, where 10’s of thousands of snappers spawning attract dozens of whale sharks. Working in partnership with SEA and The Nature Conservancy we are able to shoot some amazing footage and learn a lot about the behavior and migrations of the snappers and whale sharks. We created a short promo video as a thank you to Isla Marisol Resort for all their support!

Our second stop on the journey takes us to Isla Mujeres, Mexico, where over 400 whale sharks were discovered feeding on fish eggs. It was an event never before documented! On our last day in Isla Mujeres, our friends from The Nature Conservancy joined us to experience the sharks. In addition to an exhilerating day of whale shark interactions, we documented the scientists fish egg collection efforts and learned more about the science and conservation initiatives in this area. We created a short promo video as a thank you to Keen M International for all their support!

San Diego Undersea Film Festival – Selected

Posted in conservation, production, video with tags , , , , , , , on September 12, 2009 by shawnheinrichs

Sailfish: House of Sailing Daggers was featured in this years San Diego UnderSea Film Festival.

House of Sailing Daggers

Each year during the winter months, nutrient rich currents flowing north push up onto the shelf of Isla Mujeres, Mexico, drawing in large shoals of sardines and minnows. Following these baitfish are great numbers of sailfish which, working together, break apart these shoals and create some of the most amazing baitball spectacles on earth. Braving dangerous conditions and open seas, the team became one of the few film crews to shoot this aggregation – creating a documentary short.

Video: House of Sailing Daggers

House of Sailing Daggers

Posted in news, production, video with tags , , , , on May 1, 2009 by shawnheinrichs

This January we headed out of Isla Mujeres Mexico to film one of the most exciting and difficult to capture scenarios in the Ocean, the sailfish baitball. Each year during the winter months, nutrient rich currents flowing north push up onto the shelf of Isla Mujeres, Mexiico, drawing in large shoals of sardines and minnows. Following these baitfish are great numbers of sailfish which, working together, break apart these shoals and create some of the most amazing baitball spectacles on Earth!

Over two weeks with long days on the water, we finally managed to capture what we were looking for. Clean water, several dozen sailfish, and a tight baitball of sardines were the perfect recipe. Ducking sharp bills and working hard to maintain position, we captured over 20 minutes of incredible footage. With our job complete, we headed back to shore to enjoy some cold cervezas and guacamole!

We created this short documentary that captures the excitement and energy of the sailfish baitball while filling in the story of how this phenomenon comes to be. The film has already been a favorite as several film festivals!

 

SDUPS Film Festival – Top 10

Posted in news, production, video with tags , , , , , , , on April 25, 2009 by shawnheinrichs

Sailfish: House of Sailing Daggers was featured in the Top 10 in this years San Diego Underwater Photographic Society Film Festival.

House of Sailing Daggers

Each year during the winter months, nutrient rich currents flowing north push up onto the shelf of Isla Mujeres, Mexico, drawing in large shoals of sardines and minnows. Following these baitfish are great numbers of sailfish which, working together, break apart these shoals and create some of the most amazing baitball spectacles on earth. Braving dangerous conditions and open seas, the team became one of the few film crews to shoot this aggregation – creating a documentary short.

Video: House of Sailing Daggers