Archive for shark

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!

Our World Underwater – 2007 Winner

Posted in conservation, news, production, video with tags , , , , , , on May 31, 2007 by shawnheinrichs

Unnatural Selection” took first place in the video category of the Our World Underwater International Competition.  Unnatural Selection is a powerful film that portrays the tragic decimation of sharks and shark populations by humans and the shark fin industry. Beautiful images of lush tropical marine settings are juxtaposed with the all-too-common scene below the surface of dead sharks littering the bottom, their fins cut off to feed an insatiable market for shark fin.

Video: Unnatural Selection

Cocos and Malpelo – Realm of the Sharks

Posted in travel, video with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 22, 2006 by shawnheinrichs

Having made the journey twice to Galapagos, it was time to complete the Golden Triangle of the eastern Pacific. The Golden Triangle is an area of water that extends from the northern most islands of the Galapagos (Wolf and Darwin), northeast to Malpelo Island (off Columbia) and northwest to Cocos Island (off Costa Rica). Within this region, flourishes some of them most abundant and awesome pelagic sea life found anywhere on the planet.

Our Journey began at the Sea Hunter headquarters on the coast of Costa Rica in the Guanacast region. From there we motored a grueling 50 hours out to Malpelo for 4 days of diving. Upon arrival we were greeted by a playful pod of pilot whales accompanied by a school of dolphins. We slowed the boat and the whales approached and circled the boat. What amazing and gentle creatures . But we had diving to do and time was a wasting.

Malpelo is a harsh, barren rock located some 250 miles off the coast of Columbia. To protect it rights, Columbia maintains a small base up on the rocks, complete with armed guards. How they get up there still confounds me! The rock may be barren but the sea life below the water is intense. Unfortunately we were not treated to one of the famous (but rarely experienced) Malpelo baitballs we had all secretly hoped for. To make up for it, however, we were fortunate enough to witness the other main attraction at Malpelo, the mass gathering of Silky sharks. On two dives, we drifted through a school of Silky’s one hundred strong. The were not at all threatening and just a little curious. We also enjoyed the other regulars including schooling hammers in Sahara, many cleaning stations, morays everywhere, huge schools of big eye jacks, grunts, an much more.

After four good days at Malpelo, we were ready to head to Cocos. This time we “enjoyed” a 40 hour crossing in unsettled seas. After starring at a barren rock for four days, the site of Cocos is nothing short of breath-taking. Over 200 waterfalls flow from the heights of this rain forrest island in the rainy season. And rainy it was…. but a few hours of stay, it rained constantly, oscillating between downpours and gentle spattering.

I had journeyed to Cocos Island for one reason only, to experience and capture footage of the mass hammerhead aggregations that have given this island it reputation. The scalloped hammerheads gather by the hundreds to have parasites attached to fresh wounds removed by cleaner fish. These wounds are inflicted by either the males during breading or by other females as they establish the “pecking” order.

I had kept my expectations in check as I have so many times experienced the random nature of the oceans. One day the seas are flourishing and the next, empty. This time we struck gold at a site called Alcyone. An underwater sea mount reaching to within 25 meters of the surface, Alcyone was discovered by Jacques Cousteau and quickly became one of his favorite site. On our first dive we descended into clear waters filled to the brim with hammerheads. We made our way down the line, tucked into the volcanic rock, flipped on our cams, and hung on for 30 minutes to enjoy the show. The sea was alive with sharks, everywhere…from a few feet away to the horizon…. overhead, in front and in back! They circled in all directions. Our dive guide estimated there were as many as 500 sharks in this one location! Eventually our computers were threatening to ground us and we had to ascend back up through the schools of hammers. It was undoubtedly one of best dives of my life and more so, one of the most truly awesome experiences (land or sea) of my life.

The following days we returned to the site. The huge school was there without fail but vis was progressively deteriorating. To compensate for this, the hammers came closer and closer. On the third day, they were within touching distance for the duration of the dives, enough so that my lights could easily light them up…what a treat!

We also enjoyed many great dives at other sites. At these sites we had wonderful encounters with masses of white-tips, the largest school of big eye jacks I have ever seen (maybe 10,000), abundant marble rays, hammerheads everywhere, eagle rays, manta rays, green turtles, the impressive silver tips of Silverado, dolphins and even a near miss with a mother humpback whale and her calf. And one cannot forget the awesome and infamous Manuelita white tip night dive featuring hundreds of white tips hunting in packs creating a moving carpet of sharks a meter below.

After an incredible 5 days of diving, it was time to return home. Shortly after breaking into open water, we heard over the radio that a long-liner had been spotted in park waters. A boat was being dispatched to intercept it, while the long-liner was reeling in its line as fast as possible. Further out, we came across a factory tuna boat drawing in its massive nets.

These two instances served as a somber reminder of how at risk these amazing marine sanctuaries are. Every day, long liners and tuna boats invade these waters and extract everything they can…nothing escapes including countless dolphins and sharks, manta rays and even the majestic whale sharks. As much progress has been made to protect these waters, it is still a losing battle. What is needed is more money and direct support. Groups like Mar Viva, WildAid and Sea Shepherd are among the few groups that actively patrol these waters and manage programs to reduce poaching.

Nevertheless, beauty still abounds below the surface in the waters of Cocos and Malpelo. It is a marvel I look forward to experiencing again with great anticipation.

Socorro Island – Silky Shark

Posted in conservation, photography, travel with tags , , , , on May 1, 2004 by shawnheinrichs


We were hanging at 15 feet on our safety stop, having just completed yet another wonderful and action packed dive in Revillagigedos (more commonly known as Socorro). Led by our fearless dive master Ray from our ship the Solmar V, today we were diving a site at Isla Socorro, the second stop on exploration of this remote island chain. The dive had been wonderful. 10 minutes into the dive at a depth of 60 feet, the silence was broken by the high-pitched calls from a pod of dolphins passing overhead. They noticed us immediately and within seconds, we were surrounded by playful dolphins darting this way and that. It took another 10 minutes before they finally tired of our antics and moved on their way. The remainder of the dive presented more of the treats so abundant in the Revillagigedos. We encountered game fish (wahoo and tuna), all kinds of reef fish, morays and out in the blue, The passing hammerhead and Galapagos sharks. Fully satisfied with our dive, my buddy and I began our ascent to our safety stop right below the Solmar V.

As we settled into our safety stop, I noticed a shiny/brownish silhouette approach from behind my buddy. I quickly identified this as a silky shark perhaps 6 feet in length. Now I know silky sharks to be quite curious but this one was down right friendly. As he circled closer, I noticed that the poor shark had a hook lodged in its mouth. As all forms of extraction fishing are banned in the Revillagigedos, this poor fellow could have made his way in from open waters to the safety of this sanctuary or just as likely been the victim of illegal long-line fishing activity within the park boundaries. When he continued to circle even closer, I began to fear he may be seeking revenge for the injury inflicted upon him by man.  My first instinct was to withdraw, however my curiosity and appreciation for this beautiful creature prevented me from backing away. He continued to circle closer and closer, so close as to almost brush against me. Upon one such approach, I was overcome by desire to offer some comfort to this poor shark that had been mistreated. As he drew close to me, I reached out and began to stroke the side of the silky behind his gills and along his back. He offered no resistance and seemed to enjoy it. Eventually our air gauges indicated it was time to surface. We said our good byes to our friendly silky and ascended to the surface. Our silky followed us to the surface, made one final farewell pass and then meandered into the distant blue.

I often reflect back on this encounter. It was so personal and so unusual. This was not just a shark encounter and this was not only a silky shark; this was much, much more. Our silky shark encounter was a wonderful and rare opportunity to truly appreciate the gentle and personal side of one of nature’s most impressive predators. I think of this silky as a friend one meets on a journey, a solitary traveler who has fallen upon misfortune and is now seeking compassion and companionship. I also reflect on other marine friends made on this journey through the Revillagigedos: the playful dolphins, the gentle humpback whales, the curios yellow fin tuna, and of course the incredibly close encounters with the giant manta rays. Upon such reflection, it finally dawns on me what makes this island chain so special. More so than any of the other great big animal diving spots on earth, the Revillagigedos offer the most personal big animal diving on earth!