Thursday, January 3, 2008

Port Elizabeth Spotted Gully Shark Permits Human Headhold

Recently, while diving in Algoa Bay I had the unussual experience of touching and maintaining contact with spotted gully shark.
Spotted gullies are broad headed sharks that are build almost like two meter tadpoles. They are very common in Port Elizabeth and the Eastern Cape - often found in rather shallow water, seldom deeper that 18 m.

Note the weight in the head.

These sharks posess a large head shaped similar to that of a tiger shark; the head fades into a slender body which again fades into a slender tail - the top half of which is elongated. They are normally shy and rather unobservant.
When these sharks become aware of a freediver's presence they will swim off swiftly to escape possible danger.
Their poor eyesight results in divers normally getting the best frights - they typically swim in circular or figure of 8 patterns keeping water washing over their gills. As they follow their rather standard patrol over their area and you plop down in that zone they will swim right up close and veer off suddenly at the last moment. If the vis is poor or if you were looking the other way while the shark approaches and suddenly as you turn your" mask is FULL OF SHARK" it is enough to get adrenaline pumping into your arteries, after a number of such encounters the "novelty" wears off as your comfort zone widens.

Anyway I swam into a large cavern that often houses raggies and sure enough it was full up with teenage raggies (1.5 -2m long) as well as two spotted gullies. The hovering raggies were probably asleep dreaming of tastly cob or bonito (yes, a raggy can easily catch a bonito). The gullies were swimming their typical patterns and as began heading out of the dark cavern a 7 foot spotted gullie swam strait toward me and did not stop - dead ahead of it I was probably out of sight. I reached out and placed my hand against its head, rough skin making for a good grip. The gully shark swam on and increased my resistance. I held it for some two or three seconds before it pushed off to its left and idled on completely unafraid - singularly unusual behaviour for these ordinarily spooky sharks.

Later as a spotted gullie passed me I got a brief three finger grip on its tail but the vigorous response war too much for my feeble grip and the shark quickly passed into the murk.

I have seen footage once of a diver who seemingly mesmerized lemon sharks by holding them on the snout - they could even be handled gently - this gully shark probably went into that type of trance too for a while.

Back in about 1998 I saw at least thirty spotted gully sharks swimming their patterns over the bottom - I was hunting garrick and even an hour later these sharks were still swimming their persistent patterns - it is a definite characteristic of theirs.

On future dives I will try to make physical contact again and keep you informed of my progress.

1 comment:

Benny said...

Gotta say that's pretty amazing. Is there something in the snout that makes this possible?