Expedition team members Evandro da Silva (left), Dan Cartamil
and Lisa Wright search for lemon sharks in the shallow lagoon of Atol das
Rocas. Wright keeps the other boats in the area appraised of the situation
via hand-held radio.
Although only a few lemon sharks were spotted by the day team,
nurse sharks were found in relatively high numbers, spread throughout the
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DISPATCH07: Blame It on the Weather
@Sea correspondent/photographer, Mark Carroll
The menacing storm that put a premature end to the day's research never hit as hard as expected. Ironically, the longlining night team, trapped in the lagoon until morning, was pelted all night by another
12:26pm,March 17, outside Atol das Rocas lagoon -- Engine troubles continue to plague
the expedition. Two of the three smaller boats now have erratically
functioning motors, so getting to the lemon shark observation sites is
an adventure in itself. Sputtering engines notwithstanding, the search for the lemon sharks continues.
1:00pm, Atol das Rocas lagoon -- High tide deepened the passage leading to the atoll's interior
lagoon, allowing all three of the boats to enter without incident. As the teams swept the lagoon in erratic search
patterns, looking for fins, scanning for silhouettes of lemon sharks, it became obvious that the deeper waters of high tide were hindering the visual search. Rocks and turtles became sharks, distorted by
the additional six feet of water surging into the sheltered cove. Although
several lemons were spotted, nurse shark sightings continued to dominate the action.
On the other side of the island in a small, sheltered inlet, the baby lemon
sharks continued to gather. A modest landing party monitored the sharks,
counting just over 60 animals schooling within the inlet. In the coming
days, these juveniles will provide a rich bounty of genetic data for the
researchers. In the mean time, the expedition waits for the shark numbers
to reach their peak.
4:23pm, Atol das Rocas lagoon -- Sharks are difficult to control, but they
can be hooked and subdued. The weather, however, cannot. While most
researchers focused their attentions into the ever-deepening water, the sky
darkened. When the clouds were no longer easy to ignore, the boats
converged in the center of the lagoon, tied together like a refugee flotilla
and discussed options. Although a unanimous decision was not reached, the
day's search mission was ultimately cut short, and the crew returned to the
6:09pm, R/V SEWARD JOHNSON -- The menacing storm that put a premature end to
the day's search never hit as hard as expected. So, the night longlining
night team readied their boats and headed to the lagoon for an all-night
Sharks are more active at night. The longliners hoped to capitalize on this
behavior and capture some large lemons for tagging and genetic sampling. Once in the lagoon, they were committed
to a full night, trapped by the receding tide, physically cut off from the
rest of the expedition until morning. This was field science in the
12:13am, March 18, onboard the Research Vessel SEWARD JOHNSON (RVSJ) -- I listened in on a radio
conversation between researcher Dan Cartamil onboard the RVSJ
and scientist Dean Grubbs, who had just finished checking the longline for
sharks. They had successfully captured, sampled, tagged, and measured a
large lemon shark. The success of the entire mission depends on this kind of vital information.
1:30am, onboard the RVSJ -- Another unexpected storm
currently pounds the night team in their small, open-air skiff. Most people
onboard the SEWARD JOHNSON have gone to their dry beds, resting for
tomorrow -- another day at sea, as unpredictable as today's weather.