Seasons Greetings 2016 review
Welome to our new website and first blog in a while!
You may or may not have noted that our website has changed recently, it's been a long project but it's finally gone live with our automated booking system. As we a small company with very few staff then hopefully this will make our workload much better and an easier process for everyone booking trips and finding our information on basking sharks!
We've had our busiest year so far, with many different projects, trips, research and expeditions over the season! Although it has been a lot more stressful so busier isn't always better! There has a lot of work along with logistical changes happen in late summer into Autumn so hopefully, like the website we will be able to settle more for the 2017 season with more logistics in place.
Spring Projects - Filming, Media Crews & Stunning Weather
During the spring we had some unbelievable weather whilst the jet-stream allowed us some respite and sent low pressure systems further south. This resulted in many weeks of sunshine, warmth and calm sea conditions! We had some epic times with our seal & lagoon tours and we were also kept very busy with film crews who had various projects in the Hebrides. We were tasked with everything from boat charter and wildlife filming support, to underwater filming and guiding, both a challenging but rewarding time.
It was great to welcome Ben Brown & Steve Booker who were based on Mull and doing a BBC project called mission selfie. We managed to be flexible to organise some experiences for them in stunning weather and they produced some amazing footage on a very short timescale. Look up the BBC series mission selfie online, but Ben's vlog from the day really sums up the vibe. It was a great day, and we were stoked to have such good conditions for them.
Our head guide and film-maker extrodianire Luke put together some of his and Shane's footage together from our spring work and locations. It's great to look back on these films at this time of year (when the weather is pretty brutal) and remind ourselves of how stunning an area we operate in. We're looking forward to getting out there again in the spring time.
We continued on with our free-diving projects over the season, including searching for new sites and exploring more of the coastline. We were very lucky to come across the location in the picture on the left. Taken by Shane, Luke is holding up a large underwater light into an air space in an underwater cave made of basalt columns. To reach this air pocket you must dive down around 5m and swim in around 20m through a huge rock arch covered in soft corals. We spend a night camping at this location, scuba and free diving, although it is somewhere we have visited before, it's so remote we don't often have a lot of time there.
We hope to bring experienced free-divers here in 2017 on our free-diving trip. See here for the details as we've put together a best of free-diving spot of the inner Hebrides. We've explored all of them and the trip will bring together some awesome experiences. Scotland is a very under-rated place for free-diving despite the stunning combination of unique wildlife, interesting geology and rich marine life. Traditionally water temperature would have been something to put people off but temperature water destinations are growing in popularity and with a 7mm open-cell suit you can easily be in the water for 2-3 hours during summer without getting cold.
We had an overall good year for sharks, with a very consistent peak season, quiet spring and good autumn! Our overall numbers are looking around the 400+ mark, which is down from 2015 which was an exceptionally abundant year.
The spring was strangely quiet we have relatively few public or our own sightings. This is normally a variable time of year and is very dependant on oceanic conditions and plankton production. However at this time we do not concentrate on sharks, and are reactive to any sightings, which meant we were able to record details on a few during good weather.
Peak season was very consistent this year with us sighting sharks on most days with less stormy weather like 2015 The sharks were much more concentrated this year with few sightings or reports outside the hotspot. This made for predictable searching and making life a 'little' easier.
We had a masters student Lotte Abels through our partnership with Heriot-Watt and Marine Conservation International. She was studying basking shark behaviour, such as the alleged courtship behaviour, male/female ratios, and follows on from the great work of Dr Gore & Dr Ormond. See one of the basking sharks breaching during one of the days with big shark numbers.
Following our Hebrides season we moved to another area to conduct research trips during the southerly migration. Although we had a short period of no sightings, the overall expedition was a great success with around 30 sharks catalogued for photo ID purposes. We gathered some interesting plankton data with regards to concentration and size, with respect to the sharks feeding and non-feeding areas. We'll be repeating the expedition again next year so see information on joining us for these research based trip here. They are research based so not like our other tours where the objective is interaction and guest experience. They are great for people who want to be involved a little more with science.
Although it will be 2017 by the time we get there we are running an expedition to arctic this winter to view the herring migration and associated whale aggregations. We ran a highly successful experience this January past with generally settled weather and lots of whales. Orca were present in large numbers, however it was the humpacks and fin whales who stole the show with some incredible interactions. Luke put together an incredible edit and his and Shane's footage, have a look below.