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Jonathan Bird's Blue World S1 • E4

Great White Sharks | JONATHAN BIRD'S BLUE WORLD

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Published on May 8, 2012

Perhaps best known for its role as the antagonist in the film Jaws, the Great White shark is probably the world's most feared animal, and easily the most fearsome of the sharks. Jonathan travels to Mexico to meet a Great White up close and personal. Nothing can prepare him for the sheer size and strength of a fully grown Great White shark! He learns how white sharks are being studied and how they react to both people and sea lions.

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The Great White Shark, one of the most feared predators in the seas. This is one of the most dangerous sharks in the world, considered by many to be a man-eater. But just how aggressive are these sharks?

I’ve come to San Diego California to get on a boat and travel 200 miles to the island of Guadalupe in Mexico where I hope to find Great White Sharks.

Our journey will take us across 200 miles of open Pacific Ocean, from San Diego, to Guadalupe Island in Mexico, off the Baja peninsula.

Our first stop, however, is at the bait shop, where we pick up baitfish to use for catching tuna. Then the tuna will be used as bait for the Sharks.

After 2 hours, we pass the Coronado Islands in Mexican waters. This is the last land I’ll see until we reach Guadalupe…another 20 hours from now.

We then continue our journey to Guadalupe Island.

Finally, the next morning we arrive at Guadalupe. This desolate island is an extinct volcano that pokes out of the Pacific. Almost nothing can survive on this rock outcropping.

Our first task upon arrival is to get the chum in the water.

Once the chum has been started, we turn our attention to getting the cages in the water. These large cages can hold up to five people each, and they have large holes for cameras. Hopefully I’ll be able to get some great shots of the sharks.

Once the cages are in the water, we tie some tuna on a rope and throw it into the water with a float to keep it near the surface.

The water is about 70 degrees, so I need a wetsuit to stay warm. Next I step down onto the swim platform where the crew outfits me with a really heavy weight harness.

I don’t need a bulky scuba tank because we are using surface-supplied air on a long hose.

Diving with Surface-Supplied Air is a very different kind of diving than what I’m used to, but it works well for this kind of underwater experience….as long as the shark can’t get to the hose!

White Sharks get the advantage over their prey by surprising them. We have to hope that the shark wants to grab this bait and come close to the cage.

Since the sharks are taking so long, the crew has put out another kind of lure…a 5 gallon plastic bucket filled with frozen fish. Yummy!

At last I see something coming, but it doesn’t look like a shark. It’s a sea lion coming in to check out the tuna. It turns out the sea lion is only mildly interested in the dead fish. Sea lions prefer to catch live fish. Yet this curious animal doesn’t seem too concerned that a White Shark is lurking somewhere below. Or maybe it doesn’t know.

Suddenly, the Sea lion vanishes and a shark appears. It seems to be aware of us, but it's definitely more interested in the bait. It makes a couple of close passes to examine the bait.

Then it makes its move, going directly for the tuna. It grabs it, bites easily through the rope, and takes off with a tasty mouthful.

After that, the shark heads back down below us, out of sight. What’s going on? Why is the shark not attacking the cage and trying to eat us?

As I watch the White Shark behavior over a couple of days, I can see a pattern. It likes nice chunks of bait to eat, and it has no interest in the cages or the people in them.

The White Sharks only come up for food. They can tell the difference between nice juicy piece of fish, and a bucket. And they show no interest in chasing the sea lions around the boat either.

Some of the shark research being done around Guadalupe Island includes identifying individuals to see if they return year after year. Several have been named including Scarboard, a large female who has a scar on her right, which is her starboard, side.

Other identifying features researchers look for include the coloration in the area around the gills, and also the color pattern by the tail. No two sharks are exactly alike.

Any distinguishing marks like this white streak on the nose help researchers identify individual sharks.

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