March 2020 President's Waves

February 29, 2020 8:51 AM | Roger Cooper (Administrator)

If you read undercurrent, you may have noticed an article titled "The Ins and Outs of Trip Insurance" in the February issue. Local member Bob Weybrecht was quoted in the article due to his difficulty in renewing his DAN Guardian dive insurance plan in January. Unfortunately, the underwriter of the Guardian plan decided stop covering people over 70, and DAN has been forced to find new underwriters for that plan on a state-by-state basis. However, this did not affect their Preferred and Master plans, which are available for divers of any age. Also, this had nothing to do with trip insurance. The editors of undercurrent have published a correction, which can be found here.

Six of us traveled to Bimini on February 19th through the 23rd to see hammerhead sharks. We took the ferry from Fort Lauderdale and we were supposed to return on the 22nd, but sea conditions were too bad for the ferry to run on that day. The ferry trip on Wednesday the 19th took about two hours. Then we made our way to the Big Game Club Resort. After checking in, we spent the afternoon exploring a bit and preparing to dive the next day. We did two dives on Thursday. The first dive explored a wreck, much or which is still above water due to the shallow wreck site. For the second dive, they put out a bait box and we got an up close view of a lot of reef sharks.

While sea conditions were almost flat on Thursday, they were getting steadily worse on Friday. Neal Watson's Bimini Scuba Center had planned for a late morning start of the Great Hammerhead Shark safari, but we had to move up the time to right after breakfast. They took us on a 10-minute trip to the feeding location and put out a bait box to attract sharks. Then we waited for hammerheads to show up. And we waited. And we waited some more. There is no guarantee that hammerheads will show, though they typically do show up this time of year. Finally, two hammerhead sharks arrived.

Once the hammerheads arrived, the crew presented a briefing about the dive. If you do the Great Hammerhead Shark safari, I suggest that you pay careful attention during the briefing. Every diver gets a three or four-foot piece of PVC pipe, and the briefing tells you how to use the pipe to protect yourself from various types of sharks. For hammerheads, you hold the pipe upright and let them run into the pipe and go around you. For nurse sharks, you can use the pipe to push them away. I don't remember what they said about bull and tiger sharks, so you better listen to the whole briefing in case my memory is faulty on hammerheads and nurse sharks.

They do one dive that is two hours long. The dive is very shallow, so some divers may not have to change tanks. Others may change tanks and go back. Everyone should wear at least 24 pounds of weight, and more is recommended. The divers kneel in a line with the bait box in the middle of the line. A crew member feeds hammerhead sharks that approach from one direction, and pushes away nurse sharks that try to sneak in for food. For our dive, visibility was bad at the start and got worse. Sea conditions also got worse, and the crew ended the dive after an hour and a half. By then, getting back on the boat was not something I wanted to do more than once.

On Saturday, we were supposed to do two dives in the morning and take the ferry home in the evening. Sea conditions were too bad for any of that. Instead, we visited the Bimini Sharklab for an interesting presentation about sharks and what the research station is doing. I recommend a visit if you find the time.

The first picture shows a hammerhead shark, the bait box, and the crewman who was feeding the sharks. They are 15 to 20 feet away. The second picture shows a hammerhead shark that went by me during the dive. It is two to four feet from my camera and I used Adobe Lightroom to make improvements. You can see other pictures from the trip here.

shark feeding hammerhead shark

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