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'Shark Wranglers': tempers flare with little sleep in Algoa Bay

Paula Duffy's picture

The men of the Ocearch arrived at Algoa Bay off the coast of S. Africa. It is an area well known for its high winds, making the mission to tag the great white sharks even more dangerous than it already is.

The Shark Wranglers have a four-day window within which to work and keep to their overall schedule of capturing, tagging and releasing 50 great white sharks during a 40-day permit period.

Their vessel the Ocearch is filled to the brim with crew members who are fishermen, environmentalists, shark experts and scientists. As would be expected of a large group of men in a confined space for a long stretch, there will be personality clashes.

The nature of the work makes people rely on others to perform their assigned duties without mishap, in order for the rest of the crew to perform theirs.

Nightfall does not the stop the shark search. With the crew spread among three ships to work as a veritable conveyor belt, ending with a captured shark having to be loaded into the wooden lift off the side of the Ocearch, men are assigned to important duties that usually fall to others.

The tagging process includes one bolted to a fin with the other implanted in the shark. They will provide ten years of valuable migratory and life cycle information. For a summary of the process of how the sharks are captured tagged and released, read: Shark Wranglers, try to regroup after death of Maya.

High winds and tough conditions add to problems of the crew working 40 hours straight in Algoa Bay. While finding ragged tooth sharks on days one and two, they have yet to find their first great white and it is only that species that will help them complete the scientific mission.

The chief scientist had pinpointed a spot that looked to be the best area to find the great whites but it is notorious for unstable waters and even higher winds. At this point however, expedition leader Chris Fischer seems inclined to give it a try. Without a good night's sleep they need to get their smaller craft lifted on the Ocearch to take off for their new stopping place.

Junior deckhand Juan Valencia worked the controls of the hydraulic lift with one of the fishing crafts dangling from it. The boat went out of control, hitting one member in the head. Tempers flared and Valencia became aggressive, telling team members to "Keep the $%#@ out of my face."

After some sleep they high-tailed it to the mouth of the river and the two smaller craft went out searching. The first shark that bit on a line was off the Ocearch, with the most experienced hands elsewhere. As the others sped towards the mothership, Juan Valencia was pressed into service again.

Sensitive from his failure of the previous night, he didn't react well to instructions and as things went awry, began to get defensive. The shark was lost as he couldn't control it. Dissatisfaction with Valencia grew.

Four days in without one great white tagged and the crew was not feeling bright and sunny On day five, some new techniques coupled with a bit of a break in the tough weather resulted in a big one on the line. Todd got the responsibility to reel it in off one of the small craft and they headed to the Ocearch to use the lift for tagging.

Each shark is named as the crew works on it and gets ready to release it back to the water. Because of what they've had to contend with this one is named Perseverance, an apt name for the situation. Five days of work to get one shark tagged. The mission goes on.

Shark Wranglers airs new episodes Sunday nights at 10:00 p.m. ET on History with replays during the week. Image: Wikipedia.


Submitted by ac (not verified) on
sorry guys; I totally support OCEARCH and the work you are doing but now that History has taken over Sharkmen and turned it into Shark Wranglers - I dont like the show - its too cut up edits are hard and its WAY TOO DRAMATIC - bring back the old producers

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