The Shark Wranglers crew of the research ship OCEARCH already lost one great white in its first week of operating off the coast of South Africa. During last night's show "Line of Fire" it almost lost another.
The mission of the OCEARCH is to tag 50 sharks in 40 days in waters near South Africa. The tags are attached to and implanted in the bodies of great whites. The ultimate find is a male of the species which gets a third tag that its body sheds in 90 days.
It is for the specific purpose of monitoring its diving behavior. They have been known to dive 4,000 feet below the surface of the water and according to the crew, no scientist has yet to find the reason.
The weather and lack of sharks in waters for which they were given permits had them seriously behind. To remedy that, expedition leader Chris Fischer reverses their course.
Instead of going to the next stop on its planned route, the OCEARCH circles back to the waters of Mossel Bay where they had some good luck in the early going.
It turned out to be the right decision as four sharks were caught, tagged and released with success in eight hours. As night began to fall, the crew wanted one more and they got it.
It was the shark that was imperiled and had most of the crew convinced it would not survive the process.
While the tagging and release was performed in well under the 15 minute time limit allowed to keep the shark out of the water, this female shark remained in a trance-like state.
Tonic immobilization is what it is called and even when its body is put back into the ocean, it remains unable to recover enough to swim on its own. The mission's chief scientist Ryan Johnson and veteran fishermen on board worked on her for more than an hour as she floated beside the boat. At one point only one crew member still had hope.
Perseverance paid off and the fifth shark of the day swam away as part of the overall research experiment. The OCEARCH headed back to Capetown to obtain the necessary permits to move location and trouble visited the crew.
Anchored off the coast to ride out a severe storm, the anchor's gear box was severed, leaving them stuck without cutting themselves free of the anchor and cable. In the process a crew member is broadsided by a part of the cable mechanism as the episode concludes.
There have been some protests about the History channel show Shark Wranglers. One site had petitioned for its cancellation specifically because of the dangers to the great whites and crew members on the OCEARCH.
"This jeopardizes a protected species while endangering both people and the animals during the filming," claimed the petition linked here.
In "Line of Fire", viewers got a glimpse of what the fuss was about.
Shark Wranglers airs new episodes on History each Sunday night. Full episodes can be accessed at the show's website, here. Image: Wikipedia