Friday, February 25, 2011

Shark Divers Can't Get Enough Images From Guadalupe Island...

For obvious reasons, the Great White Sharks that surround the waters of Guadalupe Island are highly sought after.  Not, as we all fear, for their fins, jaws or flesh, but for their images.  Those of us that operate year after year at Guadalupe Island know that a live and well protected shark is far more valuable than the alternative.  This goes not only for the tour operators that call the island their office in the fall, but for the island's inhabitants, the country of Mexico and, indeed, the world at large.  Each passing year at Guadalupe brings more people, more science and more revenue to this fragile ecosystem that just happens to boast the finest amalgamation of Great White Sharks in the Western Hemisphere.  After seven years of successful operations we've seen first hand the financial and scientific benefits of this symbiotic relationship as they pertain to the sharks.  Indeed, each day we receive feedback on the images generated from the shark cages of the MV Islander and we're constantly being asked to provide more

 In an effort to satisfy, we've reworked our Guadalupe Island Shark Diving page to include more photos and more video that highlight these amazing sharks as well as the photographic potential available at Guadalupe.

  Additionally, we've included more information about our trips, our vessel and Guadalupe Island itself.  It's our goal to shine a light on this amazing island in the pacific and hold it forth as a model for that magical moment when raw nature and humanity come together.
Shark cage diving at Guadalupe Island aboard M/V Islander

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Cage Construction - Know Before You Go...

Great White Shark Cage in Action
Running a successful shark diving trip to an Island like Guadalupe is challenging.  To the casual observer things appear very streamlined and simple but the reality is quite different.  Between the booking process, permit process, equipment maintenance and overall running of the boat there are a million variables to manage to ensure a safe and successful shark diving voyage.  Fortunately, we've been at it long enough to make it look easy.

Of all the bases to cover one which is often taken for granted is cage design and construction.  When you consider that the most integral part of your trip will be spent in that cage, how it's constructed and laid out suddenly becomes an important consideration.  You only need to do a quick search of YouTube to see what happens when cages are poorly constructed.  Poor shark handling combined with inferior cage design typically results in a bad situation for both the sharks and the divers.  While Islander Charters maintains a zero incident record we're confident that our cage design and construction could handle it.

A Perfect TIG Weld

When diving with Great White Sharks, there is only one legitimate form of cage construction - welding.  Cages assembled with nuts and bolts are inferior for obvious reasons and should be avoided at all costs.  When it comes to welded cages there are two main techniques -  MIG (or metal inert gas) and TIG (or tungsten inert gas).  Both are solid techniques but we strongly believe that TIG welding is the finest and strongest way to join metals.  TIG welding uses a non-consumable electrode which means the electrode does not become part of the weld.  This typically results in cleaner, stronger welds.  TIG is also more versatile allowing for better joints and an all around better product.  Needless to say, all of our equipment is TIG welded.

Welding a Great White Shark Cage

 Another important factor in shark cage design is the actual welder.  For obvious reasons, an amateur welder in his garage has no business putting a shark cage together.  160 miles from land is no place to see if your technique is good.  For that reason Islander Charters uses Travis Thomas, lead welder for the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego, CA.  Travis has spent years developing equipment for marine research and as such has honed his skills on a variety of materials and techniques.  We truly believe that our shark cages represent the finest in the world.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Guadalupe Island: More Than Just Shark Diving...

Guadalupe Island is fast becoming a 'buzz' location for divers, thrill-seekers and shark enthusiasts around the world. Once an obscure rock far off the beaten path, Isla Guadalupe now attracts visitors from around the globe including noted scientists and professional film crews. While the local Great White Shark population is definitely the star attraction, the island's lesser mentioned attributes make this destination truly unique.

The South End of Isla Guadalupe

Located 150 miles off the coast of Baja California, Mexico, Guadalupe Island can truly be considered remote. While the island hosts a small airport nearly all visitors make the open ocean crossing by boat. The island's remote location makes access challenging to say the least, but it also helps the island maintain its pristine environment.

A 2008 census recorded a population of 15 persons on the island but that number is subject to constant change as the local Naval presence swells or the amount of seasonal fishermen grows. Ten months out of the year 30 families of the Abuloneros and Langosteros of Guadalupe Island are present. The inhabitants fish for both Lobster and Abalone during their respective seasons and the product is taken to the mainland for sale. Housing on the island is primitive and in many respects so is day to day life.

Campo Norte at the North End
Isla Guadalupe is best known for its marine environment - most notably the population of Great White Sharks - but the island itself is home to varied plant and animal life as well as breathtaking geography. Guadalupe Island's terrain is best described as rugged, consisting of two overlapping shield volcanoes, of which the northern and higher volcano is the younger. The island is roughly 22 miles long and six miles wide. The northern end is home to the highest elevation with Mount Augusta reaching 4,257 feet at its peak. While the southern part of the island remains barren, the northern end is host to several fertile valleys and numerous tree stands.

The Infamous Goat
A look at Guadalupe Island isn't complete without a reference to what was once its most reviled inhabitant - the goat. Russion whalers and sealers brought the goats to the island in the 19th century for provisions when stopping over but in a short amount of time the goats went feral and took control of the island. At one time the island was nearly void of plants taller than a few centimeters. It didn't take long for the available food source to diminish and the once strong population of 100,000 dwindled to a few thousand. Unfortuantely the damge was done - numerous plant species endemic to the island were gone forever, and with them several bird species as well. In 1928 the island became a nature conservancy (making it one of the oldest in Mexico) and an effort to eradicate the goats was launched. This task was challenging to say the least but as of 2005, when the island became a Biosphere Reserve the task was completed.

Researchers Preparing a White Shark Biopsy
Perhaps the greatest travesty of the goats insatiable hunger was the decimation of the local tree poulation. Guadalupe Island was home to several large species (Guadalupe Palm, Guadalupe Cypress, Island Oak and the Guadalupe Pine)but as the goats devoured the seedlings only old trees were left. With time, as large trees fell and new ones failed to take their place, the forests dwindled. This created an immediate effect on the island's ability to retain water as the once populous forests collected water from the plentiful fog at the northern end of the island. To restore this lost balance, fences were installed to protect seedlings from the goats allowing many tree species to grow to size for the first time in 150 years.

As part of Guadalupe Island's main user group, Islander Charters fully promotes and supports the ongoing efforts to protect the island and its surrounding waters. As research continues and solutions are devised the strength of this island and others like it increases. Part of our commitment includes an ongoing effort to educate the public by bringing them face to face with nature. Whether it's staring into the eyes of a 3,000 pound Great White Shark or watching the sun set over this majestic rock we recognize that nothing beats a hands-on approach when it comes to truly recognizing the complexities of nature.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Great White Shark Diving, October 10, 2010

There were several Great White Sharks around the boat this morning but they were a little slow to wake up. They circled deep for much of the morning only coming to the surface every so often. By noon they were back to normal putting on a great show the rest of the day which provided fantastic photo opportunities for the divers below. We even had a white shark breach right next to the boat. Guest divemaster, Doc Anes of San Diego Shark Diving even managed to capture the breach on video from underwater. The weather continues to be flat calm and the Tuna are still here.

Of course, in addition to superb white shark viewing, Chef Rick created a phenomonal sushi platter to compliment the day...

Great White Shark Dive Report, October 11, 2010

We finished big today. There were Great Whites on us all day and they were very eager to put on a show. At one point we had at least five separate animals competing for space around the boat. Things were getting tense in the water and we witnessed multiple face-offs throughout the day. It’s common to see a white shark breach in these situations and we were really surprised that one didn’t. Overall, it was an incredible day of shark diving here at Guadalupe Island.

2011 Great White Shark Diving Schedule

Islander Charters is excited to announce our 2011 schedule for Great White Shark Diving at Gudalupe Island. We look forward to continuing a tradition of offering one of the finest live aboard dive services available at Isla Guadalupe. When it comes to Great White Shark cage diving we are part of a continuing effort to raise the bar in terms of service, comfort and your overall experience.

2010 was an excellent year at Guadalupe as we enjoyed some of the finest days of white shark diving ever. Excellent weather coupled with numerous sharks made our trips this year spectacular both from a crew perspective as well as a passengers'.

For anyone that has expressed even the slightest interst in this type of adventure, we encourage you to give our office a call at 619-224-4388. We've all been there and we're eager to answer any questions you may have about cage diving with Great White Sharks at Guadalupe Island.

Islander Charters

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Four years ago Mauricio Hoyas, a graduate student from CICMAR in La Paz in tandem with Dr. Peter Klimley from the University of California, Davis established what has since become a viable research effort at Isla Guadalupe. This ongoing effort has produced significant results in terms of shark data and has made great advances in understanding why Great White Sharks are at Isla Guadalupe. Islander Charters has played a key role in this endeavor in terms of logistical and financial support. In 2002, we directly assisted Mauricio and his team with the assembly and deployment of the CICMAR/UC Davis RAP array system. This system of shark monitoring helped produce volumes of information on White Shark movements at the island. Without the on-site support of the Islander and other fleet vessels, and the local knowledge of the captains and crews this research project would not exist. Over the last two years Mr. Hoyas has functioned as an educator to the public, spending time aboard the Islander explaining his research to passengers. This process has lead to a greater understanding of the great white shark’s role in our oceans and has also illuminated the public to the importance of preserving one of Mexico’s great environmental treasures.In addition to the CICIMAR project, CICIESE in Ensenada, under the guidance of Doctor Oscar Sosa-Nishizaki is about to embark on an equally ambitious project. In 2007 graduate students from CICESE worked aboard the vessel Islander in preparation for a full fledged scientific effort to begin in 2008. To facilitate this project Islander Charters has offered full use of our vessel and designed and built a research cage specifically for scientific use. Islander Charters has also developed DNA sampling equipment specifically fabricated for use with the Great White Sharks at Guadalupe Island. We are hopeful that this new and intense study of the White shark will produce significant results and insights into this mysterious animal’s behavior.On-site support is critical to any scientific operation but Islander Charters raises the bar by contributing on-site data on a daily basis. In accordance with Mexican regulations Islander Charters compiles a daily log noting present conditions, diver information and shark sighting information. This data is then compiled and submitted to CONANP in Ensenada, Mexico providing them with almost unlimited information as it pertains to the white sharks at Isla Guadalupe. Beyond that, Islander is the only US vessel that takes CONANP observers on each and every trip. The observer program allows CONANP to monitor the vessel’s activities while on-site and allows them the platform to compile their own data on a daily basis for the entire season. Additionally, observers interact with tourists from all over the world which opens the environmental dialogue even further. We are also pleased to offer you the chance to assist in our research effort by providing much needed identification information from the shark cages. Over the years we’ve found that the contributions from our shark divers can be extremely useful to researchers at the water’s surface and we welcome your participation in that endeavor. Education is of primary importance when it comes to understanding and managing resources – this interaction facilitates that.