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.