The White Shark Trust Field Research Assistantship is proud to introduce you to our assistants:

Lori ORTEGA from Galveston (Texas, USA), Suraida NANEZ-JAMES from Galveston (Texas, USA), Hal STINESPRING from Crystal Lake (Illinois, USA) and Alec CONNAH from Telford (Shropshire, United Kingdom).

Read Alec CONNAH's thoughts about his stay at the White Shark Trust...

Saturday the 24th of May 2003 welcomed us with another wonderful flat sea day! We broke this assistant's group record again with 15 White Shark observations! Alec "Giles, The Watcher" was on the bait line, Hal was our shark watcher, Suraida and Lori were recording information about the conditions and sharks...
The weather turned bad for a few days... Suraida and Lori left for a 4-day roadtrip along the Garden Route, while Michael left for Mossel Bay for three days.

On Friday the 30th of May, we went out to sea again... we observed 18 sharks today! The sea was still quite rough, but it turned out to be a good day!

Unfortunatelly, most good things come to an end... and on Saturday the 31st of May, Hal and Alec left Gansbaai to go back home... We sure will miss them!
Alec CONNAH's experience with the White Shark Trust Field Research Assistantship as told by himself...
May 16th-June 5th/03.

I remember feeling a bit pensive about finally coming face to face with Great Whites after a prolonged spell fantasising about the encounter. Would I be capable of functioning as planned, or would I be a 'Fish out of Water'? Mid May was crunch time, and these are my recollections;

Hanging on to the boat on the first trip out amazed at how rough the sea was [Blue Water-White Knuckles?] and thinking 'Is it going to be like this every day'? Mercifully, it was usually much calmer afterwards, but it was quite a baptism, literally!

Marvelling at the power and grace of the Great Whites, and at their ingenuity in bait theft at times. No amount of video footage, photos or feature films fully prepares a person for that first close-up encounter. Their pace, power and personality has to be experienced first hand to be fully appreciated. 'Awesome' is an overused term, but in this case...

The environment; Fresh, clean and majestic ocean panoramas, the haze burning off from the distant shoreline, and the tranquility shattered by a shout of 'Shark' from the viewing platform. Cormorants in their thousands cutting across the marine panorama ahead in a great 'V' formation, and the sounds and smells from the Seal colonies, like some great party was in progress.

Teamwork, team spirit, and plenty of sound advice, hospitality and laughs - and a birthday spent aboard the 'Lamnidae' with the music of Bob Marley acting as an unlikely attractant for the sharks. Does this require a scientific study into the effects of Bass frequencies on Elasmobranchs?

A surreal moment spent pondering a huge dorsal fin cutting slowly through thick white surface foam, like some giant knife slicing through icing sugar. So mesmerising I forgot to take a photo! Then having it pointed out to me that I had the bait line looped around my ankle, and removing it - only to find myself attached to a large shark by the same rope some fifteen minutes later as it made off with the bait, thus barely avoiding an interesting 'Slapstick' moment.

And finally, fully appreciating the fantastic design and beauty of the Shark in general, and 'Carcharodon' in particular. As Mark Bristow wrote in BBC Wildlife this month [July '03]. ''If sharks are more intelligent than we think, should the Chinese be wiping them out for soup? One of the most ancient and mysterious creatures on the planet or...a bowl of soup. Difficult one.''

A word of warning though... Working with Great Whites can be addictive. I've only been home for two weeks and I'm already wondering if I can get the air-fare together for next year!!

Alec Connah.