On Tuesday the 28th of September 2004, at around 09:30 in the morning, Michael Rutzen of Shark Diving Unlimited phoned Michael Scholl to tell him that a dead Southern Right Whale drifting somewhere in Walker Bay.

On Monday morning, Gansbaai fishermen had spotted a dying Southern Right Whale just offshore of Danger Point and the famous Birkenhead Wreck. They observed as several Great White Sharks were already feeding on the dying Whale.

Unfortunately, he fishermen only told us about the dead Whale on Tuesday morning, but fortunately, Monday turned out to be a calm day with only a light easterly breeze. But by the time, we heard from the fishermen on Tuesday morning, the wind had shifted to a moderate southeasterly wind, picking up in strength.

Michael Scholl of the White Shark Trust, Michael Rutzen and Morne Hardenberg of Shark Diving Unlimited, prepared to launch Lamnidae, the White Shark Trust research boat, as soon as possible.

By noon, we were driving out of Gansbaai harbour towards Danger Point. Michael Rutzen consulted with several fishermen in Gansbaai that morning to ask about the currents and wind conditions of the past 24 hours at Danger Point and in Walker Bay. A course across the bay was plotted according to that most valuable information.

After an hour, we suddenly found ourselves in a thick chum slick and small Whale blubber particles were floating all over the surface of the ocean... We were in luck! 16 nautical miles from Danger Point and 12 miles from Hermanus, we found the drifting carcass of the Southern Right Whale.

Just as we approached the carcass, a three meter White Shark half-breached in front of the Whale... But unfortunately, this was the only White Shark activity that I would observe that afternoon.

The wind was picking up the whole afternoon, and it got very choppy and rough by the end. Since we were in over 100 meters of water, we could not anchor, so we through our anchor onto the Whale to be able to drift with the carcass as were hoping to observe White Sharks feeding of it.

The Whale carcass presented numerous White Shark bites all around. But no White Sharks were feeding that afternoon... After all, the Sharks had started eating the Whale 30 hours before already, and they probably were not hungry anymore. But we spotted one small Blue Shark that came to the surface and took a few bites of the Whale blubber.
Michael Rutzen and Morne Hardenberg decided to scuba dive under the Whale carcass and potentially film White Sharks feeding. They entered the water and were hanging on safety ropes attached to the side of the boat since the boat and Whale were drifting in the current.
Although we had not seen any White Sharks from the surface for over an hour before Michael and Morne started diving, they saw three White Sharks swimming around and below the Whale carcass. The Sharks remained in the murky waters around five meters below the Whale. During the four hours spent next to the Whale, we observed a White Shark coming close to the surface only twice.
We reported the presence of the Whale carcass to the authorities, Marine and Coastal Management, and we also gave them in indication as to the potential time and location the carcass would hit the shore.

We will try and look for the carcass on shore in the next few days. Keep watching this space for more information...

Update 30 September 2004: A Gansbaai trawler had accidentaly hit this Southern Right Whale during the night of Sunday (26/09/2004) to Monday (27/09/2004). This is the cause of the injury (probably the origine of the large gash seen in the picture above) that lead to the death of this Whale.