“Thank God it’s Friday,” is what most of us were thinking as we set out on April 16th. With South Broward High School, all of us from the shark program, and a few special visitors, the energy on the boat was ridiculously high! Curt’s wife Kelli, along with several other members of their family, including Curt’s dad and Kelli’s niece, Sophi were along for the ride. It is always interesting to meet the characters who spawned and raised the ones we love!
Anyhow, we headed out into Everglades National Park, where we were hoping to bring in a big catch. I think even the dolphins we met along the way knew we were on a mission. One of the dominate male dolphins even displayed an aggressive tail slapping fit as if to say, “You want a piece of me?” Needless to say, we made it past the pod of dolphins unscathed. As we arrived on site and put our drumlines out, we decided that our signature Hammerhead circle was in order.
Some may think that our little traditions and superstitions are silly, but I think when we pulled in our first drumline to find a 12 ft great hammerhead on the end of the line, we all wanted to gloat and give a, whole-hearted, “I told you so.” We put a satellite tag on her and watched her swim away and transmit for the first time! The crew agreed to name the shark “Caroline M. Hammerhead” in honor of Dr. Hammerschlag’s wife, although I think the data sheet reads “Sweet Caroline” (a clever pun on Neil Diamond’s song- get it…Neil and Caroline!- don’t worry, it took me a second too!).
After we watched our HUGE first catch dip under the surface again, we moved on to the rest of our drumlines. A few lines later, we snagged an amazing Lemon shark and pulled him onto the boat to measure, tag, biopsy, take a finclip and blood sample; and for the first time, quickly sketch our catch (thanks to Sophi!). As we slipped our Lemon shark back into the water, however, one of our crew members seemed less than pleased…Sophi couldn’t understand why we would name our Hammerhead but not the Lemon shark we had just caught. With our 1st grader Sophi to the rescue, the Lemon was quickly dubbed “Larry” in honor of her Granddad.
After we watched our new friend Larry the Lemon swim down through the water, we were really excited to see what the rest of our lines had in store for us. Although we continued to pull up empty line after empty line, the Hammerhead and Lemon were proving to be enough to keep our spirits high. As we pulled in the next drumline, we noticed that the line was taught, and we all immediately jumped up to catch a glimpse of what it might be…a Nurse shark. Not many people like going to the doctor, let alone getting poked and prodded by the nurse, which is why I have come to realize that the “Nurse” shark is an incredibly fitting name for a shark that we are less than thrilled to see breach the surface at the end of our line. Nurse sharks have the reputation of rolling, which can make it more difficult for us to tag the shark. Regardless of how we feel about them, this Nurse shark proved to be quite a fighter…to the extent of breaking the monofilament of our tail rope to pieces. With one more nurse shark tagged, and one less usable tail rope, we moved on to the other side of the channel.
We pulled in another Nurse and a few more empty lines, intermittent with a few fish traps filled with pinfish (helpful hint: never try and slide them back in with your bare feet, Virginia and I know from experience that the puncture wounds from their spikey little fins are less than enjoyable!)
It had been an amazing day of Shark research, but as we returned to Seabase, the sweet scent of fish guts, the lullaby of our boat engine, and the tossing of the boat seemed to rock us all to sleep. I for one can say I dreamed sweet dreams of the ocean, the sun, and the amazing shark Converse shoes that Sophi was rocking that day (I’ve heard talk of begging Converse to make them in adult sizes!…sorry Dom, they have refused to make a women’s 11…). It was another great day with some really amazing sharks and even more amazing company!
Don’t forget, you can track our satellite tagged sharks too!
We now have 6 Great Hammerheads, 1 Scalloped Hammerhead, and BD the Bull Shark.
Please follow the link and track away! https://www.sharkresearch.rsmas.miami.edu/learning-tools/
Ashley Schenk (Shark Intern)