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

James van den BROEK (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), Susan Marion COGHILL (Tighnabruaich, Argyll, Scotland), Holly FRANK (Surprise, Arizona, USA) and Nicola PYLE (Portsmouth, Hampshire, England).

We welcomed back Andy B. Casagrande IV to the White Shark Trust as a guest for a few weeks...

Read what ABC4 had to say about his life in South Africa and his experiences with White Sharks over the past year...

Saturday the 4th of September 2004... A different day from yesterday! A late winter storm is approaching the Cape, and soon after launching Lamnidae a strong NWesterly wind started blowing. The sea got choppy quickly and the conditions were far from ideal, very different from yesterday's wonderful day... Andy's last day... He arrived in Gansbaai nearly a year ago...
Nevertheless, we observed seven different White Sharks in just over two hours before we decided to return to shore as the conditions got worse... We will be off the sea for several days as the forecast is announcing strong winds and a lot of rain. While on the boat, Tom Peschak phoned me from Cape Town to tell us that he got a fantastic full frame shot of yesterday's breach!
We were very sad to see ABC4, alias Andy Brandy Casagrande IV, leave on Tuesday the 7th of September 2004... Although he was not always on Lamnidae anymore, Andy has become a real local in Gansbaai. Andy started as a WST Field Research Assistant at the end of September last year and stayed with us until mid-November 2003. He then assisted the Primate Project in Pringle Bay for three weeks, and then travelled through Southern Africa for over two months, before returning 'home' in Gansbaai. Andy continued collecting footage and photographs for identification purposes on the commercial cage-diving boats, and then returned to the White Shark Trust for his last month before returning to the USA.

Andy has become a great friend to Michael and Tracey, and many assistants. And every time we listen to one of his songs, we will miss him dearly. His new CD is available now, and you can order it from his web site.

You can read about his experiences in South Africa in his own words below...

The storm never really materialized... On Monday, Lamnidae's steering had to be fixed, and on Tuesday the 7th of September, we went to sea again... An amazingly beautiful day at sea... barely any wind, but just enough to get our chum slick going somewhere... flat sea conditions... and some large fun Sharks! Today we observed nine different White Sharks!
For some reason, the Sharks today just loved our engines... approaching both engines... Fortunately, they are protected by engine covers that prevents any injury to the Shark when they inspect (with their mouth) the engines... One more engine cover to repair... During our shoreline transect, we saw some Humpback and Common Dolphins swimming together...
It has only been a week now that the commercial cage diving operators have started working in the inshore area of Holbaai. We were fortunate to have this area to ourselves for nearly two weeks before they noticed that the Sharks have moved away from the island. Unfortunately, due to the fact the all but one commercial cage diving company are not using protective engine covers and also due to the fact that some operators exploit the Jaws syndrome rather than the true White Shark, distgusting and heartbreaking fresh injuries and gashes are now marking many White Sharks in the area. This is a real shame especially since these could so easily be avoided.
Below you can read what Andy Brandy Casagrande IV wrote about his experience at the White Shark Trust Field Research Assistantship and his life in Gansbaai and Southern Africa...

Also visit his web site where you can explore the world and purchase his great new CD with the 'Great White Shark', 'Poacher', 'Pitbull', etc. songs...

WHITE SHARK TRUST = WHITE SHARK DREAM

by Andy Brandy Casagrande IV (ABC4)

The GREAT WHITE SHARK (carcharodon carcharias) is the single most amazing animal I have ever known.  It swims within every ocean on the planet... and for more than 40 million years evolution has not changed its structural design. It is the apex predator of the earth's largest domain... It swims at the top of the food chain... the perfect hunter, the perfect survivor, the perfect dream...

Yet, strangely... we know more about the complex ecosystems of the entire ocean than we do about this single species, known throughout the world as

"THE GREAT WHITE SHARK"!

We can explore and analyze the molecular biology of invisible elements millions of miles out into the universe... we can speak in real-time to anyone, anywhere in the world with little more than a whisper... we can extract and explain microscopic life forms thousands of fathoms deep within oceanic thermal vents... and we can even breath air and burn fire underwater!

Yet...we still cannot discover the mating grounds, track the migration patterns or even determine the longevity of the largest predatory fish in the world; with sizes ranging up to 7 meters/23 feet and weights in the thousands and thousands of kilos/pounds... it may as well be 'the great white ghost'... an elusive legend...

I guess this explains in part, why... since an age of which I cannot remember (let's just say 7) I have dreamed of studying these mysterious masters of the marine world.  I have read every book, I have watched every documentary, I have studied every photograph, I have even written songs to protect and promote them, and I have traveled far across the world to find them... and now... I have finally found them...

On monday the 29th of september in the year 2003, at 9:47am... a few miles off the shores of South Africa's Danger Point... I ABC4 observed in real life... my first wild open ocean GREAT WHITE SHARK!!!  She was 3.7 meters (just over 12 feet) long and thick as a bulldozer!  WOW-WOW-WOW!!! She was beautiful! By far the prettiest girl I have ever-ever seen...

She swam slowly around our research boat as if announcing her presence and then disappeared into the murky depths... gone, just like that.  "do they always do that? I mean just patrol a bit, examine and then vanish?" I asked.  "well not exactly mate... just hold on sec" replied my team. So I waited... and before I could count to 7... she was back!  Blitzing up to the surface... ambush style!  But much to my surprise, just a split-second before chomping the large tuna fastened to our bait-line, she turned away suddenly as if she knew it was superficially placed.  Such a super smart girl she was.  She circled softly a few more times and then she was gone for good...

But not all great whites are as cute and quiet as my first...

Throughout the course of that day we observed a total of 11 South African Great White Sharks in roughly 7 hours time. Two baby Great Whites (so cute) and 9 adults with some reaching upwards of 4.5 meters/15 feet in length.

(You can only begin to imagine the state of my utter amazement / bewilderment)

Surreal... Unbelievable... My lifelong dream coming true right before my eyes!

So anyway...

Just to give you an idea of what exactly I do with regards to assisting this research team.  Basically we head out early in the am (everyday that weather permits, luckily with the coming of summer also comes calmer seas) and zip out just passed the kelp forests (and without fail always catch a glimpse of the few completely psycho South African spear-fisherman and abalone divers who seem to not mind the fact that they just so happen to free dive in the 'great white sharkiest waters' in the world... yes, completely psycho!)

Anyway, just a few kilometers off shore... in about 9 to 11 meters depth, we anchor up and start straight away recording water temp/depth, wind & current direction/speed, air temp/pressure, distinctive weather patterns, etc/etc... after obtaining all necessary statistics, it's bait/chum - great white shark time!  Oh, and if you don't have a strong stomach... along with some pretty hefty sea legs... you're in trouble mate!

So we chuck tuna/shark/liver/fish-oil/etc chum bits into the waters and fasten a large tuna or a few soup-fin shark heads to a bait-line... and then we wait. More often than not the first white shark shows up within 1/2 an hour or less.  We generally spot their dorsal fins or massive black shadows at 25 to 50 meters out... and other times they just emerge suddenly from the depths... now that's when it gets scary/amazing!

Like I said, not all great white sharks are as nice as the first one I observed. In fact, quite a few are the complete and total opposite. Some very much resemble that all-too-famous movie star JAWS; repeatedly ambushing, chomping, thrashing, twisting, ripping, breaching... with some particularly aggressive ones even testing their brilliant bites on our boat engines (ah...those sharks are definitely my favorite...and very-very impressive)

Anyway, quite a few sharks completely catch us off guard... and if you think Sharks on TV are scary... you should see the real ambush style great whites here in South Africa!  They rush-rip and ravage our bait before we even see them. Our objective is to not let them get the bait... we simply use it to lure them in as close as possible, such that we can photograph them (particularly their dorsal fins as these serve as the shark's fingerprint, no 2 dorsals are the same). We also record their behavior, finding some to be extremely aggressive and unpredictable... while others swim softly and carelessly as if they are half-asleep. We also record all scars, bite marks, satellite tags (though we have ceased tagging for a number of reasons), and distinctive markings, etc.  It's simply amazing field work...

The team of researchers and assistants that I am working with come from all over the world, and I have quickly learned that I am just a puppy when it comes to knowledge of White Sharks, and all Sharks for that matter... Truly brilliant minds at work here... I am a very lucky boy and learning an incredible amount...

As for the rest of South Africa, I have seen very little thus far. I spent a few days in Cape Town, wandering the picturesque port city... meeting people from all walks of life. I spent a day with a street busker/guitar player... and only held out for 1 hour before buying my own. Wicked nice classical guitar... bought brand new for just under $50-US... strangely enough the first guitar I have ever bought new from a store... and I have 7 back in the USA. Needless to say, "the Great White Shark song" is quite the hit here in south africa (the great white shark capital of the world) and just by luck... I played the song out at sea for an international film crew ('VOX Tours' a popular travel program) that was shooting the sharks from our research boat... and apparently it will be seen by more than 5 million people throughout Germany.  pretty cool aye...

I always remember as a kid when someone would ask me...

 "So what do you want to be when you grow up little Andy?"

 - a great white shark researcher -

So I am truly living the life I dream... and I am thankful for everything I have been given in this life... my family, my friends, my health, my mind and my freedom to explore...

Thank you kindly for your time and attention...

Best of luck in life and everything you do,

Love,

Andy Brandy Casagrande IV (ABC4)