By Dorie Cox
The crew of M/Y Marcato was integral to a scientific expedition that studied sharks during a charter by Dr. Austin Gallagher and a 12-member team of scientists and support from Beneath the Waves. The yacht crew experienced hands-on shark tales during the Bahamian charter in May, including tagging a 13-foot pregnant tiger shark.
“The crew were very excited, it was something different than we’re used to,” Capt. Jason Halvorsen said.
It was different from most charters. The crew covered the teak, replaced the good towels with cheap ones, hosted buffet meals, and canceled turndown service. But many parts of their jobs were the same, and helpful to the scientists.
“My crew know the Bahamas, we offered local knowledge,” Capt. Halvorsen said. Several crew were even in the tender, ready with a scalpel for shark tissue sample collections. On the first day tagging, the scientists expected to tag four to six sharks.
“Well, we did nine,” Capt. Halvorsen said. “We got a big shark they had previously tagged. It was neat. We got a baseline and samples.”
The scientists even named a tiger shark Marcato.
Crew spend their lives on the ocean and the work let them see it from a different perspective, said Gallagher.
“It’s a match made in heaven,” he said of the partnership between Beneath the Wave, The International Seakeepers Society and the yacht.
“This pilot is proof that there is a real magic between ocean scientists and crew,” Gallagher said.
After the first day, the captain was hooked and became a vital part of the team, he added, and the crew helped restrain the tails on the sharks.
“It was life changing for the crew of Marcato. It’s an experience every crew should have,” Gallagher said.
Each shark was caught, brought near the tender and rolled over, fins up, for measurements, tissue samples, and an information tag.
“They roll him on his back, belly up,” Capt. Halvorsen said. “They are in a trance, lethargic, almost sedated. Then there’s an incision to install a device in the belly, then they suture it closed.”
When the shark is released, “you would think it is pissed and wants to attack, but more than not, they would just stay and gently swim away,” Capt. Halvorsen said.
The biggest lesson that the crew learned was, that although people are taught to be afraid of sharks, they should not fear the apex predator, he said.
“We got to interact in a controlled way,” Capt. Halvorsen said. “We had some ownership of it. I feel like we didn’t just take scientists out, but I was a scientist.”
To learn more, visit Beneath the Waves and the International Seakeepers Society. To see Dr. Austin Gallagher’s TED talk, click here.