‘THE SUN’ – SHIPWRECKS with Ben Cropp

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Relatively close to the border between Australian and Papua New Guinea, in the northern region of The Coral Sea are a pair of coral reefs.**

Ashmore Reef and Eastern Fields are not include on dive tourism itineraries, being still a little too remote for visits, but yachts en-route to Murray Island may call in.

At the northern corner of Ashmore Reef is an ancient shipwreck, positioned near a ledge which drops onto a shelf 40 meters below, and then falls away into presumably very deep water.

It was interesting country with hump head maori wrasse and tuna. The sort of place where anything could swim by if you were in the water long enough.

The shipwreck scattered in shallower water is \The Sun\ and has a connection to an early white settler, Frank Jardine of Cape York and his long-lost treasure of gold.

Shipwreck explorer Ben Cropp believes the two large iron anchors (pictured) were sitting on the deck of the ship – the timber having long since rotted away, which would explain why they are elevated from the surrounding flat coral platform.

There can be an eerie feeling around such a tragic site – which, in it’s era, would have been equivalent to an airline crash of today. Bit’s and pieces scattered everywhere. Time was against our brief visit as we were heading for Murray Island to film turtle hunters at work. We’d definately enjoy a return visit one day.

SHARK ENCOUNTER

Hawaiian-tiger-shark-Medium

Tiger stingray

 

(Insert new picture here) I came close to having both hands and forearms included in the gut of this 2.6 meter long tiger shark last Sunday.
A second or so later, the shark was obscured by foam as it ripped the holding wire loop free from the bait, the remains of a large cod. (This ‘hookless bait’ from a seafood wholesaler).

Watching three tiger sharks cruise around before feeding was tedious and hypnotic. Circle after increasingly larger and larger circles, possibly hypnotizing the intended prey (and me).
Then a straight-line swim for the bite. A live prey may not see it until too late. Chomp!
Tigers have a slower mental time-frame than us. Maybe we are just impatient for ‘action’? ‘They’ appear to study the prey with caution. Mostly this offers a diver time to get out, and into a boat.

When tiger sharks do feed, the power is awesome. They bite the entire piece away then swallow, no chewing required.
Just as dangerous in shallow water too. Beware of big shark getting too close. In some respects similar to a white pointer – when they bite, but a slower swimming pattern around the prey to begin with.

 

Lessons learned’ from the sharks episode of last Saturday** is how necessary an anti-shark device is for people at sea in a life raft. When these big tiger sharks finally decide to bite, nothing is going to change their mind, no amount of shouting, hitting or kicking. And when they bite – the entire piece comes away. No spitting out of anything. South Australian shark bite celebrity, Rodney Fox was fortunate a white pointer mouthed his chest in 1964 and not a tiger shark!

An inflatable lifeboat without an adequate shark repellant aboard as a life-saving device is a foolish exercise in cost-cutting, yet this is how they all are!

The electronic POD and a powerhead (on a handspear) would be my suggestions of the minimum additions to all life saving craft, especially in Hawaii where there are plenty of tiger sharks.

Costly and extra bulk but that’s information. Too many have already vanished at sea without a trace. We can guess their fate more clearly now.

Be prepared for the worst circumstances to happen. If these don’t happen – great. Powerheads are lethal and as dangerous as a bad shark so some form of container with a seal might be necessary.

 

More: A WARNING that inflatable boats are not much use around sharks. Single cell inflatable boats are a temporary life raft at best. Good for a few hours or until the first shark sees it. All life rafts aboard cruising boats should be fitted with both electronic and explosive anti shark devices, especially for tropical waters where tiger sharks are more frequent. Too many people go missing without a trace.

 

HELP! We yelled for assistance to these guys, five lads who we’d spoken with earlier. It was the sound of their outboard motor alongside that probably made the tiger shark release it’s grip on Ben’s dinghy after three to five minutes of holding on and dragging the boat down. These guys had a good look at what was happening and would have their own story to tell. “A shark trying to eat former shark hunter Ben Cropp’s dinghy”.