Sardine Run 2011 – “One of the greatest migrations on Earth”
by Daniel Haim
These photographs reveal one of nature’s greatest phenomena – the annual sardine run. Millions of the fish move north along the coast of South Africa where they are eaten by dolphins, sharks and gannets in a huge feeding frenzy.
“The sound of birds entering the water is also very loud – it’s like someone smashing the giant hammer into water.”Some people say that this year the Sardine Run didn’t actually happen: the water temperature on a surface was too high, so sardines stayed in the deep, where they couldn’t be reached by gannets. “It took from me a lot of time and patience to stay in the sea in rough conditions to wait for activity. It was good that I went for a long 12-days trip: lot of people who arrived just for 4-6 days didn’t even have a single dive! That was very frustrating for them. This year a number of boats with divers was maximum of all past years: mainly due to huge success of Oceans film and BBC Greatest Migrations series. It looked so easy in the cinema: huge shoals of sardines, dolphins, birds and all that amazing activity. But what people didn’t know, that it took 3 years for BBC to make that 20-min film, and 90% was filmed on a single dive. And it took 4 years for Doug Perrine to get his famous shot with 2 sharks charging throw sardines.” – says Dmitry Miroshnikov
“Diving near the baitball is one of the most amazing adrenalin-full experiences in a life. Scuba diving is usually a very silent thing… not in this case. Dolphin’s attack on sardines starts with very loud high-frequency whistle – dolphins communicate with each other to coordinate the attack. In a seconds a whistle is followed by pack of dolphins, charging themselves into a baitball, usually from down to up. Sardines are trying to escape, so the baitball curves itself like a liquid, approaching the surface… and it comes close enough for gannets to reach them. Cape gannets are very good divers: they fall from 20-30m into the water with a speed up to 120 km/h, diving to 10-12m deep. The water around instantly becomes full of bubbles – traces of the birds. If the bird hits you, that would be a trouble… But they have very good sight, so it’s not a threat to divers. The sound of birds entering the water is also very loud – it’s like someone smashing the giant hammer into water.”
Definitely scuba diving in Sardine Run is not for beginners. But it’s not dangerous if you follow the rules: not diving in dirty water, going together with group, and not putting yourself into baitball.