Bob Street

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YOB: 1930
Experience: Marine Ecologist, Fishery Scientist, Diver
Regions: Otago, Marlborough Sound, Catlins, Fiordland, Foveaux Strait, Stewart Island
Interview Location: Dunedin, NZ
Interview Date: 29 January 2016
Post Date: 16 Sep 2017; Copyright © 2017 Bob Street and Steve Crawford

4. WHITE POINTER ENCOUNTERS - DIRECT EXPERIENCE

CRAWFORD: When you moved in 1955 to take the position here at Dunedin, you spent the next 30 years working in a region extending from Oamaru south to Foveaux Strait and west and up through Fiordland. During that 40 years, did you ever see any White Pointers in the wild throughout that region? 

STREET: No, I have never seen any. I’m going to add here that my main experience of White Pointers - even though I didn’t see them - was at the Chatham Islands in 1966. 

CRAWFORD: What were you doing out in the Chathams? 

STREET: I was still based in Dunedin, but early in 1966 the Rock Lobster fishery started there. In the year of my experience there I was working on Rock Lobsters, and in particular the fact that I was a scuba diver. My assistant and I, we went out to the Chatham islands on a commercial fishing boat which - prior to 1966 - had been fishing for years on Groper and Blue Cod populations. We had two near encounters with White Pointers while we were diving there.

CRAWFORD: Was this scuba diving or free diving? 

STREET: Scuba diving. 

CRAWFORD: And it was as part of your job that you had gone out to the Chathams to work on Rock Lobsters?

STREET: That’s right.

CRAWFORD: Roughly how long were you there for?

STREET: Around about 3 weeks.

CRAWFORD: When you were diving, roughly what kind of environment were you in? Nearshore or offshore?

STREET: Nearshore to the island, yes, yes. 

CRAWFORD: Do you remember roughly what time of year you were there? 

STREET: it would have been mid-July, 1966. 

CRAWFORD: Tell me what happened.

STREET: At the northern end of the main bay, at the Chatham Islands. Petre Bay, there’s an anchorage called Port Hutt. Now, there was a freezer boat that had been there for years prior to the Rock Lobster fishing started. It was just a freezer boat for the Cod and the Groper boats that burnt to the ground a few years prior to that, you know? But anyway, the skipper of the boat that I was on wanted the mooring chain back, and we were going to put a rope round the end of the mooring chain so you could bring it up, and then you’d have a permanent mooring. I was just about to dive down after spotting the mooring chain which was in about 50 foot of water, when ... [laughs] I didn't see it, but my mate gave me a nudge and said "Get out of the water quick." And he said there was about a 15-foot Great White passing just underneath us. I must have looked the other way. So, we got out. And an hour later, we went back and nervously put the rope around the end of the chain so they could have a mooring in. About a week later, at Pitt island, just to the south of the Chathams there, when we came in about 5 o’clock at night, one of the boats had a rope around the prop, and I put the gear on and took the rope off, and when I got up, one of the crew had a long pole with a bayonet on the end. And I said, "What’s the shot here?" And he said "Oh, there was a 15-foot White Pointer swimming around here this morning, you see?" Now, those areas were anchorages for fishing boats. And in the days when there was no Rock Lobster fishing, they were fishing for Groper and Blue Cod. And this would have applied particularly to Groper - the White Pointers would have gotten in the habit of following the boats into the anchorages while throwing out the Groper entrails and heads. And once they get into that habit, they would probably retain that habit for a while. 

Copyright © 2017 Bob Street and Steve Crawford