Experience: Boater, Recreational Fisherman, Scuba Diver, Spearfisherman, Charter Skipper
Regions: North Island, Fiordland
Interview Location: Milford Sound, NZ
Interview Date: 05 February 2016
Post Date: 01 December 2017; Copyright © 2017 Craig Hind and Steve Crawford
1. EXPERIENCE IN AOTEAROA/NZ COASTAL ENVIRONMENTS
CRAWFORD: Craig, you indicated you were born in Durban, South Africa. What year was that?
CRAWFORD: When did you move to New Zealand?
CRAWFORD: In general, from the earliest days in South Africa to the time you left that you departed, what types of marine activities have you been involved in?
HIND: I grew up sport fishing off-shore, and sailing. A lot of sailing. I’ve got 200,000 nautical miles logged in South African waters, sailing up and down the east coast.
CRAWFORD: At what age did you start sailing?
HIND: My mother went into labour with me on a yacht. [laughs] Does that sum it up?
CRAWFORD: Yeah, I think that pretty much does.
HIND: I’ve been sailing all my life, my Dad’s had yachts from when I was a little boy, and right the way through school and everything. Our sailing friends were always members of the yacht club, and we were out every weekend pretty much.
CRAWFORD: Based out of Durban, along the east coast of South Africa?
CRAWFORD: What other types of marine activities have you been involved in?
HIND: Sport fishing or, from when I was 18 years old, spearfishing. Almost every single weekend we were in the water spearfishing at least two evenings a week. Spearfishing and free diving after work.
CRAWFORD: What were the target species?
HIND: Spanish Mackerel, mainly. All the pelagic game fish, generally. Also, Yellowfin Tuna, Sailfish, lots of reef species and stuff.
CRAWFORD: Roughly, what would the split have been between spearfishing and rod and reel fishing? 70:30? 50:50?
HIND: I’d say 50:50.
CRAWFORD: Did you have access to a near-shore or off-shore vessel? A family boat, or one that you crewed on?
HIND: Well, from the age of 18 I owned a series of my own boats. I’ve had my own charter boats as well. At the age of 18, 19, I had my own little sport fishing boat that I was allowed to go about 120 nautical miles out. I had my commercial skipper certificate.
CRAWFORD: Ok. This was serious on-water experience. At what point did you start in a commercial capacity? When did you either have employment or a business of your own?
CRAWFORD: Doesn’t matter.
HIND: Probably about the age of 19. I was working on some boats as a mechanic, and as a deckhand on a game fishing boat. And I was commercial fishing for myself, on a small quota that I was able to obtain.
CRAWFORD: What type of commercial fishing?
HIND: Just rod and reel fishing for edible species to be sold for fish and chip shops, and stuff like that.
CRAWFORD: Did you ever work with setnets or any other commercial gear like that?
HIND: No. I personally don’t believe in setnets, longlines or traps. Just my opinion.
CRAWFORD: Ok. When did you start focussing on operating a business of your own?
HIND: I started running full-time charters when I was about 21, and working on boats full-time from about that age.
CRAWFORD: I don’t know much about the climate and weather around South Africa - how much of the year would that entail?
HIND: Just due to the ocean conditions - because the east coast of the South African seaboard is very extreme - we’d only be able to get out maybe 130 to 150 days of the year, tops. The rest of the time the sea was just too big for it - just too big, rough and gnarly. The rest of the time, I was doing other stuff. I would pick up yacht deliveries around the country, or sometimes internationally.
CRAWFORD: Was that pretty much a consistent pattern of on-water activity, one way or another, until you emigrated from South Africa?
HIND: Pretty much. I left South Africa in 2002, to move to the UK, and worked as a marine engineer up there. I took people back to South Africa, then some spearfishing and fishing trips - probably three or four times a year.
CRAWFORD: Your charter fishery experience, and your work as a marine engineer - what was the split between those activities?
CRAWFORD: Did you have a degree or certificate in marine engineering?
HIND: I did a marine electronics program, three tickets, More of an apprentice and installation thing. That was Monday to Friday for a while. And when I finished work, if the weather was good, I'd hop on the boat, get the team together, and head out until 2 o’clock in the morning commercial fishing, come back in, four or five hours sleep, then back to work.
CRAWFORD: That was back in the day ...
HIND: Those were the days when I could do it! [laughs] And then Saturdays or Sundays, if we had charters booked, we’d take people fishing. If we didn’t have charters booked, and the sea was calm enough, we would go out deep, and fish commercially.
CRAWFORD: When you came to New Zealand, what was your first destination?
CRAWFORD: What year was that?
CRAWFORD: How many years there?
HIND: I was working in Queenstown until 2013. I had a fishing charter business there.
CRAWFORD: Freshwater fishing? Lake Wakatipu?
CRAWFORD: 2008 to 2013. During that five-year period, how much exposure did you maintain with New Zealand marine waters?
HIND: Quite a lot, still.
CRAWFORD: Tell me about that, please.
HIND: Doing a bit of sailing. I’ve got some friends who operate vessels around the Fiordland coast. We would hop on boats in Milford, go fishing, diving. Spent part of that time down in Dusky Sound. I've also got a lot of friends up on the North Island who have got boats there as well.
HIND: They’re up at the north shore. I used to try and get up there during the time that I had my fishing charter business. I was sponsored by a company called Okuma - a fishing tackle company, and I was also hired by them to do web design and stuff. Every six weeks I used to get flown up there for about a week. The company owned a big sport fishing boat, a 42-foot Riviera, and we spent a couple days out chasing everything from Marlin, Swordfish, Tuna, whatever. And when I was up north, I had my mates there, and we used to go fishing pretty much as often as we could.
CRAWFORD: What region around the North Island were you spending most of your time?
CRAWFORD: During that five-year period, what was the split between your Fiordland marine activities and your North Island marine activities?
HIND: A lot more in the North Island at that stage.
HIND: Yeah, maybe 80:20.
CRAWFORD: Ok, that brings you to 2013. What was the nature of your job here?
HIND: I was a skipper for Cruise Milford.
CRAWFORD: What size vessel is that?
HIND: She’s 22 metres long.
CRAWFORD: What type of operation do you run in Milford Sound?
HIND: Three trips a day, all the way round the fiord, out into the Tasman Sea and back.
CRAWFORD: Scenic cruise, or nature cruise?
HIND: Scenic cruise.
CRAWFORD: Right, but if things are going on out there, I mean, you’re going to see things - wildlife, Seals, whatever?
HIND: Our vessel being one of the smaller vessels, and being very, very maneuverable, and probably being one of the more seaworthy vessels of Milford - I can get into places where most of the vessels can’t. So, if we see stuff, we can get a good look.
CRAWFORD: And you can respond quickly?
HIND: One thing that the boss has always said, is that as long as we show people the fiord and generally stick to the main course, we are not really restricted to a, b, c, x, y, z. If we want to deviate to go and see some Dolphins, or a big workup of birds, then our cruise can go and have a look at it. We're always going to look at Seals, and always trying to find some interesting stuff for the passengers.
CRAWFORD: From 2013 to the present, roughly how many of these Milford Sound cruises have you skippered?
HIND: About 1,300 to 1,400 times I’ve been around the fiord.
CRAWFORD: Is there anything else by way of a significant amount of time on your part, around New Zealand coastal waters that we haven’t already talked about? Anything with regards to boating, or some types of fishing in other places, scuba diving? Anything else?
HIND: Since I’ve been in Milford, we've done a lot of fishing, scuba diving, spearfishing, and a lot of sailing. I’ve got a 22-foot yacht here, so whenever we can we get out in the yacht, we spend nights down in some of the fiords.
CRAWFORD: Ok. If you had to roughly break down the split between Fiordland fishing, boating and spearfishing, what would that split be - roughly?
HIND: Fishing would probably be about 80%.
CRAWFORD: Then 10 and 10 for boating and spearfishing?
HIND: Yeah. Just when we went up for spearfishing, because we get the big freshwater layers here, and the water’s not always that clear. It’s a bit squirrely getting into very dark water with a speargun, and lying on the bottom.
CRAWFORD: I’ll bet.
2. EXPOSURE TO MĀORI/LOCAL/SCIENCE KNOWLEDGE SYSTEMS
CRAWFORD: In general, to what extent do you think that Māori culture and knowledge has contributed to your understanding of New Zealand marine environments, ecosystems?
HIND: Low. Mainly because I’m not New Zealander, so I’ve never grown up with it.
CRAWFORD: The Indigenous perspective in South Africa - how much did that affect you while you were growing up?
HIND: I was brought up on the east coast in Zululand, so I grew up with Zulus my whole life. They were a huge influence on my life.
CRAWFORD: Was the White Pointer an important part of their culture?
HIND: They were terrified of the sea. They never went into the water, they did not go anywhere near it.
CRAWFORD: And never had? Was it culturally that they just avoided?
HIND: They just stayed away because there were things in there that would eat them. They wouldn’t go anywhere near it, because people disappeared when they went swimming. The ocean was always so rough. They didn’t know how to swim. It wasn’t a source of food for them.
CRAWFORD: They were not a fishing or a boating culture?
CRAWFORD: In terms of Science culture and knowledge, how much has that affected your understanding of marine ecosystems?
HIND: Medium to High.
3. WHITE POINTER DISTRIBUTION AND ABUNDANCE
CRAWFORD: When you moved to New Zealand, and you were kind of getting your bearings here, especially for all the time that you spent with offshore, tournament-style fishing using professional gear, professional tackle. For all of the time you spent in Northland, did you see sharks - in general - up there?
CRAWFORD: What types of sharks would you have seen?
HIND: Bronze Whalers, big numbers there. But we also kind of targeted them as well.
CRAWFORD: You were actually shark fishing?
HIND: Yeah. We’d go and target Bronze Whalers.
CRAWFORD: What kind of gear would you use for that?
HIND: Oh, we try to go as light tackle as we could. So, I was going onto 50-pound spin reels, and 50-pound braided line, and light rods to see if we could get them. We hooked them up, bring them onto the beach, tagged them, and then released them.
CRAWFORD: Where did you get the tags from?
HIND: The guys from Okuma had them. There’s a whole bunch of tags, just normal.
CRAWFORD: So, these were live release. When you played a Bronze Whaler, roughly how long would you have that shark on the line?
HIND: If we’re going normal, sort of 80-pound gear, maybe anything from a half hour to hour and a half - depending on where we hooked it, and the attitude of the fish. Some fish just "I can’t be asked, please take the hook out of my mouth." Others we actually had them jump before, in shallow water, and we’ve had Bronze Whalers do summersaults. Awesome.
CRAWFORD: When you were targeting Bronze Whalers, what other types of sharks would you potentially tie into?
HIND: No, we wouldn’t get anything else. Oh, a couple of times Topes [School Sharks].
CRAWFORD: What kind of bait were you using?
HIND: Half a Bonito, or half a Kingfish, or a whole Kingfish carcass floating on a balloon.
CRAWFORD: On a balloon?
HIND: Yeah, so the whole Kingfish carcass that size, a big steel trace, big circle hook ...
CRAWFORD: How big was the hook on that?
CRAWFORD: What other types of sharks did you see when you were out fishing, but not targeting sharks?
HIND: Makos. A lot of them.
CRAWFORD: Were they following your fish?
HIND: When we were fishing for Broad-billed Swordfish, quite often we’d pick those up in very deep water, 600 metres of water. And when we were trolling for Marlin, we’d hook them up. Not regular, but it did happen.
CRAWFORD: Would the Makos be tying in closer to the surface as you were bringing the fish in?
HIND: No, no. When we were trolling for Marlin, if we’ve got dead baits out there, we’re going through natural baits, we'd hook up and think "Oh, we’ve hooked into a Marlin." Everyone gets into their chair, starts fighting, and the next you’ve got the Makos out doing summersaults and everything. And Makos are regarded as an IGFA [International Game Fish Association] game fish, so they would be released.
CRAWFORD: What other sharks, did you catch or see when you were out there?
HIND: Blue Sharks, sometimes we would see them. The one day we tried to actually go for Blue Sharks on the fly - fly fishing. So, burley trail out ... we got beaten up [laughs]. Got beaten up quite badly. Hooked a couple, but couldn’t hold onto them.
CRAWFORD: Did you see any White Pointers in Northland?
HIND: No, never saw nothing.
CRAWFORD: Did any of your mates, or any of the old-timers, ever talk about White Pointers up there?
HIND: Guys always talk about them. I’ve heard like Marty Johanson, the owner of Okuma, he would talk about years ago where in Hauraki Gulf, every now and then they would see the odd one cruising around. But never really heard too much. Throughout the years of fishing up there, and being involved in the whole fishing scene, I always heard stories. As soon as guys start talking about White Pointers, you would hear somebody sitting there "Oh yeah, we saw one at Little Barrier one day." "Oh, we saw one off the Coromandel."
CRAWFORD: And it could have been, or it could have not been?
HIND: Yeah. How sure are you? Because from the surface, a big Mako swims past ... from the surface you have to double-take. "Ok, is it a White or is it a Mako?"
CRAWFORD: And that’s one of the reasons why I focussed on your early experience, because even though they were South African White Pointers, you had seen quite a few of them. You’ve seen them up close and personal, too.
CRAWFORD: In terms of seasonality, is there a time when White Pointers are seen here, versus times when they’re not?
HIND: Summer time. You always hear people talking about a lot more sightings and interactions with Great Whites during summer.
CRAWFORD: Also, to be fair, during the summer time you’ve also got the greatest frequency of tours, the greatest number of people out there, greatest number of eyes on the water. That might also be part of it. But is there a sense that in the winter time, in the off season ... I mean the fishery is still going, to the extent that the weather permits - but there is still a sense that the animals come along the summer?
HIND: Talking to the guys, like the local commercial fishermen and the old guys, they’ve always said “During the winter, you’ll never see a Great White. And you’re very unlikely to even see a Sevengiller. They just disappear. Only in the summer, when the water gets a little bit warmer, that’s when you’ll find them, but right now in the winter, I wouldn’t even worry about it.”
4. WHITE POINTER ENCOUNTERS - DIRECT EXPERIENCE
CRAWFORD: When was the first time that you recall seeing a White Pointer in the wild?
HIND: I could actually tell you the almost exact date. It was February, either 1997 or 1998. Spearfishing competition off Durban, off the actual bluff where the whaling station used to be. My mate and I were on my Dad’s yacht. I jumped in the water, swam down to the bottom, there were 25 metres of water lying over a ridge, me with my gun, looking, waiting, waiting. And this big black shadow came very slowly over me, and then I saw it was a very big, very, very big female White Pointer. She turned and came straight up to me, had a good look. I remember her gaping as she came past me, and then just cruised off - visibility was about eight metres at a bit of sea. I hit the surface at a race of knots for the yacht. My Mother said I came out of the water with two spear guns and all my diving gear - just stepped onto the boat, and handed her my gun. I was quicker than a Seal getting out the water, much to my mate’s disgust as he climbed in - because I got caught up in his buoy line, and we dragged him on the boat. And this White came up and circled the yacht for maybe 20 seconds, and then just gracefully disappeared again.
CRAWFORD: You reckon it was the same animal?
HIND: It had to be. [laughs] It may not have been, but it was about the same size as the one that I saw in the water - and that one was HUGE.
CRAWFORD: You said it was a female. At that stage, how did you figure that it was a female or a male?
HIND: She came right over me, and I didn’t see claspers. And just the girth of her.
CRAWFORD: You obviously knew what you were looking at. And even though the shock of it would have set you into a different frame of mind, the fact that you would have even known about claspers to look for in a male, versus a female which don't have claspers.
HIND: I mean, I’ve seen so many sharks, spearfishing, every day we get in the water, we see sharks.
CRAWFORD: But that was your first White Pointer?
CRAWFORD: [Discussion about project classification levels for human encounters with White Pointers: Level 1-Observation, Level 2-Swim-By, Level 3-Interest, Level 4-Intense]. Based on this first direct experience with a White Pointer in the wild, where along the scale do you figure that would be?
HIND: Almost heading up to a Level 3. She came over me, got a good look at me, and she turned and did this ... almost like she turned on a dime. She was there, and suddenly she was straight at me, and when she was there like a reach away from me, I remember the mouth gaping as she came past, and then just disappeared off. I wasn’t waiting to see any more.
CRAWFORD: Yes, that’s a little bit more than a swim-by. And if it was truly the same animal that you later saw circling around the boat after you were on board, then clearly that would be a Level 3. One specific thing about that. That gaping behaviour - what do you think was with that?
HIND: I don’t know. It felt like a challenge.
CRAWFORD: Did you get the feeling that the teeth were flashed or anything like that?
HIND: No. It was just a mouthing.
CRAWFORD: Mouth open and closed? But a little bit more abrupt?
HIND: I saw that mouth open and close. I can still picture it very clearly.
CRAWFORD: Well, who knows? Who knows if anything that animal was doing would have been communication.
HIND: She didn’t ... I mean, I’ve had hundreds of encounters with things like Bull Sharks, where when they’re swimming flat, the pectorals are flat, they’re not doing any erratic movements. I carry on diving, and just keep an eye. The one that drops his pectorals, and arches his back, and starts to do very erratic movements - that’s when it's time to get out of the water. He’s starting to get a bit annoyed with you. And when she didn’t do any of that, she came, she turned, and it was almost like just "What are you? I’m coming in to have a look." I didn’t feel threatened, like "Oh my God, she’s going to try and eat me." It was just sort of "Well, she’s there, and then just disappeared." And again, I mean I did panic and went up to the surface, hopped in the boat rapidly and so on. But it wasn't really because of anything that she did.
CRAWFORD: It was more a function of you, than it was of her?
HIND: Yeah, it was.
CRAWFORD: How many White Pointers do you reckon you’ve seen in the wild?
HIND: Oh, well when I was down in Cape Town, every day we saw them. There’d be any number when diving down there. But besides Cape Town ...
CRAWFORD: What do you mean 'every day you saw them'?
HIND: Well, all the shark work down in Cape Town, when I was skippering a few boats down there. We'd go to Seal Island, and help out with some of the cage divers, and tow decoys around and stuff.
CRAWFORD: You have direct experience with shark cage tour dive operations in South Africa?
HIND: A little bit. I’ve done a lot of work with, have you ever heard of a guy named [George Eskie]. I know Georgie very, very well.
CRAWFORD: Is George an operator?
HIND: He used to be. He set up the first cage diving operation in 1969 in South Africa. And he was one of the guys who wrote most of the constitution for shark diving in South Africa. When Peter Scott was setting up down here, George came rushing out here saying "You guys are setting up with no regulations, no understanding. This is our South African constitution. Have a read of it, and have a look. Otherwise somebody’s going to die very, very quickly over here, and you’re going to cause all sorts of problems." He went to try to consult with Department of Conservation, he even stayed at Tim Shadbolt’s house for about three or four months, while he was trying to promote a safer thing for the sharks, for the people, and for the whole tourism market. George lived with me for six months here as well, because he was trying to persuade me to give up my fishing charter business, and go set up a white shark diving business down in Stewart Island. And he had the boat, the design, the anti-breach cages, the whole lot all set.
CRAWFORD: That didn’t interest you? Or was it the economics of it, or the timing?
HIND: I just couldn’t. He wanted a lot more money.
CRAWFORD: Ok. That’s an important thing. Partly because you had direct experience with shark cage tour dive operations in South Africa, and partly because you had direct situational awareness of what was happening here in New Zealand during the early days. That would have been eight or nine years ago, now?
CRAWFORD: In the early days of them trying to set up, what were George’s principle technical concerns - in terms of either the boat, the cage, the people, the sharks?
HIND: His first thing was problems they had in South Africa with sharks breaching [the cages]. The wranglers, the person who’s actually wrangling the shark to the cage, some were too aggressive with the shark on top of the cage, damaging itself, and hurting people inside the cage. And it was a cage structure that he had designed which I thought was absolutely brilliant, which actually clips onto the side of the boat or the stern of the boat and is lowered down hydraulically, so people actually get lowered into the water. And it has an anti-breach chamber so when people are climbing in and out of the cage, they’ve got nowhere to fall over the cage, or out of the sides of the cage. All built in stainless steel, and it all folds away, you just set it up.
CRAWFORD: At the same time, a severe impediment to any animal coming in on top of the cage?
HIND: Yeah, any shark coming in on top of this roll will just slide straight off. There’s no flat top, there’s no buoys, it's fixed to the back of the boat. There’s no chance of any big animal landing on top and sliding off. And for people getting in and out of the cage, they’re not climbing into a hole, where if you do have a very aggressive shark swimming around, you slip and fall, and you fall over the top of it, or anything like that.
CRAWFORD: How many times in South Africa do you reckon you had worked with shark cage tour dive operations? How many different instances would you have been either on a boat, or on a boat associated with an operation?
HIND: Probably ten times.
CRAWFORD: Just based on that sample, you had seen a number of White Pointers. Roughly, during a session like this, how many White Pointers at a time would you have seen?
HIND: Oh, maximum probably two or three. All depended on what was happening. Normally the smaller ones first. What I found was that the smaller ones would tend to hang on the cage, and then a larger one would arrive, a more dominant one, and the smaller ones would just disappear straight away.
CRAWFORD: Using the Levels of classification in that context, Levels 1-4. If Level 1 is an animal that you can see but it doesn’t come close to the cage, Leve 2 is an animal that briefly comes into closer proximity for a swim-by, Level 3 would be an animal that stays, circles, maybe do a little bit of exploring, Level 4 is attitude. What would the split be for the animals that you saw or heard about in South Africa?
HIND: Probably 2½ to 4. I’ve had them come up, and grab hold of the outboard motor before - and have a good go at the outboard motor, trimming it up to see if it would let go.
CRAWFORD: Aggressively side to side shaking it? Or just mouthing it?
HIND: Mouthing it. I’ve had one incident where, in False Bay, one very big White Pointer came up, and got hold of the outboard, and sort of latched onto it - but it wasn’t a slow mouthing like we’d had quite often. It actually came in quite hard, grabbed hold, actually gave a shake, let go, came back in again, and kept nudging the boat a few times. We decided it was time to leave very quickly. We were only on a 16-foot open boat, with twin 30 horsepower outboards in the back. When the shark is swimming with the boat, and you can see the tail one side and the head the other side, and there’s pectorals on either side, you suddenly realize "Yeah, time to go."
CRAWFORD: By 'got hold of the outboard' do you mean the prop? The rudder?
HIND: The prop, yeah.
CRAWFORD: I think you said before that there were maybe a dozen times total you’ve seen White Pointers in the wild back in South Africa?
HIND: Yep. Another time was at Aliwal Shoal, where I’ve had a very close encounter with another very big shark as well. I was diving in a spearfishing competition, and we were all on a driftline. We had two of us in the water, and the boat following us. There were four or five other boats that were diving the line of the reef. There was quite a strong current. And I was down on the bottom ...
CRAWFORD: This was spearfishing while free diving?
HIND: Yeah, free diving. Lying on the bottom, probably 15-18 metres of water, looking for fish. I’m not sure if it was a male or female, but it was very big. Just the girth was huge again, It came out of the gloom, looked like a submarine, came right up, I could see the eye and everything. Came past me, had a look, just disappeared off, didn’t turn, just carried on going. And I swam to the surface and shouted for the boat “Come and get me, there’s a White here!” And about 20 metres away, my mate pops up and says “You better come and get me, there’s a White here!” And the next boat, and she went along all the spear fishermen, having a look, and then just disappeared.
CRAWFORD: In our encounter classification, that was like the ultimate swim-by.
HIND: That was the ultimate swim-by, yes.
CRAWFORD: She was just checking in on every single diver on her way by?
HIND: I actually sat there, and watched her, and didn’t feel threatened. She came, and I said, “My God, it’s a white!” And she just ...
CRAWFORD: Very casual, again?
HIND: Just cruised on by. There was no threatening behaviour. I just watched her and thought “If she turns, I’m in trouble.” But she just carried on going, disappeared. The minute she disappeared, I thought “It’s not the shark that you see that’s going to eat you, it’s the shark that you can’t see.” I thought “She knows that I’m here. I don’t know where she is now. I’m out of here.” It was a long 18 metres to the surface. Another boat was right there, so I’m getting on that boat really quickly.
CRAWFORD: Any other things that would constitute Level 4 behaviour that you had seen from those White Pointers?
HIND: Seals. I’ve seen them attack Seals. I’ve seen them on a Whale before.
CRAWFORD: You have? Whale carcass or living Whale?
HIND: No, Whale carcass.
CRAWFORD: Roughly how many White Pointers would you see around a Whale carcass?
HIND: We only saw one, the rest were Tiger Sharks.
CRAWFORD: So, it was mixed species?
HIND: Well, there were a few Tigers there the first day we were there. Next day we go up, there was some Tigers and then a big White Pointer arrived, and she just ate and ate and ate. Munched her way through this thing, it was incredible to watch.
CRAWFORD: How many bites do you figure she took off?
HIND: Oh, we watched her for about 20 minutes. She’d circle around a bit - almost like she was digesting the skin and everything down. And then she’d come back up, her head would come out of the water, she’d latch on, and a very slow shake, and then she’d take a big chunk out.
CRAWFORD: That was when you were doing fishing charters?
HIND: That was when I was doing fishing charters, that was off the south coast of Durban, around the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal.
CRAWFORD: When you saw White Pointers taking a run at Seals, how many times did you see that?
HIND: Oh, quite often when we were out off Seal Rock, especially dusk and dawn. Seals coming back - and all of a sudden [click], a breach out of the water, and the Seal would go flying, and it would be chaos.
CRAWFORD: Did you ever have an occasion where a White Pointer took a run at a Seal where it did not breach? Or was it characteristically a breach?
HIND: No, I’ve seen it that way, where the Whites come up, and turn at the surface, and at the last minute he’s had a go. It's almost like he’s backing out on the Seals, and then immediately the one will hop onto its tail. And then wherever that White Pointer goes, that Seal's on his tail, he won’t get off his tail. We’ve had them swim up and actually ... the Seal trying to take cover at our boat before.
CRAWFORD: 'Take cover' as in, get on board?
HIND: Swim to the boat and, we’re in a catamaran, and he’s in between the hull, in and around the engines and stuff.
CRAWFORD: In terms of all of the time that you have spent as a skipper on the Milford Cruise job, have you ever seen a White Pointer when you’ve been out there?
CRAWFORD: When was that?
HIND: February 2014.
CRAWFORD: Summer time, two years ago. What were the circumstances?
HIND: Beautiful calm day, it was quite hot. I remember the water was very, very clean.
CRAWFORD: What do you mean that it was ‘clean’?
HIND: Crystal clear. It was blue, blue, blue.
CRAWFORD: That’s unusual for Milford Sound?
HIND: Very unusual.
HIND: Because all of the freshwater layers. And just around at Martins Bay is a glacier that feeds a river out here. And when we get any rain, it feeds this horrible, green, powdered glacial water down. And it can get quite murky at the front. So, when we do get the nice clean days, we’ve got to get out there, and go for a dive - because it’s not very often.
CRAWFORD: Ok. February 2014. What would you estimate the water visibility in the Sound to have been?
HIND: Oh, 15 to 18 metres. Crystal clear.
CRAWFORD: Wow. Ok.
HIND: We’re going along in 10 metres of water, and I could see the bottom perfectly.
CRAWFORD: This is while you’re skippering?
HIND: Yep. Cruising along.
CRAWFORD: Where did you see the shark?
HIND: In Milford Sound, out over here, just passed Dale Point, just heading out.
CRAWFORD: The outer half of Milford Sound, where it opens up to the Tasman Sea?
HIND: The northern side. Yeah, there’s sort of more open ocean area there, and we were heading across. I was talking about fishing and everything on my commentary, and someone at the front said “Oh look, that looks like an Orca.” I stuck my head out, I saw the big black shape and said “If it was an Orca, it would be coming up, and we would see this big long dorsal fin come up. It’s not an Orca, that’s a Great White Shark.” I slowed the boat down. It was cruising in.
CRAWFORD: It was coming in to the Sound, as you were going out?
HIND: No, we were coming in as well, and we drove next to it. Soon as we got up close, we must have had it for ten seconds. Enough time to say to everyone “Ladies and gentlemen, looks like there may be a Great White Shark on our left of us here,” and then it just disappeared.
CRAWFORD: Did you see it at the surface, was the fin cutting?
HIND: It was just below the surface, I could make out. It was definitely a Great White. It’s girth - it was phenomenal, in comparison to her or its length. I don’t know if it was a male or female, I couldn’t tell that for sure.
CRAWFORD: Roughly, what time of day would that have been?
HIND: It was on our 2:45 cruise, so it would have been around 4 o’clock.
CRAWFORD: If I remember your estimate, somewhere between 1300 and 1400 cruises, over three years as a full-time skipper, you had one observation here in Fiordland of a White Pointer?
HIND: It wasn’t even in the fiord.
CRAWFORD: Right. It was just on the outer margin of the fiord.
5. WHITE POINTER ENCOUNTERS - EXPERIENCES OF OTHERS
CRAWFORD: What is your first memory of either hearing about, or seeing, a White Pointer?
HIND: Hearing of a White Pointer? Well, my Grandfather laid the first shark nets in South Africa. And he has pictures of him fishing on the rocks outside the whaling station in Durban, catching the White Pointers off the beach in those days.
CRAWFORD: He told you these stories about the White Pointers?
HIND: I never met him. He died before I was born, but my Mother told me stories. And my Father was a big fisherman as well, and he told me stories from a very small age. My family’s always been involved in the Natal Sharks Board, always been up there. I had this passion for sharks. From a little boy, I had everything from toy sharks, toy White Pointers, to going to the aquarium as often as I could to go and see the sharks.
CRAWFORD: Though it might not come directly from your Grandfather, it might go through your Father or your Mother or some other family member - stories about the whaling station. What stories did you hear about the association between White Pointers and the whaling stations?
HIND: Well, they would drag all the whales into the whaling station. We had one on this place called The Bluff, just off Durban - it's all been destroyed now. They used to drag the whales in there, and cut them all up and everything, with all their blood and stuff going into the water. There would always be a huge amount of White Pointers there.
CRAWFORD: When you say 'huge amount' ...
HIND: Stories I’ve heard, you wouldn’t go near the water. And when they were actually getting the whales out of the water, there’d be White Pointers up in the shore, breaking waist-deep water trying to get at these things. And big numbers of them. The guards used to just go down next to the whaling station with a big chunk of whale blubber on a big hook with a steel tracer, and lob it out into the waves and they’d hook up these 2000-pound White Pointers! My Grandfather kept a newspaper journal which I’ve dug desperately to get my hands on, which is now in the UK somewhere. From the days that he became involved in fishing, he kept a newspaper journal - every newspaper article that came out about fishing, sharks, or anything to do with the ocean, from about 1930-something. There’s this big thick A-3 journal, and I maintained it when I was growing up. My Mother did the same, so it's got everything from the very famous sardine run on the east coast and all of that. And I’ve got pictures in there of some gigantic [laughs] White Pointers.
CRAWFORD: We so quickly forget what happened, even in our everyday lives, much less the previous generations. That journal could actually be quite a bit more important to a greater number of people than you might have expected.
HIND: Yeah, I need to get a hold of my sisters and find out where it is. Because my Mother, before she passed away, that was to be left to me. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time.
CRAWFORD: Ok. So, it seems clear that in your life, White Pointers have pretty much been around since Day 1.
HIND: Day 1. I've always been aware of them.
CRAWFORD: In Fiordland, during the years when you were here, when you were fishing, boating, spearfishing down here. Did the old-timers or anybody else ever take you aside and say "By the way, you need to keep an eye out here or there"? Was it on the radar at all?
HIND: When I first started working down here, my boss [Peter Egerton] said to me "Watch out when you’re spearfishing, don’t at places like the Brig." He said "You’d be stupid to get in the water there in the summer." He said "You’d get eaten by a Great White."
CRAWFORD: Specifically, in the summer?
HIND: In the summer, yeah. He said, "I wouldn’t be getting in any of the deeper water, the Pinnacles [off Mitre Peak]. Stay close to shore, you’ll be alright. But you start going out to the Pinnacles along the coastline there, and you are going to have some serious problems."
CRAWFORD: And that was from somebody whose experience and judgement you trusted?
HIND: Thirty years Crayfishing, and fishing along the Fiordland coast. I trust everything he says, and he’s a man of very few words. When he says something, it's pretty much gospel truth.
CRAWFORD: How common was it for people to be spearfishing around Milford Sound, or any of the Fiordland sounds at the time? Was there a community of you?
HIND: Oh yes, there’s been people for years travelling down here. There’s a couple of boats that operate out of Doubtful and Dusky that spearfishermen would be chartering for the last 10, 15 years. I’ve only heard a couple of stories from guys "Oh yeah, we possibly saw a White." I know one Pāua diver here, a Māori, he’s 100% certain he saw one, and that was just outside Milford.
CRAWFORD: When was that, roughly?
HIND: He actually told me that about a year ago.
HIND: Just outside Milford, towards Transit [Beach] down here. The guys do a bit of commercial diving down here.
CRAWFORD: Commercial Pāua diving?
CRAWFORD: What time of year was it?
HIND: I forget now.
CRAWFORD: What do you recollect about the circumstance - what he said?
HIND: We were just talking about Great Whites. I actually just said to him, because he talked about free diving, I said, “Oh, have you had any run-ins with sharks?” He said “I see the Sevengillers quite often, they can be pretty nasty. Just stay out of their way. But the other day I saw a White.” I can’t remember the exact story, but he said he definitely saw a White. And he’s one of those guys who’s been in the water all his life. He said if you’ve seen a White, you’ve seen a White.
CRAWFORD: Did you get the impression - without knowing the details - that it would have been maybe a Level 2 swim-by, or maybe a Level 3?
HIND: Just a swim-by.
CRAWFORD: In terms of other people who could have seen White Pointers, anywhere in Fiordland - do you remember any reliable people telling you that they had seen a White Pointer in the region?
HIND: A couple of stories. Guys can’t be certain, but again these are coming from guys who spend a lot of time on the water. There’s Rosco’s Kayaks guys. They were talking about, I think it was last year, beginning of last year. Right outside the harbour here, they saw the Dolphins. It looked like they were giving something very big a very hard time. That was up in shallow water. When they got closer, they said it was a massive big shark, possibly a Great White.
CRAWFORD: In terms of large sharks, have you ever seen any Basking Sharks in Milford Sound, or anywhere in the outer Fiordland waters?
HIND: Porbeagles, maybe. I’ve heard stories of guys seeing, catching Porbeagles.
CRAWFORD: Where exactly?
HIND: Just outside the entrance to the harbour here, so deep water, still very deep. But it was heading up into shallow water, right up against outside the waterfall.
CRAWFORD: Right, but not far from here at the wharf? As in less than a kilometre?
HIND: Yeah, less than a kilometre.
CRAWFORD: Roughly, when was this?
HIND: Beginning of last year, around February - maybe 11 or 12 months ago.
HIND: And then this last winter gone by, we had a guy named Tim Taylor, he’s probably the top kayaking fishing guide in New Zealand. He holds two world kayaking records for ocean kayaking, writes articles in all the fishing magazines. He is the top kayak fishing guide in New Zealand. He was here working, just for the winter, as a kayak guide. And he is one of these crazy guys who likes to go out in his racing surfski and paddle 15 kilometres for a training paddle. He was heading out, and was just before Saint Anne Point over here, and he said he saw a Seal jumping around, and it looked like in the distance that the Seal was throwing a fish. “Oh, the Seal’s got a fish, and I’m a fisherman, so I’m gonna have a look.” So, he pulled off to go over there, and as he got there, a big explosion, and then quite a lot of blood in the water. What it turned out, it was a Seal jumping to get away from a White Pointer. When he got there, the White had actually got it, and he came right up next to the Great White, and he said it was as long as a surfski which is ... well, he said it was as long as a surfski, but I think it was his adrenalin going, because a surfski’s 6.4 metres long. And he said it was definitely a Great White, was right up on the surface, it just hit the Seal, and his training session got very quick after that. He quit it, he turned and headed home.
CRAWFORD: When was this?
HIND: Last year, middle of winter - May/June time.
CRAWFORD: Did he say anything about the shark paying attention to him?
CRAWFORD: Didn’t circle?
HIND: No, wasn’t interested.
CRAWFORD: How close was that, do you reckon, to the nearest aggregation of Seals in the Milford Sound region?
HIND: About seven years ago, I remember there being Seals all along the rocks here. But you’ve got Yates Point up north here, which has the highest concentration of Seals anywhere in the country.
CRAWFORD: As in roughly how many?
HIND: They reckon there’s over 30,000 Seals around Yates Point.
CRAWFORD: For something like that, as soon as I hear a situation where there’s a massive, aggregation of seals ...
HIND: Food source.
CRAWFORD: And for that reason, you’d expect that the shark sightings around here would be higher.
HIND: No one ever goes around there. I’ve actually talked to a couple of helicopter pilots saying that when you do fly over there, to show people the Seal population, instead of looking at the seals, look out around the peripherals. Because you’re probably going to find that it’s a massive food source. What we learned in South Africa is, find the food source, you’re going to find the Whites.
CRAWFORD: Seals are one potential food source, but fish as well. I’m guessing there are no standard scenic tours that go out to Yates Point on a regular basis?
HIND: No, it’s too far. It’s more than five kilometres north of Milford Sound.
CRAWFORD: But helicopter pilots would pass as part of a scenic tour?
HIND: Yep. They’ll fly past there quite a lot. But then again, they’re looking at scenery, they’re not particularly looking in the water. I’ve just been talking to my mate, Paul Mitchell from Heli Tours, and saying to them “Next time you fly out there, this time of year, keep your eyes open, because all the females are all starting to arrive. They’re coming across from South Australia, swimming across the ocean, and if they’re swimming here, they’re going to be hitting the land somewhere around here. And there’s a big source of Seals over there, a big source of food for them.”
CRAWFORD: That’s very interesting. In terms of helicopter pilots that do that route. I’ve got a couple of references in here from others about chopper pilots that I should try to reach out to. Based on your knowledge of the community here, who are some of the most experienced long-time helicopter pilots?
HIND: Well, you’ve got Jeff Shanks, you’ve got ‘Hannibal’ [Richard Hayes]. ‘Choppy’ Patterson, who owns Over the Top Helicopters - I don’t know what her first name is [Louisa]. She’s a legend. She’s another one like ‘Hannibal’, been flying all her life. Paul Mitchell, he owns Heli Tours.
CRAWFORD: That’s great. Thank you for those leads.
HIND: There was another incident that happened two weeks ago with a White Pointer here.
CRAWFORD: Ok. Please tell me about that.
HIND: Scuba divers radioed me, the guys from Descend Scuba Diving, they radioed me, saying, “Did you see the Seal?” I said “What Seal?” They said “When you get to the point half-way up, the big congregation of Seals there, have a look at the one Seal.” We came around and he had a bite that would have been from his ribs, all the way through his torso, down to his tail fins. One of his tail fin’s missing, with bones sticking out, and pretty much all of his intestines are hanging out. He’s still alive, and managed to be lying on the rocks with everything just open.”
CRAWFORD: Not dead?!
HIND: No. We saw him. He was quite resilient, because he had all his intestines hanging out, and we saw him for a day swimming around about the water, and then half up the rocks again. And then he disappeared, we never saw him again. I spoke to Lance the next day, and he said that he and his charter scuba divers were further out at Dale Point, about to get in the water, and he said he saw the fin come up. He said a massive big fin, and he’s a scuba diver who does a lot of conservation work up out of Marlborough Sounds and stuff. I trust his judgement and he says he’s 90% certain it was a Great White that just came straight past them, heading up the Sound. And that was two weeks ago.
CRAWFORD: So, the White Pointer went past his group ...
HIND: Straight in between them and their boat at Dale Point. He said they were probably 20 metres off the shore, and this White came up, and he saw the fin and it just carried on going up the fiord.
CRAWFORD: And that was the day after you and the others saw the wounded seal?
CRAWFORD: So, a large shark, probably a White Pointer in the immediate region, within a day or so?
HIND: Within the fiord. And this was seen by all of us, all the skippers around here had a good look at that injured Seal. Some said “Oh no, it could have been a Sevengiller.” And a few of us said “Oh no, not that extent of an injury.”
CRAWFORD: Would you consider that even amongst the old-timers here, that would have been an extremely rare thing to observe? A seal with that extensive wounding?
HIND: Oh, yeah. You talk to a couple of the skippers like Roger from JUCY Tours - but he’s on days off at the moment. He’s been here for about 20 years. And he was scuba diver for the underwater observatory here. He was involved when they had the submarine here, and he’s seen Makos in the fiord, at 600 feet.
CRAWFORD: What’s Roger’s last name?
HIND: He’s German. Everyone just knows him as JUCY Rodger. And he’s seen Seals with big injuries before.
CRAWFORD: As far as you know from your mates or the old-timers, has there ever been an observation where White Pointers were seen travelling in groups?
HIND: My boss talks about fishing out at the Brig, which is that little reef out there. Fishing at the Brig, where they saw some when they were fishing Groper or maybe it was Blue Cod.
CRAWFORD: Fishing handline or rod and reel?
HIND: Rod and reel. Pulling line up, and then all of a sudden, they saw White Pointers were coming up, and they were eating the fish off the line. He said “You couldn’t get a fish to the surface.” I said, “Are you sure they weren’t Sevengillers? Because they do that to us here all the time. Sevengillers are an absolute nightmare.” He said, “Nope, they were definitely White Pointers.”
CRAWFORD: And as a group, they were going after fish on their lines?
HIND: He said, eventually they had to move because there was just so many of them. And I said “How many?” and he said “three or four or five of them, just pulling up, just heaps of them.”
CRAWFORD: And this was all at one time, it wasn’t throughout the day?
HIND: All at one time.
CRAWFORD: Ok. That’s great. Is there anything else about these White Pointers that I should know? From your perspective?
HIND: I’ve always been under the belief that Great Whites are a lot more intelligent than we believe. A hell of a lot more intelligent. [George Eskie] always said to me “They’re known as the ‘professor of the sea.’ And he thought that they, in cage diving, will actually show them that humans are not actually food. The White Pointers actually learn to know what we are.
HIND: That’s what George said. But I still don’t agree with it, because we are introducing something unnatural into their natural environment. But I don’t know enough about them, to be honest. You know what I mean? Personally, I mean like in Cape Town, we can rock up to a spot ... the only way I can put it into context is from experience with Bull Sharks. The Bull Sharks on the east coast of South Africa where I’m from, have now associated boats with food.
CRAWFORD: That is just accepted by everybody?
HIND: They just know that you’re out there, especially with Spanish Mackerel, you hook your Spanish mackerel. Especially if you’re fishing, you bring up the boat, as they get to the boat, you’ll see the Bull Shark at the boat, he’ll smash it, and you’ll lose your fish. And once that starts, you will not get a fish to the boat, so you’ve got to move.
CRAWFORD: When you say that in the case of the Bull Shark, that they associated the boat with the food - does that mean that they’re visiting boats then, that don’t even have fish on the line?
HIND: Yep. And they also, with spearfishermen, in certain areas like at Aliwal Shoal, where we do a lot of diving, the sharks are very attentive. I fired my gun before to prove a point to some British divers, to say “Guys watch out, because the sharks know the sound of the gun.” You fire the gun - without any sharks around - you’ve got a Bull Shark on you. It’s right there, and it’s watching.
CRAWFORD: And it wants fish?
HIND: And his pectorals have dropped, and he’s a little bit aggressive, and now he’s looking, looking, looking. You reload the gun and that’s it - you shoot a fish, he’s straight on the fish. Just from experience and what I’ve seen through South Africa, they started hand-feeding Tiger Sharks on the shoal - where there aren’t cages. Shark dive charters, giving the guys half a Tuna, and when you get down there, the Tiger will swim up to you, you feed him. This is a scuba diver, with no cages, and they’re just hand-feeding Tiger Sharks, and some of them are very, very big animals. The last time I was there in 2007, I hopped in the water to go for a dive, swam down to the bottom, and a big Tiger swam straight up to me, not aggressive, just swam up to me as if to say “Where’s my food?”
CRAWFORD: [laughs] I’m sorry ...
HIND: I’m sitting on the bottom in about 18 metres of water, and I’ve got a big spear gun in my hand, and he moved away, and came back - came right up to me to the point that I could push him away from me. But no aggressive behaviour, just saying “Hand me the tuna!” Eventually, I had to poke him with the gun, and I went to the surface, and he just followed me back up, and at the surface, again just swimming around me, not being aggressive like “I want to attack you.” Just “Give me my food, give me my food.” That was enough for me to get out of the water. I went and had a big row with the guys from [Aliwal Dive Charters] saying this Tiger, all it wanted was food, it wasn’t showing aggression to me. The owner of the company said, “Well, then what’s the problem?” Because one day, somebody is going to get eaten.
CRAWFORD: Because that shark is going to ...
HIND: It’s associating humans with food.
CRAWFORD: Or there could be some level of expectation or frustration, if it’s not getting what it thinks it needs.
HIND: I had an argument with a guy when I was in Fiji last year. A British guy had a huge argument with me. He said it’s very good, because they feed all the Bull Sharks, and they do shark diving in Fiji on the coral coast down at Pacific Harbour, and they have some of the best shark diving in the world there. But they actually go out there with big boxes of Tuna, and chuck it out. and they’ll have 20 or 30 sharks swimming around. Bull Sharks and Tigers and everything, and the divers just sit off in amongst the rocks and they don’t have any problems. Well, they do have the odd bite on people. While I was there, he said his whole hand got bitten by a Bull Shark, but these sort of things are never reported by the Fiji government because it’s bad for tourism. And this British guy said to me “This is brilliant, they should keep doing this, they should feed them every day, and keep them there.” And I said “Why? I would rather go into the natural environment, and see them just by chance if I was spearfishing or scuba diving.” “Oh, look, there’s a shark.” Rather than going down there, and having sharks that are an unnatural environment, and unnatural food sources, and unnatural things in their natural environment. So why do it?
CRAWFORD: Ok, I hadn’t expected all of that. But I’m glad that you’ve given your opinion, and that you were able to give it so clearly.
Copyright © 2017 Craig Hind and Steve Crawford