Damian Briggs

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YOB: 1943
Experience: Commercial Fisherman
Regions: Westland, Fiordland
Interview Location: Deep Water Basin, Milford Sound, NZ
Interview Date: 06 February 2016
Post Date: 01 December 2017; Copyright © 2017 Damian Briggs and Steve Crawford

1. EXPERIENCE IN AOTEAROA/NZ COASTAL ENVIRONMENTS

CRAWFORD: Let’s start at the beginning, Damian. Where were you born and when? 

BRIGGS: Karamea, 1943. 

CRAWFORD: What is your first recollection of spending a lot of time around the water? 

BRIGGS: It was with my Grandfather in Nelson, as a kid. He used to row dinghies around, and catch Snapper in the harbour there. 

CRAWFORD: He was a commercial fisherman? 

BRIGGS: No, no. Just a Granddad.

CRAWFORD: But he was catching Snapper in the harbour? 

BRIGGS: Snapper. This is in the 1950s, yeah. 

CRAWFORD: Roughly how old would you have been? 

BRIGGS: Oh, 10-11. 

CRAWFORD: Did you visit with him up there regularly? 

BRIGGS: Yeah. All the school holidays and that. 

CRAWFORD: When you were in Greymouth, did you spend time on or around the water there? 

BRIGGS: Yeah. What happened in those days is, because it was a waterfront port town, the colliers used to work in and out of there, and the kids all went to the wharf and fished around the back of the colliers, and we got a ride on the dredge out on the bar, if you could. And that’s the way it went. 

CRAWFORD: So, playing around, working on the dinghies, doing some fishing? 

BRIGGS: Yeah.

CRAWFORD: Handlining or setnetting or what? 

BRIGGS: We used to just troll up and down the river for Kahawai. You heard of Kahawai? Catch Kahawai travelling up and down the Grey River. 

CRAWFORD: Did you ever do any free diving, any Pāua diving, or anything like that? 

BRIGGS: No, no diving. 

CRAWFORD: What about handlining? 

BRIGGS: We was handlining off the wharf. And trout fished in the rivers, as kids. And later in life, always chased trout. I don’t bother now, but I did then. 

CRAWFORD: What age did you get access to a dinghy of your own? 

BRIGGS: Made my own out of a sheet of roofing iron. Used a piece of 4x2 in the front for the stem, and an apple case for the back. And then bent it around to make a transom. And then put pitch on the outside of it. And we had an outrigger with a 4x2. And paddle up and down the creek. 

CRAWFORD: Roughly how old were you then?  

BRIGGS: Same age, 10, 11, 12. 

CRAWFORD: When did you start spending time with fishing boats leaving port? 

BRIGGS: When I was 17, I went to sea the first time. On the [Nona], a commercial Crayfishing boat out of Greymouth, that. We used to line for fish in the Hokitika Trench for a start. Yeah, out here in the trench. And then after that I went south, Crayfishing for three months. They were three-month trips in those days. 

CRAWFORD: A mixed fish-Crayfish operation? 

BRIGGS: Lining for the Groper and Bluenose and Ling, out in that area there. And after that we went south, Crayfishing down here off Fiordland, down off Milford Sound

CRAWFORD: That was the same vessel? 

BRIGGS: Same boat, the [Nona] 

CRAWFORD: Roughly, what was the length of that vessel? 

BRIGGS: 56 feet. 

CRAWFORD: And three-month trips, at a go? 

BRIGGS: Yeah. 

CRAWFORD: When you were line fishing, was it danlines or longlines? 

BRIGGS: They were danlines. Oh, hang on. He had a 200-hook longline. And I got to put it around the screw. [laughs]

CRAWFORD: That was as well as the danline? 

BRIGGS: They’d find the fish with the danlines, then put the 200-hook longline out. All pulled by hand. 

CRAWFORD: Was there seasonality to the line fishery, as opposed to the Cray fishery? 

BRIGGS: The Cray fishery was all the year round. But as you know, in the winter you can’t take the females - they’re all in berry. So, it wasn’t any seasons as such. What people used to do, is do one trip in the winter - which is May/June, July maybe. And then go home, and do a bit of lining out of the Trench.  And then a Christmas trip - leave about the end of October, and come back at the end of December. 

CRAWFORD: That was 17 you started doing that. How long did that continue? 

BRIGGS: I went back ashore after I’d been out there for a three-month trip, ashore for about a year. And then I went as crew on the Red Witch, with [Albert Croning], he was the Skipper. 

CRAWFORD: Where did the Red Witch sail out of? 

BRIGGS: Greymouth again. Back down, same trips, same area. 

CRAWFORD: Same gear, same patterns?

BRIGGS: Yeah. 

CRAWFORD: What was the length of that vessel? 

BRIGGS: It was 46. It was also trawling at the same time. We’d trawl for our bait - live, fresh bait. 

CRAWFORD: Bottom-trawling, midwater? 

BRIGGS: Bottom. 

CRAWFORD: And that was after a spell ashore, when you switched over to the Red Witch? 

BRIGGS: After I had about 12 months back on shore again. It was hard to get a job on a Crayfish boat. 

CRAWFORD: How long did you sail with Albert for? 

BRIGGS: Two years. And then I took over the boat. 

CRAWFORD: Got your Skipper’s certificate? 

BRIGGS: Didn’t have to get that. They never worried about them until 1969. Then I had to go and set that. I’d already been around a boat for four years. And down here I fished. 

CRAWFORD: So, you were about 21 when you were Skipper?

BRIGGS: 21 when I was Skipper on the boat, yeah. 

CRAWFORD: Same kind of gear?

BRIGGS: Yeah, same sort of set-up. Some trips you’d work from Bruce Bay, up here where the light is. You’d start and work down here, they called that the Top End. Work down as far as Haast, do your trawling along the Haast Beach. And then from Haast Beach, you might change your mind, fish around there on Open Bay Island, that’s around here. Then you might fish from Jacksons Head to Cascade Point. That’s about eight hours, so about eight miles. And then you’d work that piece there for a while. Then you’d work from there down to Big Bay, Awarua Point. And work in Big Bay. And then you might change this pattern, because you tailed [the Crayfish] at sea, in those days. So, there was no problem. You stayed and froze everything on board. 

CRAWFORD: Freezers on board?

BRIGGS: Yeah. Hold about seven tonne. You worked from Big Bay. And you might work where I’m working now - from Martins Bay, down to Milford Sound. 

CRAWFORD: So, for three months, you would work your way down that stretch? 

BRIGGS: Sometimes, if it was really good fishing at the Top End, you’d stay there. But if it wasn’t, you’d move and move, until you found some successful fishing. 

CRAWFORD: What’s the furthest south that you were fishing in those days? 

BRIGGS: I’ve never fished south of Poison Bay

CRAWFORD: Ok. In general, how long did you do that for? How long were you Skipper on the Red Witch? 

BRIGGS: Oh, till ’72. And I went back ashore. Then I brought my own boat, the first one - that was the [Malrest]. I bought it in ’72. 

CRAWFORD: Did you bring her to Milford Sound? 

BRIGGS: No, I stayed up in Greymouth. I was sick of being away, had a young family. So, I stayed and trawled out of Greymouth. Most of the trawlers from there down to Ross - which is along this big flat area here - they fished for English Sole. We used to trawl along here for Flatfish. 

CRAWFORD: Were you exclusively a trawlerman then? 

BRIGGS: All the boats in those days had their own trawl gear to catch bait. We all trawled in the little areas like we had here - anywhere there was sand - to catch Tarakihi and Gurnard.

CRAWFORD: Ok. This went from about 1972 until when? 

BRIGGS: In ’72 I bought the [Malrest]. And then I bought quite a number of boats, over the years. But then in ’74 I went in the hotel business for three years.

CRAWFORD: You were off the water for that period? 

BRIGGS: No. I still owned the trawler called the [Corora]. And every now and then, we’d take a weekend or a week off from the pub, and go trawling down at Ross again. Get enough money to pay the rates and stuff. 

CRAWFORD: Still based out of Greymouth? 

BRIGGS: Yeah. Three years in the hotel. Then I went back to sea on the Bonita, so ’81. And then the local fishermen, we formed a cooperative, named it Westfleet. And I ran that from 1981 through to 2007, I think. It was 26 years, anyways. 

CRAWFORD: And by that point you were mostly running the businesses from shore? 

BRIGGS: Yeah.

CRAWFORD: Still getting out on the water sometimes? 

BRIGGS: Every year I’d go and do a couple weeks Tuna fishing. Trolling.

CRAWFORD: Albacore Tuna? 

BRIGGS: Yeah. Anywhere between Karamea, down to as far as probably Haast.

CRAWFORD: When you were running the business though, you were still in direct contact with a lot of guys in the fleet?

BRIGGS: Oh, yeah. There was 40 boats, 32 boats within the company. 

CRAWFORD: You said that was for 26 years. What happened in 2007? 

BRIGGS: Our company was sold, and I didn’t want to go with the new buyer. I already had this boat down here, this pleasure boat. And I decided to go Crayfishing again. 

CRAWFORD: This boat - the [Spindrift]

BRIGGS: Yeah. So, I went Crayfishing again down here. I knew some people from home that had quota, so I leased the quota from them, and came back down here. And I’ve been down here for 9 years, 10 years now. But I go home every two or three weeks. I’m only down here about four months a year. That’s a good lifestyle. 

CRAWFORD: What is your season, now? 

BRIGGS: We work till about 12th of December. I have to take the boat home to survey. It usually sits here for two years, and then goes home for survey. And we go home for Christmas. The boat’s just basically left here. 

CRAWFORD: So, which months are you actually on the water Crayfishing? 

BRIGGS: Oh, every month. There’s no month off. 

CRAWFORD: You’re fishing year-round? 

BRIGGS: Yeah. But I’m not here all the time. Like, a week in May, a week in June.

CRAWFORD: Oh, I see. Sorry. 

BRIGGS: The quota system runs from the 1st of April to the 31st of March, each year. So, when you’ve caught your quota, you’re finished. And you can’t start again till the 1st of April. 

CRAWFORD: Price doesn’t factor into it? 

BRIGGS: Oh, it does. If the price is crap, you don’t come down. You just stay home. 

CRAWFORD: Has the market been strong lately? 

BRIGGS: It’s been down a bit. Quite surprising. It’s usually a lot higher at this time of year, because it’s Chinese New Year. But it’s just coming back up again now. 

CRAWFORD: Over the past seven years, would you have been here for most of the season? 

BRIGGS: I’m probably only here in total - if you added it up - four months a year. 

CRAWFORD: That’s what I was looking for. Am I missing anything else? Did you spend any significant time on the water doing boating, or water skiing, surfing, anything else? 

BRIGGS: No. I’m not interested in that. 

CRAWFORD: We’ve got a good idea of your experience in New Zealand coastal waters?

BRIGGS: Yeah.


2. EXPOSURE TO MĀORI/LOCAL/SCIENCE KNOWLEDGE SYSTEMS

CRAWFORD: To what extent has Māori culture and knowledge affected your understanding of marine ecosystems? 

BRIGGS: Nothing. There’s not a lot of Māori on the west coast, really. 

CRAWFORD: In terms of the Science contribution to your understanding of marine ecosystems? 

BRIGGS: Nothing. Bob Street’s the only one I’ve ever talked to. He’s still around, I think. Lovely fellow.

CRAWFORD: Yeah. I just interviewed him. Back in the day, Bob was doing what I’m doing now.

BRIGGS: That’s right. I remember him coming down on the boats, talking all the time. But that was in the 60s.


3. WHITE POINTER DISTRIBUTION AND ABUNDANCE

CRAWFORD: If 1966 was the first time you saw a White Pointer, when was the first time you reckon you heard about them? 

BRIGGS: When I come down here, everyone talked about them. 

CRAWFORD: So, not so much up around Greymouth? 

BRIGGS: No. Nothing out of there. Never seen them up there. 

CRAWFORD: The old-timers, when you were a kid up in Greymouth, they never told the kids "Watch out at certain times of the year" or anything like that? 

BRIGGS: No. This fishery down here, they only started after the Second World War. No one even knew there was Crayfish here, or how to catch them or anything. 

CRAWFORD: There was no fishery off Fiordland prior to the war?

BRIGGS: Oh ...

CRAWFORD: Not very much?

BRIGGS: No. Down the bottom, I think they used to fish in the 1800’s down there in places. But the Crayfishery started up about 1952/53. And they were trawling them on the sand, because it was many of them they couldn’t get [their outfits on the reefs]. Everyone was loading up. Well, then everyone got boats built. And then the road down here. And then they finally decided they were getting harder to catch on the sand. So, someone come up with the idea of potting them, and they were pretty successful to start. 

CRAWFORD: When was that switch in gear to Crayfish pots? 

BRIGGS: I’m not sure. Be early ‘50s. 

CRAWFORD: Ok. The point I’m trying to get to ... for the time that you spent on northwestern South Island, there wasn’t any real talk about White Pointers? There might be some talk about sharks, but not about White Pointers? Then you came down here ...

BRIGGS: Everyone talked about them, because they saw them up in Open Bay Islands off Haast. They saw them all around the place, in the early days.

CRAWFORD: Ok. Where else did they talk about White Pointers? 

BRIGGS: It may have been just around the island, because there’s a lot of Seals on it. That’s where they’re eating them. 

CRAWFORD: People reckoned it was Seals - they were the reason for the White Pointers been around the island? 

BRIGGS: They had seen them feeding on them, yeah. 

CRAWFORD: Did the old-timers ever talk about the time of year when the White Pointers were there? A time of year when they weren’t? 

BRIGGS: No. 

CRAWFORD: Do you ever remember anybody talking about recognizing individual sharks? Maybe recognizing it there, and it would still be there a month later, or even the next year? 

BRIGGS: I know what you mean. But no, they haven’t. 

CRAWFORD: There are some of those accounts elsewhere around New Zealand. In terms of White Pointers that you have heard other people talk about. You would have known a lot of the guys in the fleet working the west coast of South Island. Had anybody else seen places where White Pointers were dense? 

BRIGGS: Mainly Open Bay Islands, where all the Seals were. And they said quite a few of them used to hang around down here at Yates Point, which has a lot of Seals. I've never seen a White Pointer around there, and we work hard around the edges. You'll see our pots there. The Seal pups all hanging around that rock out there.

CRAWFORD: So, it's prime territory for White Pointers?

BRIGGS: Yeah. But I’ve never seen one cruising around there. 

CRAWFORD: In terms of the change in Seal numbers over time, have you noticed any trends along this section of the coastline?

BRIGGS: More Seals down here.

CRAWFORD: Yeah? A lot more, compared to up north?

BRIGGS: A lot more.

CRAWFORD: Did you notice any increases over time? 

BRIGGS: The Missus and I come down there in ’77 with the [Corora], and we stayed a month. And there was quite a few Seals, and I remember seeing them on the shore there at Yates Point. But since then, there’s a lot more there. When you go out early in the morning like we are, half-past five, just on daylight - they’re coming back in. Must be out feeding on Squid or something. They are coming from well offshore. We probably see 50/60/70 in the morning. All day they come back in, actually - not just first thing in the morning. How many come back in the day? You wouldn’t know. 

CRAWFORD: And you said you are Crayfishing that region pretty hard?

BRIGGS: Yeah. We're working hard on the beach. You can’t actually see them on the rocks, unless they get up and move, the Seals. But I see them coming in. 

CRAWFORD: Have you ever seen what looked like a Seal that was trying to get away from something?

BRIGGS: No. They all go with their clappers when they see you.

CRAWFORD: They do, but some of the guys have talked about ... like a near-miss. And then that Seal just gets on its saddle, and it rides hard. 

BRIGGS: They can go, alright. [laughs]

CRAWFORD: You and your wife came down - that was roughly 40 years ago. And through those past 40 years, the Seal numbers kept going up, up, up?

BRIGS: Definitely. Yeah.

CRAWFORD: if you had to guess how many more times the number of Seals there are now, compared to 40 years ago, what would it be? 

BRIGGS: Double. 

CRAWFORD: Twice as many? 

BRIGGS: Yeah. Might even be more. 

CRAWFORD: In this region, Yates Point has been talked about as a big place for Seals. Any other places that people talk about? 

BRIGGS: Yeah, up around [Ayla Point] and that. The beach is completely covered at [Ayla Point]. Right at the bottom of [Ayla Point], there’s probably 50-60 lying there all the time during the day. And all these rocks up here that we’re working past - you see they’re standing on top of them. Whale Rock up the road here, and then there’s the [Knobbys], and they’re all over the top of the rocks at [Knobbys]

CRAWFORD: Let’s talk about the fiords to the south of here.

BRIGGS: Never been down there. 

CRAWFORD: From the guys that you know who have been, are there places from Milford Sound south to Breaksea or whatever, this corner of the South Island? Are there places there that are known for having lots of Seals? 

BRIGGS: They never talk about it much. Really don’t say much about the Seals down there. They do say it’s loaded with them, that’s about all you get off them down there. 

CRAWFORD: Any of the guys that you’ve talked to who are either doing coastals, or working this region - have they ever talked about White Pointers south of Milford Sound? 

BRIGGS: No. Never heard them talking about it. 

CRAWFORD: Ok.

BRIGGS: Now that I come to think of it, the Helga, a fishing boat that was lost in the Greymouth bar, it came home with a set of broken-off teeth in the bilge of the boat. [Edgar Rusty’s] had a stroke, you can’t really talk to him now, but it was his boat. Billy, he got drowned on the bar. But the Helga is the name of the boat. It had a great bite in the transom where it curves underneath to go around the hull. The teeth were all snapped off, and the ring around it was about a meter round.  

CRAWFORD: They didn’t know that it was there?

BRIGGS: Not until they put it on the slip. Saw the teeth snapped off on it. 

CRAWFORD: So, they don’t recall any incident where a big shark had taken a bite?

BRIGGS: No. It’s unusual for it to have a bite of the boat, isn’t it? 

CRAWFORD: Well, when you read the transcripts, you’re going to find out that it has been happening for a long time. And that boat, what kind of vessel was it? 

BRIGGS: It was a longliner. Lining for Ling and stuff in the Hokitika Trench. They’d probably run into White Pointers cruising about out there. 

CRAWFORD: For the guys that have done danlines or longlines, did they ever talk about bringing in their lines, and they’ve only got heads of fish? Groper or whatever else? 

BRIGGS: That happens quite a bit. But most of the time they blame ... I know [Larry Johnson’s] had problems with them. And it’s not the sharks that are doing it, it’s the Killer Whales. 

CRAWFORD: Really? 

BRIGGS: They take the fish off, and leave the heads on the hook. And they will come up to the surface with the fish in their mouth, and taunt them! 

CRAWFORD: Wow.

BRIGGS: No bullshit. He said to me “Listen to this one, Dam” He rung me up on the cell phone, he held the phone out the door, and I hear this [imitates Orca sounds], like they’re talking to him. And he said “The bastards have got me bloody fish in their fucking mouths, and their heads are stained.”

CRAWFORD: [laughs heartily]

BRIGGS: He was working off Karangi up here. They were doing the Tuna up there, and he steamed all the way to the Hokitika Trench. And as soon as they put the winch in the gear, they turned up. They cruised behind him all friggin’ night, those three Killers Whales. He rang the woman up that does study on them, and she said “Describe the fins” and that. And she knew which ones they were, and where they were from, and all that. 

CRAWFORD: That’s amazing. 

BRIGGS: Yeah. And that’s only about 15 years ago.

CRAWFORD: Are there any other cases that you’ve heard of, with people pulling up their lines, and they’ve got heads only - but they don’t see Orcas around? 

BRIGGS: Yeah. It happens quite a lot over on the east coast, off the Wairarapa on the North Island. Yeah, quite a few of the longliners working up there from Sealords and places like that, they strike it quite regularly out there. They don’t see what was taking them. Just the heads come up on the longline. 

CRAWFORD: Well, if it was Orcas, they’d be seen in the general region, right? They’ve got to come up for air.

BRIGGS: That’s right. In these cases, they hadn’t seen, or I hadn’t heard of them seeing them. But this one, for sure, there were Orcas. 

CRAWFORD: In some cases, the guys actually see sharks coming up, but not always White Pointers. Could be Makos, could be White Pointers, could be something else. 

BRIGGS: There’s plenty of Blue Sharks and stuff on the surface. 

CRAWFORD: Ok. Moving up a level. In general, throughout all of New Zealand, when you think about places in coastal waters where White Pointers aggregate, what places do you think of? 

BRIGGS: Well, the only place I’ve heard, is Open Bay Island - years ago, there was quite a few around there. 

CRAWFORD: And there are Seals there?

BRIGGS: Plenty of seals there. 

CRAWFORD: Did you ever hear any of the stories from the commercial guys or anybody else from Stewart Island, or the Chathams

BRIGGS: The Chathams are bad for them though. Not ‘bad’ I suppose ...

CRAWFORD: But very sharky?

BRIGGS: Yeah.


4. WHITE POINTER ENCOUNTERS - DIRECT EXPERIENCE

CRAWFORD: What’s the first time you remember seeing a White Pointer?

BRIGGS: 1966. There’s actually a photo in the Greymouth Evening Star, of me sitting next to it. It was hanging out the mast on the Red Witch. They got it tangled up in the gillnet outside the sound here. 

CRAWFORD: Outside Milford Sound? 

BRIGGS: Yeah. The dragger that caught it, [Jack Edge] out at Dale Point, at the mouth of Milford Sound. In a setnet on the west wind, couldn’t lift it. We had trawl gear, so we could lift it to the mast and block-and-tackle. So, we lift it with a trawl winch, and a Seal fell out of its gut. We hung it on the mast [right-arm]. And [chalk-aped the rubbish] about the record, and all that crap. And we sailed it home, and they put it in the Greymouth Evening Star. Still around somewhere, I don’t know where it is. And that is the first time I ever seen one. 

CRAWFORD: When you were a kid growing up, did you ever hear about White Pointers, or was it just 'sharks'? 

BRIGGS: Just sharks. Everyone knew what a shark was. 

CRAWFORD: Right, but they didn’t talk specifically about White Pointers? 

BRIGGS: No. Not that I can remember. One of my boats called the [Venture], a 60-footer, caught a big female White Pointer off here.

CRAWFORD: Off of where, Jackson Head? 

BRIGGS: No. Off Open Bay Islands again, up here.

CRAWFORD: And this was when, roughly? 

BRIGGS: There’s a photo in the restaurant in Haast of it hanging up on the wharf in Greymouth. When was that? Oh, I can’t remember, probably late 90s. It was a big White Pointer, had a bite out of its dorsal fin. 

CRAWFORD: Do you remember roughly the time of year? 

BRIGGS: I can’t remember the time of year, but it would be ... the boat was down there sharking, looking for school shark. And it come up, rolled up half the gear, you know? Got tangled up, and drowned. 

CRAWFORD: In the setnet? 

BRIGGS: Yeah. 

CRAWFORD: And it was dead?

BRIGGS: It was dead, so they towed it home. The [Venture] was a 60-foot boat, and she couldn’t lift it out of the water. We lifted it with a wharf crane at Greymouth. And it was a big shark, a bite out of its fin, had the claspers and that. And there was a photo of it. I haven’t got any photos, but I had some real good photos of it. 

CRAWFORD: If it had claspers, it was a big male. 

BRIGGS: A male is it? 

CRAWFORD: With claspers? Yeah. 

BRIGGS: No, they said it was a female. 

CRAWFORD: I’ll check it out - the picture of it. 

BRIGGS: The picture with Jason standing next to it. It’s in the Haast Restaurant, the little restaurant.

CRAWFORD: I’m going to phone them up, and ask them if they can maybe scan it for me - send me a copy of the picture. 

BRIGGS: I think they’ll do that. Michael Smith caught the fish, he was running the boat for me. 

CRAWFORD: That animal, did it ever get lifted up on the wharf? 

BRIGGS: No. We cut it up, and put it in the rubbish tin. 

CRAWFORD: Did anybody go after the teeth or the jaws? 

BRIGGS: The Skipper took the teeth, and I got the fins. And believe it or not, I was going up to Nelson for a conference. We flew up, we were going up in a helicopter, so we flew up with the fins on the floor, frozen, some of them. $1100 or something like that, because the dorsal was damaged with a bite out of it - they didn’t want to pay top dollar for it. 

CRAWFORD: Did that bite look like it was a fresh bite? Maybe from another shark that came in while it was in the net? 

BRIGGS: No. It was pretty healed up. 

CRAWFORD: So, something had taken that big bite previously, and it had survived. This was a big fish - f you had to guess, how much do you think it might have weighed?

BRIGGS: Well, we did weigh it. I think it was 1500 kilos. 

CRAWFORD: Wow. 

BRIGGS: Yeah, it was a big fish. We had to chop it up to get it in the offal bins. And it was weighed as we were doing it. I’m pretty sure it would come to 1500 kilos. That was liver and all. 

CRAWFORD: I will check with the photo, but if you had to guess from recollection, roughly how long would it have been? 

BRIGGS: Oh, you could stand in the jaw when it was open. I had two or three jigs fit in it. It was about that round with the jaw open. 

CRAWFORD: Like a metre wide?

BRIGGS: Yeah. And it would be 16 feet, 17 feet. 

CRAWFORD: Did you cut open the guts? 

BRIGGS: I don’t know whether they did or not, now I can’t remember. I can’t remember if they cut it up. Well, they cut the whole thing up, but I can’t remember what was in the guts. But I know the one out here in Anita Bay - that one hung out for Seals.

CRAWFORD: After that White Pointer - the one that got caught in the setnet at Open Bay Islands - what was the next time that you saw one?

BRIGGS: Never saw another one since. 

CRAWFORD: In all the years that you fished along this coast, you saw two White Pointers?

BRIGGS: No, hang on. The one out here at Brig Rock. It ate a full-sized Albatross.

CRAWFORD: When was that? 

BRIGGS: Oh, that would be ’67. Yeah, cause [Eddie Marley] was with me as the crew. I saw it, and I said "Did you fuckin’ see that?" And he said "I wish the fuck I hadn’t!" [laughs] Because it came along, and honestly it didn’t spit it out. A full-sized Albatross would be over a metre high, it was only 20 feet from the boat. It just come up, and went ‘Shuu’. 

CRAWFORD: The shark’s mouth, it went up and over the bird?

BRIGGS: The mouth came up like that, and just grabbed the bloody thing. Because it was sitting there, you know how they sit there hunched up? Yeah, just ate the bird. Just went down with it, and never saw it again. The shark or the bird. 

CRAWFORD: It didn’t circle around you, or anything? And that was at Brig Rock? 

BRIGGS: Down at the Brig Rock, yeah. From the inside of the Brig. 

CRAWFORD: Do you have any recollection what time of year that might have been? 

BRIGGS: No. I wouldn’t have a clue. 

CRAWFORD: You were Craypotting at the time? 

BRIGGS: Yeah. But it could have been a winter trip, it could have been summer.

Copyright © 2017 Damian Briggs and Steve Crawford