Experience: Pāua Diver, Spearfisherman, Surf Life Saver
Regions: Catlins, Foveaux Strait, Fiordland, Stewart Island
Interview Location: Kaka Point, NZ
Interview Date: 17 February 2016
Post Date: 11 November 2017; Copyright © 2017 Paul Richardson and Steve Crawford
5. WHITE POINTER ENCOUNTERS - EXPERIENCES OF OTHERS
CRAWFORD: Let’s get back to the idea that there had been previous reports of a shark, of one kind or another, at the general location around Long Point. What specifically had you heard, either before or after?
RICHARDSON: I can't recall whether this was before or after, but we heard stories of a large shark being seen there. There had been a story of a couple that were fishing in a small inflatable.
CRAWFORD: What kind of fishing? Rod and reel?
RICHARDSON: Yeah, rod and reel. The shark came up, and must have been bumping underneath the boat. Someone coming round the point ... was it [Kelly Chambers from Owaka], anyway they out just recreational fishing.
CRAWFORD: When was this, roughly?
RICHARDSON: May have been late 1980s, early 1990s.
CRAWFORD: And the season?
RICHARDSON: it must have been summer, I suppose.
CRAWFORD: Where was this, relative to Long Point?
RICHARDSON: It was actually at Long Point.
CRAWFORD: Ok, so I asked you about your first recollection of hearing or seeing White Pointers, and that makes you think of you and your mate seeing the one at Long Point with the commercial divers. Had you not heard about White Pointers before?
RICHARDSON: Yeah, I had.
CRAWFORD: When was the first time you remember hearing about a White Pointer?
RICHARDSON: I really can't remember. I mean, there were stories of sharks around the coast, there's no doubt about that.
CRAWFORD: You heard these stories as a kid?
RICHARDSON: Probably, not so much. Once again, it's hard to remember. I do remember the story of a large shark down at Tautuku Peninsula. There were photos on the wall down there. There's a set of jaws down there, I think.
CRAWFORD: When you were a kid, and you were swimming around these different regions, did the old-timers ever take you aside and say "You've got to be careful of certain places" or "Kids, you've got to know that there are large sharks, or White Pointers in particular, out there"?
RICHARDSON: No, I don't recall hearing that.
CRAWFORD: When you started as a Surf Life Saver, did anybody here at the club mention anything about White Pointers in this region?
RICHARDSON: I don't think so much from the club.
CRAWFORD: Did the stories come from someplace else?
RICHARDSON: We had heard stories of sharks been seen out at the lighthouse.
CRAWFORD: At Nugget Point?
RICHARDSON: Yeah. There's a Seal colony out there.
CRAWFORD: Ok. When you heard those stories, was it the type of thing that people said it was only certain times of the year? Anything like that?
RICHARDSON: No, no. I do remember we had a phone call one day. I can't remember when - I'd been in the club for quite a few years by then. A fisherman called to say that a shark had followed him in.
CRAWFORD: Really? What kind of fisherman?
RICHARDSON: He was a recreational fisherman.
CRAWFORD: Rod and reel, again?
RICHARDSON: Yeah, on a boat. He had come into the corner over here, at Karoro Creek, and the shark followed him in.
CRAWFORD: Where would it have launched likely?
RICHARDSON: Yeah, he would have launched right there. It's only about a kilometre along that way.
CRAWFORD: He went out fishing, just rod and reel fishing in the bay?
RICHARDSON: No, probably he went further - either around the corner or further out. There isn't much in the bay.
CRAWFORD: If a recreational fisherman was going out there with rod and reel, likely what type of fish would he be targeting?
RICHARDSON: Blue Cod, Groper.
CRAWFORD: Was there any indication that this fisherman had caught fish, and that the White Pointer had approached his boat when he had a fish on the line?
RICHARDSON: No, no. I think he was on his way back. He may have even been cleaning his fish. I am not sure, I can't recall. It was quite a few years ago.
CRAWFORD: Right. So, the details you are not exactly sure of. But the point is - for whatever the circumstances were for that person, there was a White Pointer that followed his boat.
RICHARDSON: Once again, we're not sure if it was a White Pointer, because he just said a shark.
CRAWFORD: Yeah, fair enough. But he phoned into the Surf Life Saving club? Why?
RICHARDSON: Just to let us know.
CRAWFORD: Because of the people on the beach, or what?
RICHARDSON: Yeah, because he was only a kilometre down the coast.
CRAWFORD: You had indicated that there was a Seal colony at the Nuggets. in your experience, have there always been Seals at Nugget Point? Numbers going up or down or what?
RICHARDSON: Increasing numbers.
CRAWFORD: Increasing over what period of time, roughly?
RICHARDSON: Once again, I am going to guess. There is a number of rocks suitable for the Seal pups, so that they can get easy access to the water.
CRAWFORD: A colony where pupping is taking place?
CRAWFORD: Have you ever heard from the old-timers, or from anybody else, about anybody seeing a shark attack on Seals at Nugget Point?
RICHARDSON: No, I haven't. A couple of things - years ago, my uncle was in the Forest and Bird ...
CRAWFORD: The what?
RICHARDSON: Forest and Bird Society. They spent a bit of time out there studying Penguins and things, and he said he saw a large shark just cruising the north side of the Nuggets one day. And a friend of mine, the same mate who was diving with me at Long Point, was teaching a woman to dive in Roaring Bay.
CRAWFORD: Free diving or scuba diving?
RICHARDSON: Free diving, just in Roaring Bay. And he said he turned around and there was a shark there. He said it would have been five metres long. He said it was huge. The girth - he said it was a larger than a cow. He said it was a big fish. He said he just turned around, and it was just there. He said that he could have touched it, it was that close.
CRAWFORD: What was the circumstance? I mean, was it just 'there' coming in, or 'there' passing by?
RICHARDSON: Passing by. He was teaching this woman to dive, to snorkel. They were a wee way off the rocks. And he said that he just turned around and it was just coming by him, and just carrying on.
CRAWFORD: They were at the surface, both of them?
CRAWFORD: And had just been up and down?
CRAWFORD: Once again, what Level of interaction in this case, do you reckon?
RICHARDSON: Level 2
CRAWFORD: It was a swim-by?
CRAWFORD: Going back to your early days and your teen days ... sure, you knew that there were White Pointers out there. But you said you didn't really hear too much. But when you joined Surf Life Saving you heard more about them?
CRAWFORD: And in particular, you talked about that fisherman calling in. Did Surf Life Saving ever, as a part of their training program, talk about White Pointers in this region? Sharks in general, White Pointers in particular?
CRAWFORD: In terms of Surf Life Saving, was there ever a time when the beach was closed because of sightings of a shark?
RICHARDSON: No, I do not think the beach has ever been closed.
CRAWFORD: Closed in terms of a shark nearby?
RICHARDSON: No, no.
CRAWFORD: What type of alarm would you use here if you did want to get people back onto the beach?
RICHARDSON: We do have a siren, but it has never been used. The guards on the beach have whistles. And we have used the [inflatable rescue boat]. There have been a couple of times when there's been Seals, but certainly not sharks.
CRAWFORD: That is from the time that you have been here. Prior to you being here, did you ever hear stories about sharks here at the beach?
CRAWFORD: Who is 'we'?
RICHARDSON: Surf Club members, sometimes if we were down here for the weekend on surf patrol, we would pop a net out, and then go and pick it up at the end of the day, and have fish for tea or whatever. I do remember one day, being on the beach while they picked the net up, and it did have the remains of two smaller sharks in it. One, the head was left - just big enough you could put it in a bucket. And the other one - probably there was half a metre left of the fish. But it looked like they'd actually been put through a band-saw ...
CRAWFORD: A sharp cut?
RICHARDSON: Yeah. And there was a huge hole in the net. But nothing was ever seen.
CRAWFORD: Ok. In terms of people describing incidences between White Pointers and swimmers, or boarders, or Surf Life Savers - when was the first time you heard anything at all about White Pointers and people on the water?
RICHARDSON: Would have been those incidences in Dunedin.
CRAWFORD: When do you remember first hearing about those?
RICHARDSON: It was when I started. Maybe in the mid- or the late 1980s. Because there was a plaque on the wall in the St. Kilda Surf Club.
CRAWFORD: It would have been when you were visiting there, and then the stories would have been recounted?
CRAWFORD: What do you recall them saying had happened?
RICHARDSON: There were two swimmers, and they were out one night, I think it was. I can't remember if there was a competition, or they were training, but there were two swimmers ...
CRAWFORD: Surf Life Savers or swimmers?
RICHARDSON: Yeah, Surf Life Savers. There were two of them, and there was one normally beat the other one, but this particular day the slower swimmer was actually in front, and when the second fella came out the swell, his mate was gone, and just a lot of blood in the water.
CRAWFORD: Do you know roughly when that was?
RICHARDSON: I think it was 1960s, maybe '64. Fella named Bill.
CRAWFORD: Do you remember anything that they would have told you about the conditions, or the time of day, or what time of the year it was?
RICHARDSON: It would have been over the summer, I would imagine. But it was later on in the afternoon, I think it was early evening.
CRAWFORD: Did you hear about any other encounters up there?
RICHARDSON: I think there was, around the same time, maybe a couple of years difference, I think there was another one taken at St. Clair beach.
CRAWFORD: Do you know what the circumstances were for that?
RICHARDSON: No, I do not recall.
CRAWFORD: Do you ever remember hearing about any other encounters around Otago Peninsula?
RICHARDSON: I don’t think we can get a hold of him this afternoon - Doug, he was involved in a Surf Live Saving competition at St. Kilda, but this would have been in the 1990s or early 2000s. There was a surf race, so you swim [round a course]. There was shark - they actually pulled the swimmers from the water in that one, because someone had spotted a shark. I do know actually another fella in the Surf Club was swimming along, and he said that he felt something go past him pretty fast. And he thought ‘Oh, gee. That’s swimming fast.” And he lifted his head up, and then was no one there. It was only when he got back in that he heard.
CRAWFORD: One thing that I forgot to ask you ... have you ever seen a Basking Shark along this stretch of water, along the Catlins?
CRAWFORD: Have you ever heard about people seeing Basking Sharks?
Copyright © 2017 Paul Richardson and Steve Crawford