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
1. EXPERIENCE IN AOTEAROA/NZ COASTAL ENVIRONMENTS
CRAWFORD: Paul, you said you were born in Owaka?
CRAWFORD: What year was that?
CRAWFORD: What was your first recollection of spending a significant amount of time around the water?
RICHARDSON: Probably when I was 17 or 18. I suppose when I joined the Surf Club, started coming to the club more often. But we’ve always been around water, and we spent lots of time on the coast and things.
CRAWFORD: Well, let’s go through some of that. Did you spend a fair amount of time as a kid, like the years when you were under adult supervision around the water? Did your family take holidays, spend time at the beach - that type of thing?
RICHARDSON: Yes, occasionally we did.
CRAWFORD: And when you lived in Owaka, that's not on the coast itself - but it's not far from it. When you were a kid under adult supervision, what types of activities would you have been involved with around the water?
RICHARDSON: Just swimming in the beach.
CRAWFORD: Living in Owaka, did you regularly come to swim here at the Kaka Point beach?
CRAWFORD: Ok. Did you ever do any kind of boarding, or anything like that?
CRAWFORD: Out in dinghies, fishing?
RICHARDSON: We did a bit of fishing when I was younger. Dad used to take us fishing off the rocks at down at Cosgrove Island.
CRAWFORD: For that the kind of fishing, was that maybe once or twice a summer?
RICHARDSON: Oh no, we would do it little bit more often. It would really depend on how the weather was - and sea conditions.
CRAWFORD: As a kid, how frequently would you have been coming to the beach for swimming, roughly?
RICHARDSON: Maybe three times a month, I suppose.
CRAWFORD: Was there any seasonality to that, mostly during the summer?
RICHARDSON: Yeah, yeah.
CRAWFORD: Did you do any swimming at all during the winter?
CRAWFORD: When you got to the age when you got a little bit more independence, was it pretty much the same places or did you expand north and south?
RICHARDSON: No, pretty much the same. Probably when I was about 17 - that is when I started learning to snorkel with some friends.
CRAWFORD: Were you snorkeling just for the sake of it, or were you harvesting?
RICHARDSON: No. I didn't start Pāua diving until my early 20s, I suppose.
CRAWFORD: Ok. Was there an emphasis on snorkeling over swimming, or was it mostly swimming with a little bit of snorkeling?
RICHARDSON: Mostly swimming.
CRAWFORD: What age did you join Surf Life Saving?
RICHARDSON: It was 1986, I think.
CRAWFORD: That’s 22 years old. By the time you reached that age, roughly how much time were you spending on the beach?
RICHARDSON: I would be down most weekends, if the weather was ok.
CRAWFORD: When you started with Surf Life Saving, what was your reason for joining?
RICHARDSON: Through friends. I had been coming down to the beach with my boat anyway. So, I probably spent a couple of years just coming down and spending time with them, because they were in the club.
CRAWFORD: Were you involved in running the club from when you started?
RICHARDSON: No, no. Just sort of tagged along here with my friends and then joined. Got my award.
CRAWFORD: When you joined Surf Life Saving, did it significantly change how much time you spent around the water?
CRAWFORD: During the summer, how frequently would you be around the water?
RICHARDSON: Probably most weekends and during the week as well. Maybe two to three times a week.
CRAWFORD: During that time at the Surf Life Saving club, what would your activities be? What kinds of things were you doing?
RICHARDSON: Swimming and paddling.
CRAWFORD: Were you in training? Were there drills, IRB practice, that type of thing?
RICHARDSON: No IRBs at the station, they were not around then. But there was training for canoe paddling, ski paddling, dune patrols, surf patrols.
CRAWFORD: Did you go away for competitions as well?
RICHARDSON: Yeah, we did. From the first competition in 1988, I think it was actually. But yeah, we actually started going around New Zealand for competitions.
CRAWFORD: When you went to competitions, where were the places that you would most frequently go?
CRAWFORD: In terms of time spent on the water Surf Life Saving versus time spent on and around the water doing other things, was Surf Life Saving still dominating your time?
RICHARDSON: Yeah. But it was probably about the same time that I actually started Pāua commercial diving about the same time.
CRAWFORD: Ok. Then you would have been spending a significant amount of time around the water, one way or another - either with Surf Life Saving or in terms of Pāua diving?
RICHARDSON: Yeah, Pāua diving was secondary employment - but we had quota. There were three of us in the company, and we leased quota for a start, and then the other two actually bought quota.
CRAWFORD: When you were Pāua diving, was it focused in a particular region?
CRAWFORD: You could, but where was the bulk of your diving?
CRAWFORD: In terms of the distribution of effort, would this stretch of shoreline account for 80 or 90% of your Pāua diving?
RICHARDSON: Well, the Pāua diving was divided up into three regions. I think we were in Area 5 assigned for the commercial fisherman. We had to catch a third of the catch in each of the three areas.
CRAWFORD: Would it be fair to say that you spent as much time Pāua diving in this stretch of the coastline as you did in southern Fiordland?
RICHARDSON: Probably not. You could go every day, and you get your catch a lot of quicker over there. You would get your quota in say two days, whereas over here it may take you two weeks - that sort of thing.
CRAWFORD: For Stewart Island, roughly what region of the coastline were you diving for Pāua?
RICHARDSON: It was between Lee Bay and Lords River, and the islands.
RICHARDSON: Yeah, yeah.
CRAWFORD: Ok. How many years did you do commercial Pāua diving?
RICHARDSON: Around 15 years.
CRAWFORD: With a relatively consistent distribution of effort between the three different regions?
RICHARDSON: Yeah. It was secondary employment.
CRAWFORD: What was the seasonality like when were you out there?
RICHARDSON: Actually, we did a lot of winter diving.
CRAWFORD: The bulk of it was in the winter?
RICHARDSON: Yeah, probably it was. Because I was actually working as a meat inspector at the freezer works, so of course we were working during the day there. That's fairly seasonal, so when we were not working at the freezer works, we were out diving. A lot of it was in the winter, weekends, after work at night.
CRAWFORD: Ok. The bulk of the diving was in the winter months. Which months in particular, would you say?
RICHARDSON: Say, May to October.
CRAWFORD: Along the Catlins, were there particular places that you spent more time Pāua diving than others?
RICHARDSON: Yeah, you had your favorite spots - like a fisherman. We probably did actually.
CRAWFORD: Just in general, what kind of places where you spending a fairly amount of time. Throughout the whole thing, down to Long Point?
RICHARDSON: Yeah. There were areas around Cannibal Bay in here, south of the lighthouse around here, Purakaunui Bay, the north side of Long Point, Campbell's Reef, down round Chaslands. There were a couple of areas that were closed to commercial diving.
CRAWFORD: Closed for what reasons?
RICHARDSON: Just to try and let the stocks replenish. It was a voluntary agreement with the Pāua divers.
CRAWFORD: Was your Pāua diving, was it dinghy-based or shore-based?
CRAWFORD: For Stewart Island, I am presuming you had day-trips coming out of Halfmoon Bay?
RICHARDSON: Yeah. We did the first couple of times. We went down and we stayed in Port Adventure - there was a hut up in here, so we stayed in the hut. We got to the stage where we just stayed in Halfmoon Bay by ourselves, and then we just headed out on a boat with an outboard, and just shoot out on day-trips.
CRAWFORD: Tell me about the places there that you would have spent most of your time Pāua diving in that region.
RICHARDSON: Probably down around the Port Adventure area. We did spend a little time up around here, Edwards and Jacky Lee.
RICHARDSON: No, not really.
CRAWFORD: What about the west coast, up to the Ruggedys?
RICHARDSON: No, no.
CRAWFORD: Ok. Back to the southwest corner of the South Island, what would have been the kind of places that you would have been diving mostly?
RICHARDSON: Around Te Waewae. Dived in [Bly Sound]. Poison Bay. Out off the front of Milford Sound.
RICHARDSON: No. Not down that far.
CRAWFORD: So, you actually went in through Milford Sound, and did Pāua diving from there?
CRAWFORD: Poison Bay to the south. Did you get up north from there as well?
RICHARDSON: I think Milford was the northern limit for Area 5.
CRAWFORD: Did you ever do any spearfishing, stuff like that?
RICHARDSON: I did a bit.
CRAWFORD: Was that an occasional thing, or did you do a fair amount of spearfishing?
RICHARDSON: Once I got into Pāua diving, if we weren't out for quota we would go spearfishing. Sometimes we would take the spears with us, If the sea was a bit rough so that we could not Pāua dive, we would just bang a feed of fish.
CRAWFORD: In general, for the ten-day blocks that you were out on the water with your Pāua diving gear, roughly how many of those days would you have been spearfishing?
RICHARDSON: Maybe one day. And I had other friends that occasionally would go with me and spear some fish also.
CRAWFORD: Ok. Pāua diving for 15 years. Was Surf Life Saving seasonally continuous through that period?
CRAWFORD: Did Surf Life Saving stay consistent, or did it go down or up?
RICHARDSON: It probably built up. We were quite serious as far as competitions went. So, we were training really hard.
CRAWFORD: How many competitions would you have in a year?
RICHARDSON: Probably, say a dozen.
CRAWFORD: Just in the summer?
RICHARDSON: Yeah, it was seasonal as well. It ran from about from October to Easter.
CRAWFORD: By the time you finished Pāua diving, did you start doing more Surf Life Saving?
RICHARDSON: I think I was about 35 when I finished diving, and I started to wind down from competitions as well.
CRAWFORD: So, the time that you spent here in the club as a member ... were you involved in events, training kids, doing that sort of thing?
RICHARDSON: Yeah, yeah.
CRAWFORD: When did IRBs come in?
RICHARDSON: Oh, hell - that would be in the 1990s, late 1990s.
CRAWFORD: Were you involved in that as well? Did you train with them?
CRAWFORD: After Pāua diving, roughly how much time would you spend in Surf Live Saving?
RICHARDSON: I still come down here to be on the beach every weekend for a while. I train a group of young kids. I was also one of the instructors. So, I probably still come to the beach every weekend, plus say twice a week.
CRAWFORD: Alright, did that continue on until the present, or did something happen between then and now that changed how much time. or your activities around the water?
RICHARDSON: It’s probably changed a little, but I’m still down here most weekends and twice a week.
2. EXPOSURE TO MĀORI/LOCAL/SCIENCE KNOWLEDGE SYSTEMS
CRAWFORD: With regard to Māori culture and knowledge, in a very broad general sense, what kind of input has that had on your knowledge of marine ecology around New Zealand?
RICHARDSON: I would say low.
CRAWFORD: On the Science side of things, how much effect has that had on your knowledge of these ecosystems?
RICHARDSON: High. Actually, I studied Zoology.
CRAWFORD: Did you? Where?
RICHARDSON: Well I didn’t actually finish. I did it at Otago, and Massey. I had done two years at Otago because I wanted to do Marine Science actually. And someone said to me “Your chances of getting a job are pretty slim.” So, I left.
CRAWFORD: This was back when you were 19, 20?
RICHARDSON: 18, 19. Like I said before, I got a job at the freezer works working as a meat inspector. So, I was actually working at the freezer works over the varsity holidays, and I saw a job advertised and someone said “They get paid well, and they don’t do much.” [laughs] So I took this job, and it was through that really that I moved back down here.
CRAWFORD: When you say ‘back down here’ do you mean Kaka Point region?
RICHARDSON: Back to Balcultha, Owaka initially but then Balclutha. But I did continue and do a few papers extramurally through Massey. But then they changed the funding, and the papers were put aside. So, I really ended up stranded - I only needed a couple of papers to do a degree in Zoology.
3. WHITE POINTER DISTRIBUTION AND ABUNDANCE
CRAWFORD: Getting back to your job at the freezer works - where was that?
RICHARDSON: Just outside of Balclutha. Probably 2-3 kilometres south of Balcutha.
CRAWFORD: Do you know what happens to the refuse, the offal, from the freezer works?
RICHARDSON: At that stage, it was treated and went into the Clutha River.
CRAWFORD: Treated, then discharged into the river, and then it was carried out into the bay?
CRAWFORD: Do you know what type of treatment it was?
RICHARDSON: No, no.
CRAWFORD: Did you ever hear from anybody working there, or anybody local, that there was ever any type of interaction between the freezer works waste and sharks?
CRAWFORD: Do you know of any other freezer works in the area?
RICHARDSON: The other closest one would be in Mataura, down in Southland.
CRAWFORD: Up the river?
RICHARDSON: It’s up the Mataura River, yeah. Some of these plants have closed, but there was a large plant down right at Bluff, called Ocean Beach.
CRAWFORD: Did you ever hear any stories about that plant?
CRAWFORD: You had mentioned Seals in abundance at Nugget Point. Are there other places that you are familiar with along the Catlins with significant numbers of Seals?
RICHARDSON: Probably fairly evenly distributed, I would suppose. But I think to be fair, that would be the higher concentration near Nugget Point. At Long Point, yeah, probably quite a few there as well.
CRAWFORD: With this region, for that period of time especially, any other accounts that you’ve heard about shark-human interactions?
CRAWFORD: Lets switch over to Stewart Island and the Titi Islands. If I heard you correctly, less time spent diving there, but that was because the Pāua were coming in faster and you were reaching your quota in less time?
CRAWFORD: For the 15 years when you were Pāua diving off that stretch of Stewart Island, if you added up the total number of days through the year when you were fishing there, roughly how many days were you in the water?
RICHARDSON: I would say two weeks.
CRAWFORD: When you got there, did anybody, any of the old-timers, or any of the local people, take you aside and say “You boys are Pāua fishing down here - you’ve got to know that there are White Pointers around”?
RICHARDSON: No, no.
CRAWFORD: It didn’t come out in discussion at all?
CRAWFORD: When you were out diving off Stewart Island or the Titi Islands, did you ever see any sharks of any kind?
CRAWFORD: I think you said that you were staying in Halfmoon Bay?
RICHARDSON: Yeah, we were either there or Port Adventure. Mainly Halfmoon Bay.
CRAWFORD: When you were in Halfmoon Bay, talking to people, did you ever remember hearing stories - people talking about White Pointers in that region?
RICHARDSON: No. The only time was actually one of the fellas I was diving with, off Edwards Island one day. We anchored the boat about 100 meters off the shore, it was reasonably shallow - maybe 30 feet. And just as I got in the water, he chucked me my gear, and then said “The last time I was here I got chased out of the water by a White Pointer.” Which made me feel a bit uneasy, because they all jumped in the dinghy and headed in close to shore, and left me out there. [laughs] He said it was a White Pointer but, once again, it’s hard to know.
CRAWFORD: Do you remember roughly when that was?
RICHARDSON: No, sorry.
CRAWFORD: I think you said Te Waewae Bay, you did some diving there in that northern region of Foveaux Strait - you already answered the question. You didn’t see any White Pointers along that stretch?
RICHARDSON: No. But one day, we were in the water, diving probably about 400 metres off shore ...
RICHARDSON: Round toward to Long Island, whatever it’s called. It’s about an hour by boat round from the beach. The reef goes out there a long way, and once again it’s probably about 25-30 feet. We were working out there about 400 meters offshore, very clear water and the fella I was diving with signaled and then said to me “Did you see that shark?” And I said “No.” And he says “Well it was swimming straight towards you.” But I don’t think it was large. I think he said he thought about 10 feet.
CRAWFORD: Ok. There is a variety of different types of shark in that region, and some of them are known to be curious.
CRAWFORD: In terms of old-timers, and the local people that you would have talked to along that stretch south of Fiordland, and also your experience up in Milford Sound ... did anybody there ever take you aside and warn you about White Pointers in the region, or at some points in the year, or whatever?
RICHARDSON: No, no. But generally, we didn’t have anything to do with the locals. We might get in there for the day, so we’d leave early in the morning and just launch from the beach. Occasionally we would talk with local fisherman and things, pull up beside them and have a quick yarn. Sorry, here’s something I do recall seeing - there was a large White Pointer hanging off a fishing boat in Riverton one day. It actually had its photo in the Southland Times. He was 5½ metres long. He was just caught off Centre Island.
CRAWFORD: You saw that shark?
RICHARDSON: Yeah, he was hanging up on the side of a fishing boat. There was an article in the Southland Times, the newspaper, about it.
CRAWFORD: Do you remember hearing the story about how it happened to be caught? The circumstances around it?
RICHARDSON: No, no. We just drove through actually, because we were driving through Riverton, and the fishing boat was there, and it was hanging on the boat.
CRAWFORD: In terms of the entire region, now I’m talking about the Nuggets over to Fiordland, have you ever heard of any intense interactions with White Pointers? In terms of aggression and/or attack in this region? Have you ever heard of anybody being attacked by a White Pointer down here?
CRAWFORD: In terms of aggregations or patterns in this general region ... If people are asking questions about where the animals are, and at what point in time, and what are they doing over the course of the year. Has anybody ever talked about that? Have you ever heard from any source, any explanation of why the White Pointers are here?
RICHARDSON: Someone did say they were talking about the ocean currents. Is it the Australian Current comes down the coast, and through [Foveaux Strait], and up here and heads east. I had always heard that there was a high number of sharks in this area, because of that warmer current coming through.
CRAWFORD: What was about the current you heard were important to the sharks?
RICHARDSON: It was just a warmer current that was rich with food sources. I don’t know if that’s right.
CRAWFORD: That’s ok.
4. WHITE POINTER ENCOUNTERS - DIRECT EXPERIENCE
CRAWFORD: What was about your first recollection about hearing or seeing a White Pointer?
RICHARDSON: As far as seeing, there was one of the fellas who actually dove with us commercially. After work one night, we thought we'd go out to Long Point just to spear some fish, some Greenbone. And we were standing at the top of the bank putting our wetsuits on, and there were two commercial divers in the water - probably about 15-20 metres apart.
CRAWFORD: Commercial Pāua divers?
RICHARDSON: Yeah. And as we were watching them, they had a tube each, and next thing they were both up on their tubes with their arms and legs out like starfish. We watched as this fin came up between them, it was quite large. You know, we were probably about 50 metres away. They were sort of just down below us, with the glare on the water we couldn't see the body of the shark. Basically, it just sort of cruised along between them, and then we watched it drift out around the point.
CRAWFORD: What year was it roughly?
RICHARDSON: There would have been late 1980s. There had been stories of a large White Pointer down here.
CRAWFORD: Do you recall what time of the year, roughly what month?
RICHARDSON: It was over the summer, because I remember it was about 7 o’clock at night and it was still very light. Maybe say January, February.
CRAWFORD: Ok. A couple of things that come out, based on your description. You said that because of the glare you don’t actually see much of the shark, but you did see the two Pāua divers. Did you see them get out of the water?
RICHARDSON: We were at the beginning of getting our gear on. and then we saw the tubes - we saw them swimming around, and next time we look they were both up on their tubes.
CRAWFORD: So, you knew something was up?
CRAWFORD: If you hadn’t seen the fin would you have still known or suspected that it would have been a shark?
CRAWFORD: They were deploying from the shore? There wasn't a dinghy boy? No dinghy?
CRAWFORD: In terms of the behaviour of that shark, you said the fin came up between them and kind of cruised - broke water, and if I heard you correctly you said it just kind of tailed off?
RICHARDSON: We actually watched it, it stayed up in the surface and just swam out this way - out round the point to other side.
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] In this case, what you and your mate saw at Long Point, what Level would you think that was?
RICHARDSON: Let’s say Level 2.
CRAWFORD: Did you know either of those guys who were Pāua diving?
CRAWFORD: Did you speak with them afterwards?
RICHARDSON: No. When we saw the shark swim round the point, we actually got in and carried on spearfishing, which may have been a bit silly. But I can't recall whether the commercial divers stayed in the water or not.
CRAWFORD: What were you thinking - about going spearfishing someplace where you have just seen a large shark, maybe a White Pointer?
RICHARDSON: I don't know. Aa young fella - all gung ho, I suppose. He went that way, so we thought we could go over here.
CRAWFORD: That brings up an important question. You were sure it was a shark, but what indications might there have been that it was a White Pointer?
RICHARDSON: Yeah, well that's right we don't. But it was large. Very large. But you are right, people make assumptions.
CRAWFORD: Happens all the time. Ok, the tubes that they were using, would they have been kind of standard size?
RICHARDSON: They were fairly large.
CRAWFORD: Relative to the size of the tubes, would you be able to guess approximately the size of the dorsal fin?
RICHARDSON: Hard to say. As time moves on, you know, the fin gets bigger and bigger. [laughs]
CRAWFORD: The point is, there was a large shark. Although you didn't know the nature of the Pāua divers that were responding to it, the shark was big enough to get both of them out of the water up on their tubes. We don't know the circumstances of their interaction, but there are White Pointers in the region that reach a size that might have triggered that type of response.
RICHARDSON: Yeah. I was about to say before, but I am not sure if you want to cover it now. With that thing in Roaring Bay wound the lighthouse, where that fella saw the large shark ...
CRAWFORD: When he was teaching the other one to snorkel?
RICHARDSON: Yeah. I do remember seeing, when we were Pāua diving, there was a Seal lying on the rocks there one day ...
CRAWFORD: Roughly when was that?
RICHARDSON: 1990’s I suppose, maybe early 2000’s?
CRAWFORD: Any time of the year that you recall?
RICHARDSON: No, no. But it had a huge chunk out of its side. One day, once again that Roaring Bay ... we had been diving in close, so we’d been doing the shallow reefs. Just as a bit of a warm-up. The reef runs across to the middle of the bay, maybe 20-25 feet deep.
CRAWFORD: How far offshore?
RICHARDSON: 50 metres or so. And we were just heading out there in the dinghy, and a fin came up in front of us, and we just stopped and watched. It would had been 30 metres in front of us, and it just cruised along and then slowly disappeared again.
CRAWFORD: In terms of the shark-human classification, Levels 1 to 4?
RICHARDSON: Level 1.
CRAWFORD: Because you don’t know that there’s any kind of interaction whatsoever. It wasn’t circling you, or anything else?
RICHARDSON: No, no, no.
CRAWFORD: If we include the time you saw the shark with those two commercial divers, in total, how many big sharks do you reckon you’ve seen in the wild around here?
RICHARDSON: Well, that one with the divers and the other time seeing the fin. But it’s hard to know and tell what kind of shark.
CRAWFORD: That’s ok. But this is from 15 years doing a split of Pāua diving on this shore along the Catlins, over at Stewart island and Fiordland. Two observations in 15 years - and just here along the Catlins.
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