Experience: Commercial Fisherman
Regions: Catlins, Foveaux Strait, Fiordland, Stewart Island
Interview Location: Waikawa, NZ
Interview Date: 11 January 2016
Post Date: 11 November 2017; Copyright © 2017 Stewart Harvey and Steve Crawford
5. WHITE POINTER ENCOUNTERS - EXPERIENCES OF OTHERS
CRAWFORD: What’s the first time you remember hearing about or seeing a White Pointer?
HARVEY: Oh, Dad told us years ago, just after the war. They were fishing out of Waikawa here, on the [Tangaroa]. He was fishing with his brother-in-law, [Jimmy Stronach], who’d come back from the war, and they were out there catching Groper.
CRAWFORD: Handline fishing?
HARVEY: Yeah, just line fishing. And his brother said "Come and have a look at this!" And they looked over the side of the boat and saw a big shark there. And the Old Man said the hairs stood up on the back of his neck. [laughs] He said you could have walked on him, and he reckoned he was just about half the length of the boat.
CRAWFORD: So, about a 20-footer?
HARVEY: Yeah. He said around half the length of the boat. It’d be hard to tell, just looking.
CRAWFORD: I know, but it was a 42-foot boat.
HARVEY: Yeah. He said it was just sitting alongside the boat.
CRAWFORD: The boat was moving?
HARVEY: No. They were sitting on a Groper patch. She was out of gear, sitting there catching fish, and the old boy just happened to look over the other side of the boat, and he called Dad over and he said "Have a look at this!" He said he was just sitting there, and then he just swam away.
CRAWFORD: When you say he said it was 'sitting there', as in stationary?
HARVEY: Yeah, well that’s what the old boy says. He was just stationary beside the boat, and he said he was just about half the length of the boat. And then he said he just slowly disappeared. They were worried that he’d go down and start chewing the Groper up on him, and pulling them up. Because you know, every now and again, a 20-pound Groper would come up, and just back of the gills he’s gone. All you get is the head.
CRAWFORD: All you get is the head, although you don’t necessarily know who took it. As we mentioned before, it could’ve been a Mako, could have been something else. Was the crew cleaning, or doing anything at the time when they saw that fish?
HARVEY: I wouldn’t know. It's just a story he told us, you know.
CRAWFORD: But he didn’t make the association that the animal was ...
HARVEY: No, I don’t think he was feeding there.
CRAWFORD: He was just there.
HARVEY: He never said that he’d come up and took the fish off their line or anything. He was just beside the boat. He said his hair on the back of his neck stood up, because he’d never seen one that size before.
CRAWFORD: Ok. That’s a story your Dad told you from before you were born?
HARVEY: Yeah. Well, I might have been born.
CRAWFORD: 1950’s maybe. Because you were born in 1948 right?
HARVEY: They came back from the war and were back fishing. They were fishing together when he went to the war, and then when he’d come back, they were back together again.
CRAWFORD: Ok. That would be one of the first times you’d heard about White Pointers, was your Dad telling that story.
HARVEY: Yeah. But I didn’t know what sort of shark it was, he just told us the length of it, you know. And said it was the biggest one he’d ever seen.
CRAWFORD: Have you seen White Pointers in the wild?
HARVEY: Just one. Down at the Traps.
CRAWFORD: Have you seen Basking Sharks in the wild?
HARVEY: Yep. They used to be quite common here, but they don’t come up, haven’t see them for a lot of years. I’ve actually got a photo in there - it’s a very poor photo because I only had a box camera - but he was swimming amongst the Crayfish pot floats up at Brakesea Sound. Swimming around with his mouth open. It must be back in about 1968.
CRAWFORD: The reason why I’m asking is that there are some people who see a big shark and automatically jump to the conclusion that it’s a White Pointer, even though Basking Sharks can get even bigger. But you've seen Basking Sharks - you know the difference.
HARVEY: Yeah. We saw one out here, he’d be close on 30 feet I suppose. They just came around at a certain time of the year. As soon as you saw him you knew he was a Basking Shark because he was mouth open, and he was just [stooging] along. Most times he was swimming into the tide, when we’d seen him.
CRAWFORD: If they are feeding mouth open, that’s pretty conspicuous. What about the colouration or the shape of the fins or anything? If you saw a Basking Shark that wasn't feeding, how would you know?
HARVEY: His fin seems to be a bit further on his back than on a White Pointer. But we haven’t seen that many White Pointers on top of the water.
CRAWFORD: What about colouration?
HARVEY: He seems to be a lighter brown than most of the other sharks. More of a brown looking, the Basking Shark. But we never really got a really good look at him, they were [stooging] along. And if you got too close to him, he’d disappear.
CRAWFORD: The point is that when your Dad told you that story, there are only two sharks around here that can get that big. One is the Basking Shark, and other is the White Pointer. I'm betting your Dad knew a Basking Shark from a White Pointer too.
HARVEY: Oh yeah. He knew his sharks alright. [laughs] He never did like sharks. And whales used to upset him when he was trawling. He was always scared one would get in there, hooked up in the trawl wires.
CRAWFORD: Could your Dad swim?
HARVEY: Yeah, he could. But I can’t. [laughs]
CRAWFORD: I still can’t quite figure why someone goes to sea and ... Was it just ... did you have a bad experience?
HARVEY: No, I was just never taught. Oh, they had a swimming pool at [Gorge Road] at the school, and once a week we’d all go there. But she was chock full with kids, and you couldn’t really teach an individual. They taught us how to float and kick your feet, but never really taught us how to swim, no.
CRAWFORD: Ok. Getting back to your first recollection, it would have been that story your Dad told you.
HARVEY: Yeah. That would have been sort of the first thing we heard about sharks.
CRAWFORD: What other stories did you hear from people, when they encountered White Pointers?
HARVEY: Yeah, well the only other one was the one I was telling you before, these blokes were in Pegasus cleaning.
CRAWFORD: Roughly when was this?
HARVEY: That’d be back in the 50’s probably. Yeah, and they’re anchored up cleaning, they come in from the Traps, and they were cleaning the catch for the day. And they looked over the side and this shark was at the scupper where they were kicking the heads out, and it was feeding on them. One of the fishermen got the .303 and shot it. And they said it lay there on the bottom for a long time there. The Brother, he was down there on the coast at the time.
CRAWFORD: It lay on the bottom dead after it was shot?
HARVEY: Yeah, they shot it with a 3-0. They reckon that would be 15-foot or so. It was big, so we assumed it would be a White Pointer. But back then it was just a shark, you know?
CRAWFORD: And it seemed clear the animal was there because they were kicking their frames and their heads off the boat while cleaning?
HARVEY: Yeah, he was feeding on the frames.
CRAWFORD: They saw him feeding?
HARVEY: Yeah, because he brought his head up - that’s how he shot him, cause the bullet, if he was down it wouldn’t have hurt him.
CRAWFORD: His head was up near the scuppers?
HARVEY: He must have had, or he couldn’t have been far under the water to kill him. Because the bullet loses its impact.
CRAWFORD: The shark wasn’t bugging them so much?
HARVEY: No, just eating fish.
CRAWFORD: I've heard that back in the day, you saw a White Pointer, you shot a White Pointer.
HARVEY: Yeah, the fishermen had never liked sharks. Actually, I have a photo here I’ll show you. Have you read the book 'Fishermen of Fiordland'?
CRAWFORD: No, but I’m glad you’re telling me about it.
HARVEY: There’s a picture of a shark hanging off the mast of a boat. The book is based on Crayfishermen that were fishing up there at the time. [shows picture] That’s a White Pointer for sure. If you see the size of the bloke there - he’s big, 15+, and not many big sharks are around here that are not White Pointers. Most of the Makos and that you know, 10 foot seems to pull them up.
Copyright © 2017 Stewart Harvey and Steve Crawford