During the stopover in St Helena, Hugues de Kerdrel, partner of Blue Observer and Eloïse Le Bras, our onboard biologist, had the opportunity to dive with James and Kenickie from the National Trust of St Helena and the people in charge of marine studies.
After 35 min, the crew observed shadows northeast of the island, about ½ mile offshore. Three specimens of whale sharks appeared. A chance to meet the world’s largest fish! The team dived for 40 minutes to observe them in detail.
What are their characteristics?
Of all the species of sharks present in the seas and oceans of the world, the whale shark is the most imposing. Its average size is 10 meters and can go up to 12 meters.
Their backs spotted with white spots
The identification and distribution of spots on the skin are unique, like fingerprints for humans.
A wide mouth and bronchial slits
They allow him to filter tons of water to collect plankton.
Diving: an extraordinary encounter
Scientists studying the waters around the island indicated that whale sharks are rarely encountered. These are the first of the season to be seen. These 3 whale sharks arrived a few days before the dive, probably to breed in the area. We know little about them, except that they will certainly leave in March.
During the observations, each specimen is catalogued by the scientific team and all the data collected are added to an international database on whale sharks. Thanks to the analysis of the spots on the skin, the scientists fill in an observation sheet and give a name to the specimen encountered.
One of the whale sharks is named William. Why?
With his association Over the Swell, Hugues de Kerdrel organizes each year a trail that serves to raise funds for the ocean and for the association “Un Enfant Un Avenir” which helps children. During the last trail, he met a young boy: William.
"This young boy is passionate about sharks, whales and most of all, whale sharks. His dream, as he says "is to see them in real life", but it is very complicated for him because of his illness. During a discussion, I had promised him that I would one day swim with a whale shark and that I would name him William. So I asked the scientific team to name the whale shark William. »
The link between the young boy and his passion for whale sharks is woven. From now on, the scientific team will send the next surveys as soon as they see the whale shark again anywhere in the world.
To know more about the association Over the Swell:
To know more about the association Un Enfant Un Avenir: