With my head underwater and my rear in the air, I watch closely as the camera drops slowly down to the reef below. Gripping the rope tightly, I slow the descent even
further until the frame holding the camera settles upright on the bottom.
Throwing the surface marker buoy away from my Honda Marine Knysna sponsored rigid-inflatable boat (RIB), I take a GPS point, mark the time and depth and let the skipper know we are good to move away from the coastline. All six cameras are deployed and recording, marking the completion of phase one.
“What now?” asks my friend and skipper for the day Dr. Gwen Penry.
“Now we have a snack and wait for an hour before picking up the first camera,” I replied, whilst digging around in my bag for some peanuts and raisins. Our little 4.5m RIB bobs around in the light swell and I am grateful that the weather and sea conditions are playing along.
It’s not often the sea is flat enough for us to get so close inshore, particularly in the Tsitsikamma Marine Protected Area, an area well known for its exposed and high-energy coastline.
Our cameras are spread over roughly two kilometres and are all sitting within 40m of the rocky shore in depths ranging from four metres down to 16m. Each camera is mounted on a specially designed frame and has a bait canister mounted one metre in front of it which is filled with mashed pilchards.
Fish, sharks and the odd octopus are attracted to the bait and swim past the camera allowing us to record the different types of fish in an area and also get some idea of the relative abundance of the different species.