Searching for Sixgill Sharks in Puget Sound: Part 2

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Read Expedition Blog Part 1

Sixgill Expedition Photo Gallery

Working in partnership with the OceanGate Foundation and Discovery Channel/Daily Planet, we successfully launched and dove in Elliott Bay with local rap singer and ocean advocate Ben Haggerty, better known as Macklemore. Our objective was to find the elusive sixgill shark that roams the deep waters in Puget Sound and fulfill a lifelong dream and ambition of Macklemore, a devoted shark enthusiast.

This was more than just another dive in the ocean, it was a unique opportunity to work closely with Discovery Channel/Daily Planet as they documented that entire expedition for upcoming feature presentation on Shark Week that will air August 11th.

The dive location situated just off the waterfront in Elliot Bay provided the submersible and her crew a terrific venue to launch and maneuver to the dive location in a very short time. Having previously baited the site during the prior two days the crew was confident in seeing a sixgill shark. The dive site is very deep with a steep ledge that drops off to over 400 feet within less than 1/4 mile of shore.

Antipodes being towed to the dive site in Elliott Bay.

Going deep in Elliott Bay means knowing the local geography and understanding the region’s maritime history. From the late 1800’s till today, Puget Sound is one of the world’s most active sea ports, creating significant economic opportunity to the region. Given our dive site’s proximity to downtown also meant being right in the middle of heavy vessel traffic lanes, including the hourly operations of Washington State Ferries, local cruise companies, and major shipping lines all traversing the area 24 hours a day as they move in and out of the Port of Seattle.

Chart showing the dive site location.

In true Seattle form, the weather had turned for the worst and was wet, dark and rather gloomy. This was rather unusual given recent weeks of bright blue skies and sunshine. But Mother Nature has her own plans and controls the world in which we live and work; contingency plans and actions were deployed to ensure a successful day despite the conditions.

We were greeted by the film/camera crew of Discovery Channel/Daily Planet at 9:15am at Bell Street Harbor to commence set up and initial filming of the submersible Antipodes, the crew, and shots of Seattle. From there we launched our research vessel and towed Antipodes out to her preliminary dive location for inspection and initial test dives before arrival of Macklemore and Dr. Erika Montague, Science and Technology director for OceanGate, Inc. and an expert on marine sea life and shark species.

After a successful first-round of dives we returned to Bell Street Harbor and readied the team for arrival of Macklemore and other support staff. The general atmosphere was positive and energetic, despite the weather. The team had done its homework and successfully baited the dive site. While the ocean was dark and black, our submersible was ready for deep sea exploration.

Antipodes was outfitted with some extra scientific instruments for the mission, including Teledyne Blueview sonar and DeepSea Power LED lights for extra illumination at depth. Fit for all conditions, the five-man submersible features large acrylic viewing domes in both the bow and stern for wide angle of viewing. This makes for a comfortable and highly efficient utilization of space to accommodate all crew members.

OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush with Macklemore prior to the sixgill shark dive in Elliott Bay.

The dive itself commenced in the late afternoon and continued for a period of three hours into the evening. All this time the crew aboard Antipodes remained in regular contact with surface support vessels, communicating depth, life support conditions and activities of local aquatic life in the region.

Late into the evening Dr. Montague spotted something on the sonar the looked like it could be a large object moving a steady rate toward the submersible. Within minutes she noted a tail fin and had indeed spotted a juvenile six-gill shark swimming alone in the dark near our bait tank. The crew and Macklemore were ecstatic! We’d done it!

After another hour at sea Antipodes safely returned to the surface and the crew began the careful and patient process of towing Antipodes back to dock. Our missions was nearly complete

Upon return to the dock we gathered to share stories and information about the accomplishments of the day and the success of our night dive in Puget Sound. Macklemore offered some excellent color commentary and perspective on the day. He was delighted to see a shark and OceanGate team were pleased to help make the opportunity become a reality for a passionate advocate of the sea and sharks!