Sandbar Sharks at Stetson Bank
The sanctuary dive team spent an afternoon at Stetson Bank in August 2015 conducting dive safety training drills and response scenarios. During our visit there was a lot of shark action--at least three 5-foot sandbar sharks cruising around! These clips were all taken opportunistically on a GoPro during a single short but exciting dive.
This video starts with a sandbar shark cruising from left to right over rocky terrain at Stetson bank while sergeant majors and a reef butterflyfish move out of the way. The shark then cruises off into the distance.
A second clip shows a sandbar shark swimming in blue water near the wall at Stetson Bank, first swimming toward the diver then turning off to the left.
A third clip shows the previous sandbar shark continue swimming to left while another sandbar shark swims in from the right then veers and swims away into the distance.
A fourth clip shows a sandbar shark swimming from the left over to a large rocky outcrop then making a u-turn and swimming away.
A fifth clip shows a sandbar shark swimming past a section of reef as the diver with the camera crests over the top. The shark is swimming from left to right behind the pinnacle along with a single creolefish.
The video then peeks over the edge of the reef and down the wall to see two sandbar sharks crossing paths below. One swims off to the left and the camera follows the other as it swims off to the right. (0:37)
Spotted Eagle Rays at Stetson Bank
This video clip shows three spotted eagle rays cruising in formation at Stetson Bank. They are swimming over open water along the wall, from left to right, at a slow, leisurely pace. About halfway through the video they make a slow u-turn to the left, then continue cruising in that direction. (0:42)
This video clip shows three spotted eagle rays cruising slowly over the flats at Stetson Bank, from left to right. (0:35)
Spotted eagle rays (Aetobatus narinari) school in the sanctuary during the winter, but can be seen in pairs or singly throughout the year. This video starts with separate shots of a single spotted eagle ray swimming above the reef at one of the Flower Garden Banks. Later shots show individual eagle rays swimming above the flats and pinnacles of Stetson Bank.
Manta rays (Manta birostris) are also regular visitors to the sanctuary and often seen by divers. Each animal can be identified by the unique spot pattern on its underbelly, a feature which has allowed us to document over 60 individuals in the sanctuary, so far. To learn more about how we track and identify manta rays, please visit our Manta Catalog. Can you identify each of the mantas in this video using the catalog?
While eagle rays and manta rays spend most of their time cruising above the reef, other types of rays prefer the sea floor. Both southern (Dasyatis americana) and roughtail stingrays (Dasyatis centroura) can be seen in sand patches and valleys at the banks. They often flick sand on top of themselves to help with camouflage. Roughtail stingrays can get quite large, as seen in the clip showing a diver kneeling alongside one with a video camera. (2:25)
Credit: FGBNMS/Hickerson, Schmahl, DeBose
and Kip Evans Photography
Scalloped hammerheads (Sphyrna lewini), duskies, silkies, tiger sharks, nurse sharks, and whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) have all been seen in the sanctuary. We haven't yet captured video footage of them all, but we're trying.
This video shows scalloped hammerheads as they school above the reefs in winter, individual carcharinid sharks swimming above the reef, day and night, and huge, but graceful, whale sharks gliding by the camera lens. These animals are amazing! (1:30)