Down in the South Island of New Zealand are a group of enthusiastic PADI Dive Instructors with a huge passion for sharks. Every year they get on board and promote awareness and raise money for their protection and conservation as part of Dive Otago Ltd’s annual Project Aware Finathon. Their Finathon team name is Team Tomahawk.
Having recently spent a day diving with majestic Great White Sharks, the team were even more in awe of these creatures and began a campaign in the build up to their Finathon to spread the love of these animals to anyone who would listen.
Using their creative side the team made a series of hilarious short videos to enlighten folk as well as educating people about shark statistics and facts. They also spoke with various groups to educate them on the plight of sharks both in New Zealand and globally.
I recently asked Chris Zinsli (PADI Staff Instructor and one might say the driving force behind Team Tomahawk) for a brief history of how there came to be a Great White Shark now named Tomahawk. Here is what he said:
“Team Tomahawk is no stranger to Project AWARE’s Finathon, & has been participating since the ideas inception in 2013. This was the third event for myself and the lads, & we completed our challenges after raising over $800 U.S dollars at the end of a legendary fun filled campaign to help the sharks of the world. As promised we completed a one minute breath hold for every $10 raised and clocked up some personal best breath hold times in the event as follows . Chris 3:33 . Bernie 3:12 . Levi 3:08 .
We’ve achieved so much this year in terms of raising awareness for the plight of sharks in our small town of Dunedin, New Zealand … a town that still has a sense of anxiety regarding sharks given its large surfer population & even an ancient shark warning bell at one of our more popular beaches that was installed in the 1970’s after a series of shark sightings, when shark hysteria had peaked in the post “Jaws” years.
Our videos have given countless people a good laugh but with a solid environmental message (even though some lurk the fringe of sanity and sensibility), we have also shown sensible conversational movies such as Rob Stewarts “Sharkwater” to all our friends and family.
Team Tomahawk has been in the local paper, been interviewed on the local TV channels, made scientist and tv documentarian Riley Elliot laugh at our ridiculous “AWAREness” videos and also got some great news from the shark gurus (Warrick Lyon and Malcolm Francis) from NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmosphere) about NZ shark statistics based on their studies, which turned out to not be the fire and brimstone reports the rest of the world’s shark populations are facing.
I would say our a crowning achievement was not the video where a lonely shark ends up dating a gorilla, but an even more special outcome for our efforts. We provided a lot of raw images and videos of Great White Sharks from the deep south of New Zealand to NIWA in the hope to help them with their research, and only asked one thing in return… If there was an unidentified shark within the footage, could it be called “Tomahawk” in recognition of the work we were trying to do in raising awareness for these amazing creatures.
NIWA passed the footage and my request on to lead White Shark expert Clinton Duffy from the Department of Conservation who is in charge of cataloguing these amazing Apex predators. As fate would have it, Clinton contacted me mere hours before the Finathon to confirm that we had witnessed 10 individual Great Whites the day we spent with them. He also informed me that there was one mature male, an estimated 3.7m long who was unidentified, and had been given the alphanumeric code STWI-1435 … and was now officially named “Tomahawk”. Epic!
Pictured here is Tomahawk. A permanent legacy of our Finathon campaign, and hopefully the start of an idea that a small group of individuals can make a difference that can benefit the oceans. Team Tomahawk has proven that no idea to help the oceans is a silly idea… and trust me.. we’ve still got plenty of silly ideas to convey our message to help our majestic ocean comrades. Watch this space :)”
I would like to take this opportunity to say thanks Chris Zinsli, Bernard Lloyd and Levi Healey for their hard work and dedication to educating the public about why we should protect sharks and look forward to the next ‘silly’ idea from the team in the far south. Well done Team Tomahawk and Dive Otago!
If you would like to donate the team you can do so by visiting either of the pages below: