Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Five Oceanic Whitetip Sharks of Kona Coast of Hawaii

Continued from the post: Short-finned Pilot Whale Silhouettes of Kona Coast of Hawaii.

While we were having good time with pilot whales, I spotted an incoming large shark at distance underwater. It was swimming straight at us.

The shark must have sensed disturbance in the water, which we actually created with every fin-kick. I told my partner to go back to the boat before she even realized its existence and got panic. I knew the shark would come swiftly and bump its nostril to us and check us out to see if we were edible.


It was a beautiful oceanic white shark, Carcharhinus longimanus! As anticipated, it bumped me a few times aggressively and kept circling me around like it didn't want to miss any opportunities to bite me.

Since I didn't have underwater strobes with me, I had to go back to the boat and regroup my gears for the shark shooting with dual strobes.


oceanic whitetip shark, Carcharhinus longimanus, with open mouth, Kona Coast, Big Island, Hawaii, USA, Pacific Ocean

As I hurried back to my boat, I created more disturbance in the water deliberately to keep attracting the shark ;-). Such sure distress signals were easily picked up by other hungry sharks in the vicinity as well. By the time I reached my boat, I attracted a couple more sharks. Wow!

When I got ready to shoot them, the number of sharks were increased to five! Now that's really cool! This was the first opportunity to work with five oceanic whitetip sharks at once! I was so excited and pumped up! My partner also looked thrilled seeing those big wild sharks so close.

This particular offshore species of the shark is very aggressive by nature. Oceanic whitetip sharks are usually considered responsible for attacking and preying on humans who became victims of offshore boating or airplane accidents.


oceanic whitetip sharks, Carcharhinus longimanus, Kona Coast, Big Island, Hawaii, USA, Pacific Ocean

Their persistence scares me the most. They follow and hung around their preys forever and don't give up until they get some. Relentless but mechanical by nature. They are the ultimate scavengers of the sea.

I slipped into the water gently and started shooting. Ambitiously I was hoping to snap a shot of five sharks in a frame, but soon realized it wasn't possible to do, at the same time, I started to feel very uneasy about staying underwater alone against five aggressive sharks.

They came in and out from all kinds of direction and bumped me around. Larger sharks came straight at me but most of the other serious attacks (like open-mouth attacks) came from my blind sides.


oceanic whitetip sharks, Carcharhinus longimanus, Kona Coast, Big Island, Hawaii, USA, Pacific Ocean

It was just impossible to keep all five sharks in front of me and keep my eyes on every shark while I was trying to look through the tiny view finder.

The shooting went unproductive. I had to constantly fend off sharks instead of taking pictures of them. Besides my partner looked uncomfortable watching me and sharks colliding underwater, so I decided to use my remote camera system to just "document" them.

Even with the remote system, shooting five sharks weren't so easy. It was difficult to focus on a shark or two as they went all over the place unlike schooling fish or dolphins. In addition, they got very aggressive as they had been competing to each other for a while. They started biting on my cameras, strobes, outboard engines, etc....whatever they can put their teeth on.

All I could do was to keep two sharks in a frame. The competition was dominated by a couple of larger sharks and smaller ones mostly stayed outside as they were afraid of bigger brothers & sisters.

Although the remote camera shooting was a work,  I was pretty happy with what I got from this shooting.

Continuing to: One Humongous Blue Marlin of Kona Coast of Hawaii

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