Ocean News

The night

11th January 2009

Since we first planned to come and shoot in Djibouti, myself and Tom have been focused on finding a new way to film an old subject. Whale sharks are very charismatic animals but rarely exhibit any interesting behaviour other than swimming along with their mouths open.

I’ve been making multiple attempts at filming the whale sharks feeding at night (the key behaviour we were hoping to document) but the mood and behaviour of the sharks has varied massively from night to night. There have been times when sharks have hung around in the light for many hours, and times when they’ve made fleeting passes, there seems to be no rhyme or reason to their behaviour. When the sharks have actually been hanging around, I’ve not had a working camera housing available, which I’ve found tends to be somewhat critical for underwater filming.

Obviously I now have the replacement underwater housing, so am not held back by technical issues, and last night, things finally came together. I managed to get in the water with a shark that had an incredibly patient temperament, and allowed me to film it for hours upon hours, shooting as many wide, medium, and close-up shots as I could possibly ask for; what a privilege to spend such a long time in the water with such an incredible animal, and being able to document it in such detail.

I’ve been fortunate enough to dive with many large and potentially dangerous species of shark all over the world. At times, certain animals have expressed a little more interest in me than I’ve been completely comfortable with, but generally my shark encounters have been entirely safe, fascinating, and memorable experiences. Whale sharks are of course completely harmless, but I don’t mind admitting that whilst in the water at night in Djibouti, I often felt more than a little spooked. There was just something about the way that the whale sharks hung out on the periphery of the light, moving effortlessly through the water like ghosts that really made me uncomfortable. At times the sharks were nowhere to be seen, and then suddenly they’d appear right next to me, just inches from my face. Sometimes, the schools of bait-fish that were also hanging around in the light would very suddenly and simultaneously disappear, making me thing that perhaps there was something altogether ‘toothier’ hanging around down deep, beyond visibility.

It was a memorable experience, one to cherish forever. And its a massive relief having this behaviour ‘in the can’.

I imagine you’d probably like to see what these behemoths look like swimming around in the inky depths… but I’m afraid the video and images of this behaviour are being kept under wraps for now. You’ll definitley see them out and about soon enough though; sorry!