The Ultimate Shark Picture Quest   Leave a comment

A few days ago I was talking to the Editor of Shark Diver Magazine (SDM) about a Small Spotted Catshark Article that I wrote. He was planning to call it simply; Cat Shark. I pointed out that if he did that then he couldn’t run another catshark story for some time and considering that there are 138 different species of catsharks that seemed like a bit of a waste.

The conversation drifted into a discussion about the upcoming Shark Divers TV show which has changed considerably since it was first penned. The original idea was to make a show about shark diving and us getting shark pictures and stories for SDM. That is still the primary focus of the show but we have added an additional challenge; we want to film 100 species of sharks. Why? Well, apart from the fact that it probably hasn’t been done before, it’s another excuse to do what we love doing. I will also be able to add a lot of new species to the Elasmodiver Field Guide to Sharks and Rays.

It would be a lot of fun trying to film that many species for TV. In fact, I would be satisfied just trying to get that many shark pictures for the magazine, but after the catshark argument I sat down and started to think through the idea more clinically. Was it a realistic goal or would it become a show about a couple of guys failing to film 100 shark species? I made a mental tally of the sharks I have seen since I started diving. I believe I am just shy of 50 species. Not bad considering that I didn’t become a professional photographer until a couple of years ago but then again, it’s been getting a lot more difficult to find new animals lately.

Getting new shark pictures has become a challenge that is slowly consuming me and the difficulties are not all related to budget or my limited time in the water. Of the almost 500 species of sharks that are out there, a tremendous number are simply beyond the reach of the average diver. I have the advantage of being a part-time submersible pilot but even in that job I have few opportunities to locate deep water sharks. Not surprisingly, when a large metallic submarine cruises over the seabed with lights blazing in all directions, the sharks of the abyss (with their sensitive opalescent eyes) turn tail and flee at lightning speed. I’m not just talking about deep sea lantern sharks and dogfish. Thumbing through my Collins’ Sharks of the World it appears that nearly all of the ornately patterned catsharks that would look so at home on a shallow coral reef, actually inhabit the twilight zone below 100 meters.

Another nightmare that limits my quest for shark pictures is the phrase ‘prefers turbid water and muddy bays’ Turbid water is caused by wave action churning up the sediment or by rivers dumping huge quantities of silt into the sea. Lots of species of sharks live exclusively in these low visibility environments. Their highly tuned senses are more than adequate for them to navigate through this sightless world but shark photography is virtually impossible.

So, unless we intend to catch all these elusive sharks and relocate them to places where they are easier to film (you’d be surprised how many shark pictures are staged) we are in for some frustrating shark trips. Can it be done? I believe so but even if we fall short of our target we have lost nothing and gained one hell of an adventure. I guess I’ve always been on this mission anyway so publicizing it on a TV show merely adds some time constraints to a quest that I was expecting to last a lifetime.

For the Sharks,

Andy Murch

Host of Elasmodiver.com – a web based field guide containing shark and ray information and thousands of pictures of sharks and rays.

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Posted October 27, 2006 by Andy Murch in Nature, Photography, Sharks, TV Shows, Uncategorized

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