August 22nd, 2011

shark species #13

Whale shark tail with remoras, Darwin's Arch, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Nikon D300 + Nikkor 12-24mm, compact Sea&Sea dome port, strobes Sea&Sea YS-250 x 2

this image is 5% cropped from top and left, slight contrast adjustment in Lightroom

Location on Google maps

Wikipedia reference

I'm concluding looong "shark species week" with biggest shark and biggest fish in the ocean. Whale shark is used to be and still remains at some extent holy grail for divers. Growing up to 16-18 meters (Wikipedia says 12m, but it's not correct) it's definitely impressive sight to behold. I used to dream about encounter with whale shark for the long time in past - failing and failing again to catch up with king fish in my travels. Purity of my experience was somewhat spoiled by seeing captive specimen in Osaka Aquarium. Like most of captive animals it was sad and pathetic sight to behold. Whale sharks are dying frequently in aquariums around the world - and replaced by new ones. I think it is terrible waste which people can not afford and don't have right to do.

Anyway, my dream encounter in the wild came true in Cocos Island, when I had my first brief encounter with the giant fish - just 9m long baby shark. Year later while in Galapagos I had many great dives with whale sharks at Darwin's Arch. Title image of this post is taken on one of those dives - and it was big shark, easily 14m long. This image somehow won first place in underwater category in Golden Turtle 2010 competition - Russian diving community is still giving me a lot of shit about it :-)

These days seeing whale shark in the wild became much more easier. Partially due to new locations and seasonal phenomena being explored - like annual congregation at Isla Mujeres in Mexico or some previously unknown locations in West Papua like Nabire (I will be going where next year with Tim Rock !) Partially due to conservation efforts - seems like whale shark became frequent sight even in the Egyptian waters in Red Sea, which was not the case for many years... Good news for everyone !

I'm finishing "shark species week" with this post. I had 13 posts about 13 species I met and photographed successfully so far. I left out few more I met - galapagos shark, lemon shark, leopard shark and nurse shark - since I don't have images of them I consider satisfactory for the publication. I'm sure that we will come back to them and many other species I'm planning to meet sometime soon !

There are 360+ species of sharks in the world - mind boggling number, so there is a lot to see and explore. One thing which is common for many shark species - they are disappearing, being massacred by humanity for their fins and with long-line fishing. If some species of sharks will disappear oceans will change dramatically with transformed food chains. Some researches even talking about possibility of climate change because of this - and oxygen level changes too. It is very sad what due to stupid media campaigns this year sharks are being hunted even in Russia - probably first time in the history - ! Yes, sharks are dangerous, and people can die, but it's infinitely small fraction of deaths from traffic accidents and even dog mauling. I'm glad that there are so many campaigns in the world now aimed at saving sharks - I hope that this world still can have future ! As Russian speaking diving community we must do something to prevent Russian authorities from doing irreparable damage to marine life in fragile Far East.

And yes, I forgot to mention - tomorrow I will start "u/w macro week" - quite a change in size of photo subjects for this blog ! :-)