Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Some initial thoughts on Great White Sharks

So a month ago I was in the cool, clear waters off Isla Guadelupe, Mexico taking these photographs. I'll probably trickle out my GWS photos with various bits of trivia over the next couple of months but I wanted to jot down my first impressions.


The first thing you notice about white sharks is their sheer bulk. I've been lucky enough to share water with huge tigers, chunky bull sharks and some big scalloped hammers as well as the largest plankton eating sharks, the whale shark and basker, but nothing compares to a large white shark for sheer sense of scale. They are simply enormous. You know they are going to be large and yet when you see your first the sheer sense of their size is almost overwhelming.


The second sense I got was one of overwhelming calm. White sharks for the most part are remarkably slow, steady fish (one shark we encountered, dubbed the spotted hyaena, was rather different though) and just cruised around calmly taking in everything in their domain. Every now and again they would inspect the baits rather smoothly, rolling past them as the shark wranglers on deck yanked them out of the way. Very occasionally one would drop deep decide it wanted a bait and then came that violent, incredible acceleration and power. As soon as the bait was secured calm was restored. The feeling of being in the presence of these giants was for me one of immense peace and awareness of my place in the world. All distractions rolled away for total focus on the shark - it was like the zen concept of Mushin no shin or no-mind.


So to sum up white sharks are very big and very self-assured and their very presence puts everything and everybody else in its place. That to me is the very definition of an apex predator. When we lose [our] apex predators, everything else [including us] loses its sense of place and if I learned one more thing from that first encounter with Caracharadon carcharias it was that I want to encounter them again and again and I want as many other people as possible to have the chance to encounter them too.


Hugh said...

Wow, what a tough-looking customer. A big girl(?). Great pictures.

Camera Trap Codger said...

Nice pics, and enjoyed your assessments. That big fellow has quite a few battle scars. Any idea where they get them? Inter- or intraspecific engagements?

I still remember the fatal attack of a swimmer at Baker Beach in SF when I was in high school. The shark was id'd as a great white from teeth in the wounds.

Patrick Belardo said...

Love the photos. We say "mind like water" in Isshinryu Karate.

tai haku said...

Thanks all.

CTC - those scars were probably the last defiant acts of a northern elephant seal, big sealion or guadelupe island fur seal. a couple of the sharks did have scars we could attribute to mating though.

Hugh - she is indeed a big girl

Neil said...


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great shot, beautiful white shark