Wildlife photographers have captured dramatic photos of breaching great white sharks from every angle but one: the one from above. Many called it the impossible shot. Yet a team of photographers from “Shark Week” on Discovery Channel embraced the challenge, heading to Gansbaai, South Africa, armed with a balloon, top-of-the-line camera technology, a seal decoy, and a lot of patience.
For weeks, they trolled the waters off South Africa, steadying the balloon over the decoy and waiting for a shark to attack. Then, finally, on the last day of their trip, the Impossible Shot came into focus. The Discovery Networks’ YouTube video tells the story:
As you can see, the video exudes excitement.
“There’s a shark right behind the decoy, there’s a shark behind the decoy.”
“Is it lined up with the balloon?”
“Did you get it?”
“We got it. We got everything!”
Boy, did they, as they obtained spectacular super slow-mo video that shows the great white shark attacking the seal decoy from below, which also gave the answer to a question that had puzzled scientists: Why are seals able to avoid shark attacks 50 percent of the time? What is tipping them off?
The answer, provided by the incredible overhead footage, is that a seal can detect a flash of the white underbelly of the shark about to attack, enabling it a split-second to get away.
Likewise, the wildlife photographers had but a split-second to capture this “epic aerial breach” that was “an unbelievable stroke of luck.” The exhilaration on the boat was obvious.
“That was the biggest rush ever,” one photographer said.
“We’ve been sitting up here for hours, weeks, and just looking at nothing and then something happened, and when it happened, the something was AWESOME!”
It was quite AWESOME, indeed.