One look at the image may leave a person to wonder: What became of the photographer? Were the injuries serious? Did the photographer die?
Large mako shark seems to have designs on Sam Cahir’s camera during a recent encounter off South Australia. Credit: Sam Cahir/Barcroft Media. Cahir granted use of two images, which are protected by copyright laws, for this story.
It turns out, Sam Cahir is OK but there’s quite a story behind the images he captured recently off the Neptune Islands in South Australia.
For starters, while diving as part of a white shark tagging effort for the Fox Shark Research Foundation, the vessel was greeted boldly by a large female mako shark, which would circle for two hours, feeding on parts of tuna thrown over as chum.
Realizing that a photo opportunity such as this does not present itself very often, Cahir slipped into the water, and so began an prolonged adventure, during which the shark seemed to take special interest in the photographer and his camera.
“The mako made some menacing passes. On a number of occasions she almost swallowed the camera whole, allowing me to shoot straight down her maw,” Cahir stated in a story for the London-based Barcroft Media.
The shark, sensing food in the water, did not attack Cahir, but instead performed what might be considered false charges, perhaps briefly regarding the camera as food.
The story went viral in the English press on Monday, after appearing in the Daily Mail. It was featured in the Australian press on Tuesday. Cahir consented for the use of two images for this story. Others can be seen in the accompanying video.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Cahir continued, regarding one of the swiftest, most powerful marine predators. “I feel humbled to have witnessed such a display of nature’s quirkiness. When I saw the shark I couldn’t get in the water fast enough to get some pictures. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing up close. This mako was audacious, bordering manic.”
At one point during the encounter, a great white shark and the mako were circling the same tuna bait.
“The mako literally browbeat away a great white, and not just any great white shark, but a very large, dominant male–maybe six times her mass and twice her size,” Cahir said. “It was amazing.”
It was a shortfin mako. They average 10 to 12 feet in length and can weigh more than 1,000 pounds. Makos are the fastest species of shark and can swim in bursts of 20-plus mph, which to a stationary diver can seem dizzying.
Cahir, while his adrenaline must have been pumping at warp speed, was fascinated by what he was witnessing and afterward didn’t so much feel fortunate to have survived, but to have photographed, intimately, one of nature’s top-level predators.
This is becoming somewhat of a trend. More photographers are plunging into shark-filled waters these days, trying to capture compelling images while also trying to dispel widespread myths that sharks–including great whites and makos–are calculating man-killers.
Cahir hopes his encounter will inspire others to appreciate all species of sharks, many of which are being over-fished because of the demand for fins in Asian markets.
“It is very possible that without our intervention my son and his generation may never see these stunning animals in their natural habitat, and that would be a huge injustice,” the photographer said.