In January 2011 I returned
sadly having to downgrade from my previous two excellent dive buddies
to….. “The Underwater Channel’s Face of
……namely Mr Jon Shaw of Manly. Naturally my friends were
concerned for my safety when they learnt that I was going to be sharing a cabin
with Jon. They suggested that in view of Jon’s massive comfort eating binge
which had followed the announcement of the Face of Australia results, it would
be prudent, to say the least, for me to avoid a bunk directly under his
carcass. But most impressively his bunk bed proved able to take his full weight.
Our Rodney Fox Shark
Expeditions liveaboard set off from Port Lincoln early one Friday afternoon and
headed for a dive with Sea Lions at Hopkins Island. For over 40 years, following Rodney Fox’s world-famous Shark attack
and survival, he and his son Andrew have run Great White Shark trips. Their
vessel, Princess II has six double, private or twin cabins with en suites and
can take a maximum of 12 guests on three to five day expeditions to the Neptune Islands. Unfortunately the underwater visibility at Hopkins Island was dreadful and underwater photography impossible.
After sheltering by the island
overnight Princess II headed off at 5.00 a.m. the following morning for the three-hour motor down to the Neptune Islands. There the sea conditions were calm and the underwater visibility
For a day and a half, Jon
and I were treated to ideal conditions in which to photograph or film Great Whites.
Not that it was necessarily that easy to photograph them. My first underwater
encounter with a Great White taught me that. My solo Shark cage was suspended
just below the surface offering great natural light but a rather bumpy ride
from the surface swell. To compensate for this, I used a fast shutter speed, 1/160th. A disadvantage of being in a solo cage is
that it is impossible to view 360º at all times and the first Great White Shark
I saw approached me from my blind spot. The first I was aware of it was the
massive shark cruised silently by the left side of the cage, close enough for
me to touch. Wow! It was now too late to
take anything other than a rear end shot but what a memorable moment for me.
With bait in the water
occasionally impairing the visibility and with some sharks approaching me from
“the wrong side of the cage” there were more missed opportunities. But to my delight, not to mention relief, there
were also times when they approached from a direction which I had anticipated
and through clear water.
There are four so-called
deadly Sharks in the world. I had
already photographed three, the Oceanic Whitetip, the Tiger Shark and the Bull
Shark. Naturally I wanted the full set so it was very satisfying to finally get
some images of a Great White. When not in the solo surface cage, Jon and I
enjoyed underwater rides in the group cage. This was suspended from a crane on
the drifting Princess II. We saw Great Whites in their natural habitat down to depths
of 30 metres as well as huge Smooth Rays, Blue Groupers, Eagle Rays and a
Bronze Whaler Shark.
My last “dive” was a cage dive with Andrew. Our cage was carefully
lowered to the sea bed and Andrew and I could see the Great Whites silhouetted at the surface 25 metres
above. As we ascended they cruised around us including Big Ronnie who has been
measured at 4.4 metres and Psycho 4.1 metres. It was a fabulous end to a
thoroughly enjoyable trip in great company.