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Sharks - wildlife filming behind the lens

Category: Wildlife filming behind the lens | Posted: Tue Jun 26, 2007 12:40 am

I was recently watching a TV documentary about sharks and was reminded of the time when I went to the Bahamas in the attempt to film Lemon sharks giving birth to live pups with shark expert Dr Sam Gruber in Bimini.
Lemon shark gives birth to live pups in shallow water close to the mangroves where the pups can swim & feed in relative safety away from predators like Bull sharks and Tiger sharks. After birth the female play no further parental role and will eat small sharks of the opportunity arises
The pubs will remain in the mangroves for a year or two before venturing out into deeper water.
It was a fantastic experience filming these wonderful top predators.
The research station is based on a sandy island and I was scheduled to be there for three weeks. Within a week I managed to knock out one of my front teeth when the battery under the video camera hit a coral bommy and my face hit in to the back of the camera and shattered a front incisor. 2 hrs flight away from the nearest dentist, we decided to cover the open nerve with some rubber sealant used for making aquariums. It worked like a treat.
Not only did I want to film the young pups swimming and feeding in the fish rich mangroves but also to film the large predators.
I remember one day in particular. Bimini is where Dr Gruber does his research on sharks. Baited lines with hooks are put out to catch the large sharks which they measure and attach a tag. The hooks are removed from the mouths using an oar and the sharks are let go unharmed. On this day an angry 8 ft bull shark who had earlier had his meal removed swam towards me. He swam with his fins down and arched back which I knew this was a threat pose and that he was angry. just feet away his protective eyelid closed and I knew he was about to attack. With nothing else to protect me I put the underwater camera out in front of me to fend him off and the shark took a bite. It wasn't a frenzied attack more an agitated bite to see if I was edible. He didn't think so and swam off out into deeper water.
Back on the inflatable I checked the camera housing to see if it had been damaged and could see deep jagged cuts in the plastic which shows the power of the bite. A few minutes later Sam's voice came on the walkie-talkie asking "Does Neil want a Tiger Shark? We've got on for him is he does"
We sped off towards Sam's boat. It was like a scene from Jaws. Sam's boat was being pulled through the water sideways with water coming in over the sides and three guys pulling on a rope and a big tail thrashed and splashing in the water.
I watched for about five minutes whilst they managed to get the shark tired enough to remove the hook from its mouth, measure and tag it.
They let the shark go and Sam said "OK Neil. You can go in now" I asked if it was safe and Sam chuckled and said "Yes this one's a pussy cat"
Tentatively I lowered myself in to the water. I immediately scanned the water looking for the shark knowing it would be close, tired and angry.
It was unnerving getting gin the sea knowing that the shark was in the water but I couldn't see it. Then I realised that the dark shadow under the boat wasn't a shadow but was the 12ft Tiger shark hovering motionless directly underneath their boat.

Still quite docile after its efforts I managed to get some useable close up shots of this majestic shark and even managed to get a shot as it swam off slowly below me and you see the tail just brushing the camera before it swam off in to the deeper water. A magical experience,

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eileen wrote on Tue Jun 26, 2007 1:26 am:

I don't know that I would have had the courage Neil to go into the water to film that Tiger Shark as you did!!! I can well believe it was an awsome experience though and look forward to your next blog entry with great anticipation.


glendann wrote on Tue Jun 26, 2007 5:32 am:

I'm a coward when it comes to big fish or shark.


Frank wrote on Tue Jun 26, 2007 1:14 pm:

Amazing experience Neil. Not without its risks but I doubt you will ever forget it. You were filming from one of those underwater cages we see on TV all of the time?


Neilb wrote on Tue Jun 26, 2007 1:30 pm:

I wasn't in a cage. Just a thin underwater suit.
It was many years ago and think it was ignorance and enthusiasm that got me in the water.
I saw a film where the presenter said that Lemon Sharks were very unpredictable and the guys wear a chain mail suits in case of attack.
I was working on the assumption that sharks only attack people in very rare occasions and usually if they are injured in any way and can't feed normally.

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