Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text:
Three months later, I had the chance to meet hammerhead sharks again, in Indonesia (again), during a diving cruise on board the Waow, in the east of the archipelago, in the Banda Sea. This time, the show is less stealthy!
This year 2015 is definitely the year of the hammers, in my little diving life...
Updated February 2018. The Waow, this magnificent cruise-diving boat that used to sail the waters of the Indonesian archipelago, and on board of which I had the chance to embark in 2015, does not exist anymore... 😢 It unfortunately burned and sank, in the bay of Cenderawasih, in Indonesia, in the night of January 31 to February 1, 2018. I refer you to the message published on their Facebook page and on their site.
That said, as far as underwater photos are concerned, I am not spoiled: on each of our "hammer" outings, from the Banda archipelago to Kurkap Island, the vision is rather rotten and my autofocus is not able to focus in this water...
(For non-divers: the "visibility" underwater can be very changeable and vary from a few meters to more than 25 meters, from one site to another, from one day to another, sometimes even from one hour to another, depending on the particles and plankton in suspension, linked to currents, tides, weather, etc.). The sharks can be seen only at the very last moment, they seem to emerge from the greenish-blue "fog" of the water.
As a result, I didn't manage to take a single hammerhead shark picture... I must admit that Indonesian waters are probably not the most favorable to photograph these beasts - and I was told promising names like Galapagos, Cocos Island, Bahamas... So many destinations to put on my "bucket list" of diver!
In short, the only images I have to offer you are actually screenshots, from the movie made by the Waow, Steffan Kilby...who managed to get closer to them than I did. With his permission, I will give you an excerpt below.
Face to face with the sharks
I have fond memories of my first real face-to-face encounter with a big hammerhead, at the Karang Hatta site, in the Banda archipelago, at the beginning of the cruise. He appeared in the middle of the blue mud, right in my line of sight, but left immediately without asking for help. No time to take his picture... Frustrating.
After the dive, Refly, guide on the WaowIt is a good alternative model. But, how to put it... It's much less impressive. 😆
Several times, during our different dives in the Banda Sea, we will meet hammerheads. But you have to move away from the reef and swim in the "blue" to hope to see them... Sharks are patrolling nearby, in numbers. But weighted with my bulky cameraI don't fin fast enough and the divers at the head of the group are often luckier than me when it comes to seeing a school of hammerheads in the distance.
The most varnished among us manage to get close enough to them, especially around Kurkap, a small isolated island in the Moluccas, between the Banda Sea and the Seram Sea.
As for me, the only time I really found myself close to a hammer, at a distance that finally allowed me to make a potentially fabulous picture, was... only 5 meters from the surface, at the end of the dive, at the stop! Incredible...
It was in the Banda archipelago, at Karang Hatta again, where we dived several times in a row. A very big shark suddenly appeared in front of us, really when we least expected it.
Surprised, I widen my eyes behind my mask by understanding that it is indeed a hammer, again: I quickly distinguish the flattened mouth, I see the left eye leering at me, a massive, powerful body, almost copper gray, the lateral movement of a long tapered tail... The whole thing scrolls 3-4 meters from me... Waooooow!!! 😮
The time to point the camera, to try a focus, to launch the video mode, the beast is already a vague shadow of shark in the blue fog...
But I am still amazed. This kind of encounter is both impressive and magical. To see such an animal evolve so closely, even for a short time, is worth all the reports of National Geographic ! The hammers really enchanted our first dives.
Sharks and men
My non-diving friends don't really understand the crazy excitement I get at the idea of diving among these beasts.
When I came back from Indonesia, I had to explain to a colleague, who was a bit taken aback by my enthusiasm, that no, it is not dangerous. That sharks are not bloodthirsty animals that throw themselves like angry dogs on any human being near them. That, on the contrary, in bottle diving, it is often difficult to get close to them, because they are rather frightened by a group of divers continuously releasing strings of noisy and sparkling bubbles. I can see that what I am saying surprises him.
My colleague was convinced, in all seriousness, that a shark facing a man would almost inevitably attack him. And I thought, naively, that everyone had understood - by now - that Spielberg's film, Jaws (1975), was fiction.
I don't think so. Most people don't know anything about how sharks actually behave. And minds are still scarred by the terrible stories of shark-bitten surfers and swimmers, such as in the meeting or in Australia. These dramas are fortunately very rare and sharks kill much less than mosquitoes, crocodiles, bees or snakes. But the sea is a wilderness, impossible to domesticate. There will always be areas and certain conditions that present some risk for swimmers and surfers.
My green minute
As a result, sharks are not likely to inspire as much good feeling as baby seals, even though they are victims of a hallucinating overfishing - mainly for their fins, allegedly aphrodisiac, which end up in soup in Asia and are the subject of a lucrative trade.
We do not realize it, earthlings that we are, but these marine superpredators are essential to the balance of the oceanic ecosystem. This ecosystem is vital for the planet. If they disappear, we are in trouble.
I know that between a shark and a cute cat, people will always prefer a cute cat...
But I prefer the shark that is not cute, that is alive and well and as big as possible, a sign that it has reached a certain maturity that will allow it to reproduce.
One thing is for sure, when there are no more sharks in the oceans, it will be the beginning of the end. Beans, cute cats and humans.
In short, I am very happy to have met so many sharks during my this cruise aboard the Waow. It is comforting. In addition to the hammerheads, we met the classic blacktip sharks, one or two thresher sharks with their huge whiptail and, in the Raja Ampat archipelago, many carp sharks or wobbegongs and even a shy bamboo shark "walker"... What to hope for.
I was the guest of the Waow from October 27 to November 8, 2015, for this dive-cruise named "Secrets of Seram". All opinions expressed here remain 100% my own.