Thursday, January 03, 2008
Alone in his tiny plastic sea kayak, marine biologist Trey Snow had hoped to stealthily track a great white shark. But he had the shock of his life when he spotted a giant fin and realised it was he who was being stalked - by surely one of the most feared killers in the world. The magnificent creature initially dived to the seabed, inspecting the kayak from below, before rising menacingly to the surface. Luckily for Trey, the 13ft-long shark was more inquisitive than hungry. Trey was just one of a team of scientists hoping to discover why a large group of great whites, which travel off southern Africa's tip during the summer, regularly swim so close to the beaches. They decided to venture into the deep blue in the quietest and most unobtrusive vessel they could think of - a bright yellow sea kayak. Amazingly the sharks carried on as normal, giving the scientists a unique insight into their lives.They observed that the intrepid animals come inshore to interact socially with others of their species - possibly using the opportunity to mate and give birth - and can often be spotted following, or swimming circles around, one another, for extended periods of time. This incredible picture was taken by wildlife photographer Thomas Peschak - who had to tie himself to the high bridge of a nearby vessel and lean precariously over the ocean before he could get his shot. The holy grail of shark research and marine wildlife photography is to see great whites mating and giving birth. It is a task which is extremely difficult and dangerous, if not impossible, and even Thomas Peschak has not achieved it yet. And Trey Snow might be thinking he has already got as close to a great white as he wants to.