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Shark Feeding off Osprey Reef, Coral Sea, Australia

Photos taken by
Vance Stevens

July 19, 1998
Northhorn, Osprey Reef

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Dive 1, 32 meters, 45 min

Dive 2, 29 meters, 50 min

I'm on a liveaboard dive trip from Cairns. First day out, we dived at Cod Hole where the big potato cod live. They were fun to see but not a thrill to an overly-jaded diver. Second day out, we awake off Osprey Reef in the Coral Sea at a dive site called Northhorn. The diving looked like it was going to be good, so I rented a camera.

Ron Slater and I were first down as usual, gliding down a reef wall teeming with white tips, black tips, and stout whaler sharks. Here's what we saw (Ron in front of the camera, me behind):

The sharks were cruising about from anywhere from 15 to infinite meters, a couple dozen of them. We went to depth , about 35 meters, and then back up to explore the wall. A stiff head current kept us from going anywhere fast so we returned to a ledge near the mooring and just hung out at 16 meters, getting our 50 minutes worth watching the sharks scroll past. The water was so clear that 16 meters was a good place to hang out. The good vis enabled us to view the animals on parade as in an aquarium, or more accurately, in a game park. Here's some of what we saw:


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Next dive was a shark feed. A cable had been run down from the surface where a dinghy was standing by with the goodies. The sharks meanwhile sensed a feed about to ensue. They had obviously done this before, and they were milling about as the divers entered the water and gathered at the bommie where the cable was attached. White and black tip, venerable whalers, and even a couple of potato cods were mingling in anticipation among the divers, who were positioning themselves, also in anticipation. Once the divers were situated backs to the rocks, Mark the distinctively tall and bald headed dive leader, gave a few tugs on the cable. Mark stayed next to the cable with Chris, the video photographer, as a clump of fish heads descended into the circling sharks. The ones nearest the surface went after the bait as it dropped, and the clump took quite a few hits before it hit the bottom. Here are some of the shots I got:

It's hard to describe the melee. In a way it was less frenetic than I'd expected, more on the order of feeding a pack of dogs, more comical than visceral. Only a few sharks did much damage on their pass, maybe because the heads weren't all that palatable to them, so that some did little more than a pass and a chop. One shark seemed to be gulping fishes that came in for a morsel

Another latched on to a head that was firmly attached to the cable and went in a spin that eventually entangled him in the cable, at which point he went limp for several seconds (left). But the cable unwound and he swam off unharmed (otherwise, he probably would have been next).

The potato cods ate their heads by the gulp (now you see it, gulp, now you don't). Almost unnoticed was a large green moray poking out of the rock at the base of the tangle of sharks, taking tidbits as they fell his way.

On the first dive a manta ray was spotted just under the boat by divers who happened to be boarding at the time, and on the second dive, Ron and I saw them in flotilla at about 50 meters down, just at the edge of what we could see in the depths. We could only tell they were mantas, but we couldn't really see them properly. Both of us had been to Yap and seen the mantas close up there, so we weren't tempted to plunge to 50 meters for what would have been the sight of a lifetime for some.

Ron and I were the last to leave the water after the feed, and we watched the sharks calm down considerably. For the most part, they moved out of the area. Some even were going to sleep on the bottom as we were hanging off the mooring line doing our 3 minutes at 5 meters.

The ultimate shark photo:

More Shark Websites:

Stephen Bilson:

Shark Research, Great Barrier Reef:

Ben S. Roesch's Masterpiece of Evolution:

Shark Surfari:

Sharks and their Relatives:

The Great White Shark by marine biologist Douglas J. Long:

South African White Shark Research Institute:

Fiona Webster's Shark Mania:

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contact Vance Stevens, page author and webmaster.

Previously updated: October 22, 1999

Updated: August 28, 2011 09:00 GMT

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