Not just a
huge collection of
Elasmodiver.com contains images of sharks, skates, rays, and a few
chimaera's from around the world. Elasmodiver began as a simple web
to help divers find the best places to encounter the different
species of sharks and rays that live in shallow water but it has
slowly evolved into a much larger project containing information on
all aspects of shark diving and shark photography.
now more than 10,000 shark pictures and sections on shark
evolution, biology, and conservation. There is a large library of
reviewed shark books, a constantly updated shark taxonomy page, a
monster list of shark links, and deeper in the site there are
numerous articles and stories about shark encounters. Elasmodiver is
now so difficult to check for updates, that new information and
pictures are listed on an Elasmodiver Updates Page that can be
Lesser spotted catsharks make great photo subjects.
Generally speaking, if you swim up to one it will do absolutely nothing. That
sure makes a change from your average shark encounter that lasts just long
enough to compose a shot before the subject disappears at lightning speed. I’m
convinced that most sharks have actually figured out how long it takes to take
a photograph and that they delight in winding up the paparazzi. That’s why I
love these catsharks. Their idea of a defensive action is to sit in an exposed
spot and wait to see if they get eaten or not.
with this information I splashed into the frigid waters of Porthkerris in
Cornwall looking for perfectly posed sharks. It took a while to track down my
first one but finally out of the gloom a sharky shape materialized on the
sand. My first reaction was “Gee, that’s one tiny shark!” I had spent the last
few days swimming with Basking sharks and faced with this foot long docile
little fish it was hard to believe that they were related. Next I considered
the problems of what I wanted to do. I only had my wide angle “shark lens”
with me so I would have to get within about an inch of this guy before he
would fill the frame.
settled down on the sand and started edging closer. At around one meter from
the shark it took off in a cloud of sand and left me wondering if this was
going to be a new version of the game ‘lets frustrate the photographer’.
finned along and located another catshark. This one was a little more
cooperative and I got to fire off a couple of frames before it headed for the
hills – I was making progress. The rest of the dive was shark free and I
headed back to the beach to rethink my strategy. I sat talking to one of the
Porthkerris Scuba Instructors who told me about all the catshark pairs that
had been there last week performing mating displays for the camera. Apparently
during their nuptials they were so oblivious to the divers around them that
they could even be picked up and handled without swimming away – figures.
decided to give up on the catsharks for now, and go skate hunting in a sandy
estuary close by. Mike Anselmi (owner of Porthkerris Diving) arranged a boat
for me and I spent the afternoon drifting up stream with the incoming tide in
about 30 ft of water. Visibility was better than I expected and I was able to
cover a huge area of muddy bottom but didn’t find any skates. There were a
couple of catsharks skulking in the mud and I snapped away furiously before
scaring them off. I was beginning to shiver uncontrollably in the cold British
water and thinking that Mike must be getting worried by now, I decided to
surface. As I began to rise I drifted over a kite shaped object on the ground
and my brain slowly came out of its hypothermia induced fog. Kicking back down
to the river bed I came face to face with a prickly looking Thornback ray.
Thornbacks are actually skates and I was delighted to come across this
individual way later in the year than you would expect to encounter one.
was a large dead cod nearby and on its far side a catshark was zealously
guarding its decaying remains. I guessed that both of these elasmobranches had
delayed their departure until this unexpected feast was over and in their
desire to continue feeding they were not prepared to budge at my intrusion. I
looked at my air gauge. Hmm, I don’t suppose the PADI police would like this
but it’s only thirty feet, right? If I run out completely I’m sure I’ll make
it to the surface. I headed first for the catshark who let me get really close
with my wide angle lens resulting in some rather eye warping images. The
little shark still didn’t fill the frame but content with my efforts I slowly
idled towards the Thornback ray.
closer I got the more beautiful I realized its markings were. Its tawny hide
was peppered with an ornate pattern of symmetrical white spots, ringed in
black. I kneeled on the sand in front of it and marveled at their intricacy.
It appeared to be a female lacking the telltale male claspers that extend from
the trailing edges of its pelvic fins. A row of well defined thorns ran down
the length of her back to the tip of her banded tail. I crept towards her
sensitive snout and sluggishly she pushed up on her greatly enlarged pectoral
fins and banked to one side, coming to a stop a short distance away.
looked at my empty gauge again. Now, it’s worth pointing out that I don’t live
in the UK and didn’t know if I’d ever see a Thornback again. So, giving her a
wide berth I circled around to her head and came in for another look. She
again took flight and I followed casually, slowly closing the gap between us
in as non-threatening a way as possible. It was great to be swimming along
with a new species. Becoming accustomed to my presence she finally let me swim
directly above her as she arced around and headed back towards her dinner.
almost returned to where the catshark stood on guard when I felt the
resistance building in my regulator. “Ok, I guess its time to leave” I
thought. I relaxed and let the increasing buoyancy in my drysuit pull me
upwards and as I reached ten feet I was able to breathe in once more. Looking
back at the silhouette of the skate against the sand I listened for river
traffic and hearing none, I surfaced and looked around for my ride. Mike found
me after about ten minutes. He had been looking far and wide and had already
asked the local fishermen to keep an eye out for me. Finding out that I had
seen both of the elasmos I was after, he beamed in his usual relaxed manner
and took us back to Porthkerris.