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
They say that Perth way down in Western Australia, is the
remotest city in the world. If this is true then Exmouth which is a twenty hour
drive north of Perth must be the remotest town. It’s a long way for sure, but
I’d go ten times that distance if I thought I could see a crazy looking shark I
hadn’t photographed yet.
Exmouth is bordered by the Ningaloo Reef which is famous
for seasonal Whale shark sightings. Whale sharks are pretty high on most divers
hit lists but I’m a self confessed weird shark junky and I’m here to look for
Even in such a strange looking family of sharks, Tasseled
wobbegongs are freaks. There are presently seven recognized species of “wobbies”,
and at least three more waiting to be described. All have skin flaps protruding
from around their mouths and elaborate patterns on their backs that help them
disappear when snuggled in between the surrounding corals. But, the most
bizarre looking family member is the Tasseled wobbegong that sports an entire
fringe of branching skin flaps running around its head from one pectoral fin to
the other. So good is this camouflage that it can become almost completely
invisible on the reef.
Leaving Perth I couldn’t wait to see my first Tasseled
wobbie. I spent the night driving north and arrived at high noon in the
scorching heat of tropical W.A. The first thing you notice about Exmouth is the
Emus. They wander the streets like 6ft tall giant chickens. I decided I was
going to like this oasis in the otherwise featureless scrub and dodging the emus
I sauntered off to the dive shop.
Exmouth Diving Centre hooked me up with a dive under the
navy pier where Tasseled wobbies often congregate. We had to go through a series
of military checkpoints to reach the structure but finally we drove onto the
jetty itself and plunged in. The action under the pier was intense. Writhing
balls of baitfish swept from one end to the other trying to avoid the tunas,
jacks, and Grey reef sharks that assaulted them from all directions. I stationed
myself on the sand right in the middle of the bombardment but there was so much
movement that the bottom was constantly stirred up and I was forced off to the
side to avoid being ‘bumped’ by the hungry sharks. It was an unexpected treat
and I simply hovered unobtrusively enjoying the show until my escort Steve
‘Gibbo’ Gibson tugged me on the arm and dragged me off to find the wobbies.
We swam between the pilings searching the ground and then
abruptly Gibbo stopped swimming and pointed to a nondescript pile of rocks. I
looked at the rocks and then up at Steve, and then back at the rocks. He could
see I looked puzzled so he swam down and pointed a bit closer at one protruding
rock feature. Adjusting my brain I noticed that the rock he was pointing at had
gills. Finally realizing that I was about 2ft in from a Tasseled wobbegong’s
head I back pedaled a little bit and swung my camera into position between me
and the wobbie’s very well camouflaged mouth. Wobbies will strike at anything
that falls in front of their mouths including a poorly placed hand or fin.
The skin flaps around a Tasseled wobbie’s jaw look rather
like a refuge to small vulnerable fishes. However, as soon as an unsuspecting
fish wanders too close, the wobbie explodes forward at breakneck speed, while at
the same time pulling its jaws apart to reveal rows of razor sharp fangs. This
action literally sucks the fish into its mouth from where its needle-like teeth
ensure there is no escape.
I was ecstatic to finally see this bizarre looking shark
sitting motionless in front of me and I snapped away to my hearts content.
Wobbies don’t like to be out in the open and most of this one was obscured by
fallen rocks and debris so we wandered on looking for a better positioned
individual. We came across three more on this dive and more again on subsequent
visits. All of them were adult size and none made any attempt at all to hide or
flee. That’s my kind of shark, I could have set up a tripod if I’d had one.
Although, most of the time wobbies remain completely
motionless relying on their camouflage, on occasion they can get quite
aggressive, lunging at unsuspecting scuba divers and leaving serious puncture
wounds. Usually this is the result of abuse from aggressive divers man handling
them or invading their personal space. But, unprovoked attacks do occur. One
diver on Blizzard Ridge (not far from Exmouth Lighthouse) was leisurely swimming
along when a Tasseled wobbie rose from its resting place, bit him on the
stomach, and settled back into its original position. Hey, even wobbies can have
a bad day.
By the time I left Exmouth I was hooked on these sharks
that look like swimming reefs with teeth. Next time I return I guess I’ll
schedule my visit for whale shark season but secretly I’ll be back to see the