Protected for true decades as a marine reserve, the Kermadec archipelago is replete with apex predators, particularly Galapagos sharks. While the adults inhabit deep water, scientists on the Auckland Museum-led biodiscovery expedition had to contend with numerous frisky juveniles, which took more than a passing interest in the samples they were collecting.
Among the scientists was shark specialist Clinton Duffy, perhaps most recognised for his ongoing studies of great white sharks both here and abroad. On the first dive of the expedition, he recovered a superb example of a conger eel at the Meyer Islands. Within seconds, he and New Zealand Geographic
photographer Richard Robinson were approached by a two-metre-long female Galapagos shark, which made a number of close passes and doggedly pursued the catch bag. While the photographs of the shark at close proximity were welcome—she’s pictured on page 69—her attentions were not.
“She wasn’t aggressive,” says Duffy, “but it was very clear what her intention was. She was extremely determined to get that bag.”
The pair retreated to the surf zone around an awash rock, and the shark followed them into the white water. “It’s the first time I’ve ever been hounded out of the water by a shark,” says Duffy.
The second day proved equally interesting as the pair were mobbed by juvenile sharks like a pack of enthusiastic puppies. Robinson counted nine sharks beginning to pack before he and Duffy called the dive off and retreated to the comparative safety of the dive tender. “I’m sure we would have been fine, but we were both getting nervous and figured it was time to get out of the water,” says Robinson, who counts the dive among his best ‘war stories’.
By the time they had reached the boat there were 14. “The closer we got to the surface, the closer the sharks got to us,” says Duffy. “So by the time we were at the boat, things were getting quite claustrophobic!”