White Tips of Osprey

Ian takes his 16-year-old son, Lee, on a volunteer shark research mission to meet the White Tips of Osprey Reef… face to face. Lee braves his first shark encounter and even acts as underwater cameraman for the researchers—but suffers a shark bit while tagging. But like father, like son, Lee doesn’t seem to have lost his nerve.

Produced by NHNZ

It wouldn’t be every teenager’s dream, but presenter Ian Gordon takes his 16-year-old son, Lee, along on a volunteer research mission where Lee meets his first shark…face to face!

Lee has just learnt to dive and they head 50 miles (80 km) out to sea off Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to Osprey Reef where they will help marine biologist Andy Dunstan with his research programme into Osprey’s White Tip sharks.

The research is funded by paying tourists, ten of whom have joined the crew to enjoy some adventure diving and assist with the research.

The crew’s divemaster reveals the scars of a nasty shark bite and, after some stern advice from his Dad, Lee prepares to keep calm and watch his back as he meets his first shark.

Ian takes him down for a sneak preview showing Lee how to safely handle these sharks. They only grow to about 5 feet (1.5 metres) long and are not particularly aggressive. Lee wears a buddy phone so Ian can talk to him underwater. Lee loves the experience, but they decide not to tell Mum just how close he gets.

Lee’s next task is to act as underwater cameraman for the researchers recording the sharks’ behaviour using a digital video camera.

Many of the sharks have been implanted with transmitting tags and their movements have been recorded on a data logger. Andy and biologist Richard Fitzpatrick have discovered after 18 months of collecting data that the White Tips of Osprey have a very small home range.

Lee scores some fantastic footage and confesses to Richard he was more worried about the larger, potentially more dangerous Grey Reef Whalers behind, than his smaller White Tip subjects.

Ian introduces Lee to the deadly spikes of the Stone Fish and warns of the Olive Sea Snake’s venom as they explore the reef.

But the best is yet to come. As their vessel heads back to Osprey Richard takes a daring leap overboard to snatch a highly venomous Hardwicke’s sea snake to show the tourists. There is a moment of panic to check that Richard has not been bitten, after the snake manages to hit him with its head. The snake’s venom is 20 times more toxic than a rattlesnake’s, but painless. Luckily it missed.

The drama hots up as the bait box is lowered and Ian and Richard try to tail rope some White Tips and tag them with tiny microchips.

They remove some blood-sucking shark leeches from their first target and Richard guides her back into the water.

Andy accidentally lets the second shark go and the others toss him into the water as punishment.

Shark wrangling is always risky and one particularly feisty animal sinks its teeth into Ian. He’s unsure how serious the bite is until he gets to the surface, but explains the need not to panic. This could encourage a full-on attack or feeding frenzy.

Luckily it makes more of a mess of Ian’s wetsuit than his skin!

Tagging completed, Ian suggests it’s time for some father and son holiday fun so Lee pushes him overboard.

The Osprey Reef programme is a great example of how adventure tourism can go hand in hand with good science.

And Ian’s proud of the way Lee kept his nerve on his first shark dive.

Episodes From This Series

White Tips of Osprey

30 mins / 2001

A Whale of a Shark

30 mins / 2001

Mako—Friend or Foe?

30 mins / 2001

Great White—The Ultimate Predator

30 mins / 2001

Thresher Shark

30 mins / 2001

Hammerheads

30 mins / 2001

Galapagos Sharks

30 mins / 2001

Grey Nurse — A Visit to the Nurse

30 mins / 2001

Prickly Sharks

30 mins / 2001

Hawaiian Tigers

1 hour / 2001

Port Jackson – A Family Secret

30 mins / 2001

The Sailor’s Nightmare

1 hour / 2001

Shark Attack

30 mins / 2001

Great White Bite

2 Minutes / 2007

Great White – The Ultimate Predator

2 Minutes / 2007

Feeding Frenzy

3 Minutes / 2007

Bull Sharks

3 Minutes / 2007

A Whale of a Shark

2 Minutes / 2007

Mako

3 Minutes / 2007