This week my latest book entitled Shark Bytes was published and is available from many different sources including the Ocean Leisure shop on the Embankment in London's Westend, as well as on-line. It is not an encyclopedia or identification book on sharks neither is it a book that specialises in their natural history, although it does deal with both subjects along the way. Its text is very descriptive and it it punctuated with my own photographs taken over a long period of time.
It is more a book that is anecdotal, reflecting on experiences I have personally had with sharks, diving and photographing them over a period of almost three decades. However, I don't offer myself as an expert regarding sharks. There are plenty of ichthyologists and taxonomists specialising in that subject. I simply offer myself as a shark-witness and in Shark Bytes I delve into the way my own attitude to and understanding of sharks has developed during the intervening years. It's how I grew to love diving with sharks.
This is not a book about how brave I am to swim with sharks! I used to be frightened by sharks but now I am merely wary! I am not a shark-hugger by any means - they are not 'pussycats'. By and large, they are powerful animals armed with a lot of teeth and we are only able to get into close proximity to them by entering a hostile environment - the water - which is their home territory. A shark bite can be very serious.
My own attitude has changed. Many years ago I had experiences when I thought I had 'nearly' been attacked by a shark. More recently I was actually grabbed by a huge tiger shark and swum off with. This has happened more than once but years of experience has allowed me to be much more sanguine about it. As it happened, I was not injured but some others to whom this has happened have not been so lucky. You'll need to read the book to find out more. That chapter is entitled Tiger, Tiger.
I have added quotes within the book from some eminent shark people, not least Peter Benchley, the author of the original novel JAWS, and Mike deGruy, a natural world television producer and presenter who was once mysteriously yet severely injured by a shark, both of whom are sadly no longer with us. Also Rob Palmer and Chris Allison, both also no longer with us. Others that have contributed quotes include three members of the Cove family - Stuart Cove, Graham Cove and Michelle Berlanda Cove - and Jeremy Stafford-Deitsch, all people who have helped me enormously get good pictures of sharks in The Bahamas. Other experts include George Burgess, Lesley Rochat, Mike Neumann, Gary Adkison, and Marty Snyderman, the last who offers sage advice about being close to "Mr Big and Might be Dangerous". Finally, whole chapters were supplied by Pete Atkinson and Bret Gilliam, both excellent wordsmiths as well as very experienced shark divers in their own right.
I cover experiences with many of the sharks you might meet whilst scuba-diving. From the enigmatic wobbegong of the Far East to the ubiquitous little tropical whitetip reef shark (triaenodon obesus) that can turn into a voracious nighttime predator, a spectacular event if you get to see a vast number hunting.
The whaleshark is a gentle giant, roaming the ocean and hoovering up plankton and small fish. From Malpelo to the Philippines and the Maldives, you can meet them in any tropical or sub-tropical sea and I've met a few with varying photographic results but there’s always a story to tell afterwards, including the one that was towed by a freighter for almost of 150 miles and the one that a park ranger in the Galapagos did an unspeakable stunt with.
I describe diving with oceanic whitetip sharks (carcharhinus longimanus) and explain why the special circumstances of their food-source in the Red Sea can give divers close encounters without the need to bait them with dead fish and I also explain my theory, so linked, as to why five unfortunate swimmers were savagely attacked by one off the beaches of Egypt's Sinai back in 2010.
Unlike Amazing Diving Stories, a best-selling diving book that I wrote in third person, this is a first hand description and it describes diving with and photographing sharks as well as some related subjects such as manta rays, which are in fact of the same animal group - elasmobranchs. I have tried to give as balanced an account as possible with little sensationalism and a rational view of how sharks are essential to the eco-system we call Planet Earth. Throughout I have illustrated the book with my own photographs (apart from one instance). I hope you choose to buy a copy. I'm sure you will enjoy reading what might well be a slightly different take on the subject of diving with sharks. My intention is that it will be enjoyed by as many non-divers as divers and that it would make an interesting Christmas present.In Shark Bytes the rights and wrongs of shark-feeding for the purposes of photography are dealt with and the penultimate chapter is entitled Is The Only Good Shark a Dead Shark? and examines the plight of sharks with an ever diminishing population thanks a to industrialised shark-finning and the dangerous effect that is having on our Planet's environment.
It's had some great reviews. Here's one: