The world’s most frightened shark also proved to be its luckiest after flinging itself clear out of the water and onto some rocks in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands.
Lucky, because not only was someone watching, it was someone who cared enough about sharks to pitch in and save it.
Orca expert Ingrid Visser was cruising the waters near Jacks Bay earlier this week with a Japanese film crew. They had spotted a pod of 16 killer whales and were following it as it chased down stingray and a school of sevengill sharks.
Incredibly, they caught the moment when one of the petrified sharks, caught between a rock and a hard place, chose the rock:
“I’ve seen them come close a couple of times but never that high up onto the rocks out of the water,” Dr Visser told Business Insider.
She began her first shark rescue, and it nearly ended badly when the two-metre fish spun to bite her. It took her four attempts to drag it back into the water, where it may or may not have made it to safety.
Dr Visser said she had no thoughts about her own safety. A quick search shows while there are no known fatalities from sevengill sharks on humans, they are known to bite. There’s even been a couple of high-profile incidents in New Zealand involving them recently.
“They definitely to have a go at people,” she said. “This poor little shark, when I pulled on his tail, he wasn’t happy and he tried to nip me.
“But I had a little bit of an advantage over him and I jumped out of the way.”
Dr Visser said the crew “were absolutely fascinated; they wanted to climb onto the rocks to come and help”. They then watched the orca pod kill no less than five sharks by stunning them with their tails before eating them.
Another sevengill ended up on the rocks, but wriggled back into the water, and a third nearly ended up in Dr Visser’s boat as an orca tried to bite its tail.
Check out this extraordinary shot of an orca-shark face off:
The crew were trying to get footage of Japan’s world record freediver Ai Futaki swimming with the whales for a documentary, and yesterday they succeeded.
Dr Visser said the plan for the documentary was to hopefully show Japanese viewers there were “alternative ways to looking at whales and dolphins than just having them on your plate”.
She’s been studying orca in New Zealand waters for nearly 20 years and together with the Orca Research Trust, is on a mission to educate the public that what they pour down their drains, and particularly, heavy metals, ends up in causing most harm to the ocean’s top-level predators.
“The pod is doing really well but they are eating top predators and we know that top predators have high toxins and accumulated heavy metals and poisons in their body and we’re seeing the same thing with the orca.
“The only thing we can do is try and stop all the stuff that’s running down our rivers and into our oceans. It leaches into the oceans and works its way all the way up to the orca.”
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