Yowzer…I loaded the same pictures from my last post onto Facebook last night, and the response has been phenomenal. Imagine my surprise when I get a forwarded forwarded forwarded email from the surf community including my picture as evidence of a huge shark terrorising the surfers at Noordhoek! Well, lads and lasses, a big shark it was, but the terror is misplaced: you can’t see it well on the Facebook photo, but it’s a gentle giant – a Whale Shark. That makes it much more special than “just another” Great White (something I prefer to see from the air than the water, unless I’m on the bottom with a regulator in my mouth), as a sighting of a Whale Shark in the Atlantic is rare. Wikipedia will tell you all about them and their tropical/subtropical range – seldom south of 30 degrees – but I was very tickled to learn that the species was first described when one was harpooned in Table Bay. Yay for African science, bummer for environmental consciousness.
A couple of pictures from the flight:
There’s been some bruhaha about the species and size of the shark, so I referred it to our guru, Johan Anderson, of Wings and Whalesharks fame. Johan flies all sorts of things (and is the man behind the Zee PHG pictured above), but one particular project of his is flying a microlight in the Seychelles for whale shark research and spotting program. He confirms that it is indeed a whale shark (not a great white) and not quite the 7m monster suggested by some sources. As whale sharks grow to around 12m, this is a smallish specimen. For comparison, I’ve cropped together (at precisely the same scale) the shark and surfers, so that you can decide for yourselves.
What a great sighting, and a lovely flight.
UPDATE: This just in – get the story from the surfer’s seaside perspective on the Wavescape website, as well as some expert opinion from more shark experts. Compelling reading…I can imagine the guys in the water had a good tachycardia.