19 September 2011


A whale shark tilts upright and yanks on a net, trying to make off with a fisherman's catch. Credit: ©Michael Aw/National Geographic.

An amazing National Geographic photo essay in the October issue—due on newsstands 27 September—tells of the novel relationship between whale sharks and fishermen off Papua, Indonesia.

Vying for position under a feeding platform, male whale sharks—two of about twenty that visit this spot—scramble for a snack. Credit: ©Michael Aw/National Geographic.

Normally these 50,000-pound/22,680-kilogram behemoths are tough to find. They cross ocean basins and can dive more than a mile/1.6 kilometers deep. Some travel to Australia's Ningaloo Reef for the annual coral spawning—a feast for filter feeders. No one yet knows where they mate or give birth.

Sarmin Tangadji, the Papua police officer who escorted the photographic team to where the sharks congregate, was so excited to see them up close that he jumped in. Credit: ©Michael Aw/National Geographic.

Whale sharks also gather off Papua, where artisanal fishermen—hoping to keep their nets and catches intact—offer the whale sharks food. 

From the National Geographic article Sharing With Sharks

Whale sharks are ordinarily loners. But not in one corner of Indonesia. The photographs on these pages, shot some eight miles off the province of Papua, reveal a group of sharks that call on fishermen each day, zipping by one another, looking for handouts near the surface, and nosing the nets—a rare instance when the generally docile fish act, well, like the rest of the sharks.

You can see all the images and read the photo essay here.
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