By Mark McConville
INCREDIBLE images have captured one brave photographer being swarmed by scores of 300-pound sharks as he joined them in the water.
The stunning pictures show Blacktip Reef sharks surrounding the photographer after he hopped off a boat to get a better shot.
Other spectacular photographs show the Blacktip Reef sharks under the water in amazing over/underwater split shots.
The action snaps were taken in French Polynesia, Tuamotus Archipelago, by world-renowned marine photojournalist Stephen Frink (68) from Key Largo, Florida, USA.
“The blacktip reef sharks are from an encounter at a site known as the “Blue Lagoon” in Rangiroa,” he said.
“It is a nursery for blacktip reef sharks and they reside in great abundance there. It is also a popular excursion for the resorts on Rangiroa and the boats frequently feed fish scraps to the reef sharks there, so they are accustomed to coming near the boats.
“When I saw them schooling near our boat I asked permission to get in the water with them. Initially, the captain was very reluctant to allow this, as there have been some people bitten by these sharks, although I don’t know the circumstance of that.
“Ultimately, they captain recognized that I had experience with sharks over the years, and allowed me in the water to photograph with both my housed underwater camera and my above-water camera.
“I wasn’t sure how the sharks would react to my presence among them. As it turned out, it was a very benign encounter, and I never felt alarmed or threatened.”
The blacktip reef shark is difficult to approach and seldom poses a danger to humans unless roused by food. However, people wading through shallow water are at risk of having their legs mistakenly bitten.
Adult blacktip reef sharks are about five-feet long and can weigh up to 300-pounds.
Stephen, who also publishes Alert Diver magazine, loves being in the water with the animals and believes they deserve protection.
“I love being in the marine wilderness, where these animals reside,” he explained.
“The travel is a big part of the thrill, as are the encounters. It is always about getting close, making sure the animals trust me enough to allow proximity.
“Some seem to think it strange I would be comfortable immersed among sharks like this, but the reality is that there was no aggressive behaviour exhibited.”
“The ocean and its inhabitants are beautiful, and deserve protection. Sharks, in particular, are threatened by overfishing, merely for their fins in a cruel and barbaric exploitative fishery.
“#FinBanNow is an initiative I have been working on with the conservation group Oceana.”