Broadnose sevengill cowshark snapping its jaws

Eventful Dive at Shark Alley… Video Footage!

(Forgive the overly dramatic headline… It’s worthy of a B Grade horror movie!)

Tony has described our encounter with a very confident female sevengill cowshark last weekend. I don’t remember it too clearly – I was very stressed – but watching the camera footage from the incident brought some of it back. Tony’s camera was on the whole time, but he (obviously, and thankfully) was not too concerned with getting good footage. He was more interested in making sure the shark didn’t munch my kit!


What I do remember is sitting on the sand, with Tami and Kate to my right and slightly behind me, and Tony a short distance away also to the right. The shark swam very close to me – so close that I wrapped my arms around my body and pulled my hoses and camera against myself. I don’t think she touched me at this point, but there were only centimetres between us. As she passed me I turned with her to check that Kate was all right (it was her first sevengill dive). The shark then went behind me, and while I could not feel anything, I was aware that she was right in my personal space and had her mouth on some part of my kit.

At that point I buried myself face down in the gravel (so did Kate), and Tami gave the shark a few (her words) “girly slaps” to try and deter it. I remember making some undignified whimpering noises. Tony then swam over and delivered some justice.

It’s hard to tell who’s who in the video, but I have a black mask, my BCD says SEAC on it, and Kate is in a grey wetsuit. Tami’s mask is bright pink and she’s wearing a ScubaPro BCD.

What you can see from the footage is how many times the shark came back – it was persistent, even after Tony had whacked it on the head with his camera – and the large, stressed bubble clouds coming from me, Kate and Tami who were all close together when the shark decided to investigate my pillar valve. None of us had a lot of air left when we reached the shore… My heart was still racing hours afterwards.

Broadnose sevengill cowshark
Broadnose sevengill cowshark

Accounts by surfers who have had trouble with sharks often involve punching the shark on the nose… This female had to be smacked a few times before she got the message – it’s clearly not the cure-all that it’s billed as. However, Tony was avoiding hitting the shark on the tip of her nose, which is supposed to be extremely sensitive, so as not to hurt her. Trust him to be concerned for the shark’s wellfare while it was harrassing us! He said the shark felt VERY solid.

Broadnose sevengill cowshark snapping its jaws
Broadnose sevengill cowshark snapping its jaws

An image that is stuck in my mind from the dive is the cowshark, perhaps a metre and a half away from Tony, with her tail whipping in the water column and her (usually smiling) jaws snapping like Elmo from Sesame Street. Only more scary.

Gordon, a visitor from the UK who was the fifth member of our group (also on his first cowshark dive), told us that he’d been swimming at the back of the group, and that this shark had been tailing us for some 50 metres before she started making trouble. She’d eyed Kate’s fins, and then thought better of it (clearly Gordon’s stern gaze worked wonders)!

Fat broadnose sevengill cowshark
Fat broadnose sevengill cowshark

Cowsharks are generally confident and curious, but this is the first time we’ve experienced anything like this. The will swim close to divers – sometimes very close – but they’ve never initiated contact and in fact when Tony once brushed against one by accident it took off at speed in the opposite direction. I’m not sure what to make of this – just last week the Scuba Shack newsletter spoke of a cowshark that had investigated one of the divers’ pillar valves. Same shark?

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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