"There are sharks everywhere, there's a lot more than I thought."
Yeah, you’ve heard of Esperance, place with the prettiest white sand beaches in the world and water so blue you’d swear some deity had been a little too heavy on the saturation slider.
Also, and as you know, heavy on the Great White traffic.
In October last year, a local surfer Andrew Sharpe was taken whole by a Great White while shredding a joint called Kelpies. A few years earlier, teenage surfer Laticia Brouwers died in front of her family after being hit by a Great White in 2017; same place Sean Pollard, 23, had an arm and another hand bitten off by a Great White in 2014 and a few clicks away from where diver Gary Johnson was killed by a White in January, 2020.
The state’s premier, channelling Marie Antoinette, said at the time, “There’s always a risk when you go in the water.”
(After being told the peasants were starving Dauphine Marie Antoinette said, “If there’s no bread why don’t they eat brioche?”)
Local port worker and keen diver and filmer James Hooper (@roadimtravelling) was in Lucky Bay, in the Cape Le Grand National Park there just south-east of Esperance, readying for a dive when he sent his drone up to spot for sharks. And by sharks, Whites, not the myriad other mostly harmless species that inhabit this gorgeous stretch of Southern Ocean.
“Last week we saw what was probably a White, four metres long (13-feet), then another one the night before,” says Hooper.
The bird goes up and Hooper sees a ten-foot shark, which looks a helluva lot like a Great White from above, following a couple of spearfishos.
“The chick I was with, Simone (@troopy_travellers), who’s a marine biologist, took off and legged it,” says Hooper, who flew the drone low over the swimmers and dipped its wings to warn ‘em that there was a shark. “She had to run a k and a half (one mile) to warn ‘em. Sharks are so stealth they had no idea what was going on. There’s nothing you can do you’re fucking helpless.”
As Hooper watched, the spearfisho got out of the water, then went back in solo.
“I thought he was done and dusted, so why is he swimming back out? You see the shark watching him and following him. Then the guy sees the shark…”
And, here, Italian Riccardo Trebbi (@riccardo_wmc) who was equipped with a GoPro on his goggles and who was with his girlfriend Jenny (@tutubirdie), on her first foray into the spear game, takes up the story.
“I saw the drone flying really low, swinging left and right trying to tell us something. I didn’t think too much of it and was about to flip him (the bird). I went back in the water, then saw the shark. I thought, let him swim past, no drama, but as he swims past me he turns to me. Fuck! What do I do now! A friend of mine told me to poke ‘em on the nose with the spear or if you’re surfing, punch ‘em on the nose. I tried to poke it and it opens its mouth and had a bite of the spear. It wasn’t going away. After a while it gave up and swam away.”
An examination of the footage revealed that while it looked like a White from above it was, likely, a Dusky Whaler, a vaguely dangerous fish but one that ain’t got a rep for hitting humans.
Still, as Hooper says, you might wanna keep a bird in the air when diving or surfing round these parts.
“They’re fucking everywhere,” says Hooper, who is new to the drone game. There are a lot more than I thought.”