Shark Following Kayaker Photo

A photograph that circulates via email depicts a very large shark following closely behind a kayaker.

Brief Analysis:
The photograph is genuine. It was taken from the September 2005 issue of Africa Geographic.

Subject: Fwd: Is Your Boat too Small
How to tell if your boat is too small! I can’t speak for anyone else, but as for me, this would definitely ruin my day!!
Shark Following Kayaker Photo

Detailed Analysis:
This amazing photograph shows a great white shark trailing a man in a sea kayak. The photograph’s caption explains:

Sitting in a 3.8 meter sea kayak and watching a four meter great white approach you is a fairly tense experience.

Although some have doubted its authenticity, the photograph is genuine. It was taken from the September 2005 issue of Africa Geographic. The article details a study of Great White Sharks in South Africa by biologists Michael C. Scholl and Thomas P. Peschak. Kayaks were used to study the sharks because, unlike the motorized research vessel, they could manoeuvre more easily in shallow or treacherous water and had no engine noise to disturb the sharks’ natural behaviours. The authors explain more about the incident shown in the photograph:

Although we had extensively tested the sharks’ reactions to an empty kayak and had observed no signs of aggression, this gave us little comfort as we eyed a great white heading straight for us, albeit slowly. Just a metre or so from the craft it veered off, circled and slowly approached from behind. It did this several times, occasionally lifting its head out of the water to get a better look. Then it lost interest, and as it continued on its way we were able to follow a short distance behind. Once we’d come to terms with having nothing between ourselves and a four-metre shark except a thin layer of plastic, our kayak made an ideal research platform for observing great white behaviour in shallow water.

The article provides a very interesting insight into Great White Sharks and includes a number of other excellent photographs.

This photograph, along with other shark photographs taken by Michael Scholl and Thomas Peschak, was later reused as part of an April Fools joke perpetrated by a French magazine. After its publication, the story – a fanciful tale involving a Great White Shark’s devotion to a kindly fisherman who once saved its life – began circulating via email and the Internet as a slide show.

Last updated: February 7, 2017
First published: January 18, 2007
By Brett M. Christensen
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