Gabon Expedition: First Photo Taken by a Silky Shark

Mike Fay’s exploration of Gabon’s untouched wilderness led to 11% of the country being named national park land. This inspired Enric Sala to explore and help protect similarly pristine areas of the ocean around the world. Now the two explorers go back to the beginning to explore the murky waters off the coast of this African nation.


Our underwater cinematographer Manu San Felix was filming the silky sharks that aggregated around the research vessel of the Waitt Institute, over an underwater canyon off Cap Lopez, Gabon. He used a pole camera from the stern of the vessel, so he was not seeing through the camera view finder, but aiming the pole cam at the sharks with the hope of getting good shots. Two days later he was looking at the footage and realized that, among his video files, there was a photograph. He did not take any still photographs, just video, but he knew exactly what happened. The explanation is that one of the silky sharks that bumped onto his camera pushed the release button of the camera, stopping the video and taking a shot of “one of his friends.” This is the first known photograph of a silky shark taking a photo. Manu already experienced something similar in the past, when a tiger shark grabbed his camera and took a (quite well framed) photo of a turtlegrass bed in the Bahamas.


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Meet the Author
Marine ecologist Dr. Enric Sala is a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence who combines science, exploration and media to help restore marine life. Sala’s scientific publications are used for conservation efforts such as the creation of marine protected areas. 2005 Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellow, 2006 Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation, 2008 Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum.