Australia Part Four: Sharks!

Filed under: — Anastasia @ 7:05 pm

The shark attraction is one of the highlights of the Mike Ball trips. They’ve been doing it every week for years without incident, but since these are (obviously) wild and potentially dangerous animals, you have to sign away all liability before you suit up:



The dive happened at North Horn, where there’s a sort of natural ‘amphitheater’ formation. A big coral bommie comes up to about 40′; this is the ‘stage’ where the sharks are fed. The bommie is surrounded by coral-covered walls which go up to the surface, and this is the ‘seats’ where the divers are placed to watch the action.

Shea, the divemaster in charge of the event, headed down first. As each buddy team came down the mooring line, he directed them to their spot on the wall, trying to arrange divers so no one’s bubbles would be in the way of a person behind them. To me, the strangest part of the dive was being told to go ahead and sit on the coral, usually an enormous no-no. Considering how many dives have been held here, with divers wedging themselves in between coral heads to stay put during the shark feed, the coral is in surprisingly good shape.

As we settled into our spots, the sharks were already gathering.


When everyone was in place, a tender boat on the surface dropped the feeding apparatus into the water: an old metal trash bin with holes cut into it, which contained a length of chain with tuna heads attached. Shea ran one end of a rope attached to the trash can through some sort of pulley on the bommie (whether man-made and installed, or just a nook in the rock, I can’t say), and slowly hauled the trash can down to the ‘stage.’

Once he had it secured in place, he backed away from the feeding area and yanked on a quick-release cord to pop the top off the trash can. The tuna heads floated up into the water column on their chain, and the sharks went nuts!


And yes, those are potato cod getting in on the action – those guys were fearless, and got a pretty good share of the spoils!

Most of the sharks in the water were white-tipped reef sharks (4-5 feet long) and the more “sharky-looking” gray reef sharks (more in the 10 foot range). A few silvertips – even bigger – appeared in the distance, but didn’t come in for a snack.

Gray Reef Shark with Ramoras:


I tried to keep the camera rolling the whole time, but I was using one hand to keep myself in place on my “seat,” and my camera-hand required occasional breaks from supporting the camera’s weight. Still, I think I managed to capture plenty of action. Below are links to a few clips:

QuickTime (hi res download – 7.5MB)


YouTube (low res streaming)

Eventually the tuna heads were gone, and the action died down. Shea declared the shark-feed portion of the dive officially over, and we were able to leave our “seats” and go scour the bommie for shark teeth. (No luck.)

After a late lunch, we had time for one more dive at North Horn. The tender boats dropped us off in the other direction from the day before, so we could check out the wall on the other side of the amphitheater. With no current, it was a bit of a long swim, but a great way to end our time at Osprey. We saw the occasional leftover shark cruising the reef, and lots of interesting fish, including these little longnose filefish:



As we finally approached the amphitheater, I noticed pairs of parrotfish spawning in the water column up above. They’d twirl around each other and head towards the surface, then release clouds of spawn. Hm. Maybe that explains the chunky visibility.

We had the option to try and squeeze one more dive in, but it would have meant an awfully short surface interval, so we opted out. I had a little twinge in my throat that was making me cough a lot, and worried that I might be coming down with something, so I was perfectly content with a 3-dive day.

Instead of a night dive, Sunday was one of two barbecue nights. The 7-night SpoilSport itinerary is actually two shorter trips; you can do one or bothin a row. About 8 divers would be leaving Monday morning at Lizard Island, where they’d hop on a little plane back to Cairns, and be replaced on board by divers brought up that morning. After dinner we stayed awake just barely long enough to watch the official trip video and photos, and participate in the trip photo contest. With such a huge group of photographers on board, we hoped the contest would be quite an event – alas, very few people chose to join in. Jeff nabbed two of the four winning shots.



My cough started to morph into a sore throat, so I happily crashed in our bunk as soon as the video showing ended. The schedule for Monday would include a morning on Lizard Island, which I was looking forward to despite starting to feel crummy.


  1. That was a great video, Anna! Wow! I’ve never seen so many sharks in my LIFE! :)

    Your adventures make my upcoming “maybe-I’ll-dive, maybe-I-Won’t” look really … wimpy. Your trip looks like a success! I’m glad you had fun. Did you already do an oil rig dive back on the west coast? That’s NUTS!!!

    Take care :)

    Comment by Kathy Brantley — 3/17/2007 @ 8:28 pm

  2. Anna, that is fantastic! It makes me want to go on a shark dive.
    Glad you had such a great time in Australia!

    Comment by Jerry Sehi — 3/19/2007 @ 9:40 am

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