Skip to main content

Shortfin makos, the fastest shark of all.

A Mako shark make a half-hearted attempt to grab a cape petrel. Copyright Colin Munro Photography

When one thinks of sharks one thinks of sleek, powerful predators that appear to cruise effortlessly but are capable of dazzling bursts of speed when they attack prey.  This image of the shark is exemplified by the shortfin mako.

A Mako shark make a half-hearted attempt to grab a cape petrel. Copyright Colin Munro Photography

A Mako shark make a half-hearted attempt to grab a cape petrel.

It is believed to be capable of bursts of speed up to 50 km per hour, some references give even greater speeds, and is generally accepted as being the fastest of all sharks.  Makos are built for speed.  I have yet to get in the water with a mako – it is one of my goals for this year.  In the meantime I have an unexpected surface encounter off Kaikoura to savour. Kaikoura, as many of you will know, is a small town on the north east coast of New Zealand’s South Island.  It is famous as one of the best places in the World for whale watching, especially sperm whales.  It also came the wider world’s attention in November 2016, when the region was struck by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake, cutting off road and rail links to the town, uplifting areas of seabed and causing a localised tsunami up to 7 metres in height. When we visited in February 2017, road connections were still disrupted and whale watching boats had difficulty operating due to sea level changes affecting there berthing alongside.  The town, highly dependent on tourism, was suffering markedly.  We were not there to look for whales though, we were looking for dolphin and albatross. Kaikoura may be most famous for whales, but it is also a fantastic place to see many species of albatross up close, and it was albatross and dolphin we were there to see.

Albatross squabble over food. Kaikoura, New Zealand. Copyright Colin Munro Photography

Albatross squabble over food. Kaikoura, New Zealand.

Whilst the big whales grab most of the international headlines, the sheer drama of seeing several species of albatross up close – really close – soaring, wheeling and plunging down to feed, is pretty hard to beat.  Nor was it just the albatrosses and giant petrels that noticed the food  in the water.  The scent of chum in the water attracted in predators from below also.  A dark triangular fin broke the surface and began weaving through the wary seabirds.  The shark was a juvenile mako, approximately 5-6ft (1.5-1.8m) long. Whilst clearly drawn towards us by the fish scraps in the water, it then became interested in the birds splashing around.

An albatross warily eyes the mako shark, whilst a westland petrel flaps away from the sharks path. Copyright Colin Munro Photography

An albatross warily eyes the mako shark, whilst a westland petrel flaps away from the sharks path.

The great albatrosses eyed the shark with a mixture of wariness and belligerence; with a wingspan probably exceeding the length of the shark they may have seemed a little large to tackle.  The smaller petrels were more anxious.  It made a grab for one cape petrel that did not move out of its path fast enough, but the attack seemed have hearted and the petrel skittered away easily enough.  There was probably enough fish remains floating in the water to keep the shark happy. Makos will occasionally take seabirds, but mostly feed on pelagic fish species such as mackerel, herring and anchovies.  Larger individuals have been found to have young seals and even common dolphins in their stomachs, as well as billfish such as marlin.  Common dolphins and marlin are both renowned for their speed, so whilst it is possible that these were injured individuals snapped up by the mako, it is also these fell prey to the makos lightening speed.

 

 

Rabaul and Grove Island: shaped by volcanos

Two young boys playing in an old inner tube, Garove Island, Vitu Islands, Bismark Sea, Papua New Guinea. Colpyright Colin Munro

It has been quite a while since my last blog post.  During the past five months I have been travelling a lot, mostly with limited internet and often with limited time to write.  So a catch up is long overdue.  Since December 2016 I have been working in New Zealand, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, New Georgia, The Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, The Philippines, Ecuador, Colombia. I started writing this in Panama, as we passed through the Panama Canal in to the Atlantic.  Almost three weeks later I am now in the south of France, driving through the Medoc vineyards, and this blog is still not complete!  I use the excuse that time to write is generally limited to late nights in airport departure lounges or the odd hour snatched in cafes or bumpy coach journeys. However, I have run out of excuses so now must buckle down and finish the damn thing.  So here goes.

A local boy in a dugout canoe paddles by us. Garove Island, Vitu Islands, Bismark Sea, Papua New Guinea. Copyright Colin Munro

A local boy in a dugout canoe paddles by us. Garove Island, Vitu Islands, Bismark Sea, Papua New Guinea.

 

A significant chunk of February was spent in Papua New Guinea.  This was not a country I had visited before, nor one I knew a great deal about.  The little I did know was limited to snippets such as lurid tales of cannibals, penis-sheathed hill tribesmen, the rascals of Port Morsbey and the effects of mining on the country.

 

We arrived in Papua New Guinea at the port city of Rabaul. A recent Lonely Planet guidebook described Rabaul thus: ‘Walking the lonely streets of eastern Rabaul is like stepping into an apocalyptic film’.  Spending a day there I can understand what they meant.  Rabaul is something of a ghost town. In September, 1994, Mount Tavurvur erupted, burying much of Rabaul and Simpson Harbour under thousands of tons of ash.  The ash that rained down destroyed most of the buildings in Rabaul.  This was the second major eruption in living memory.  In 1937 Mount Tavurvur erupted and almost totally destroyed Rabaul.  These two eruptions, along with the continuing low level activity, have inhibited rebuilding and development, so although the fantastic natural harbour is still in use as a commercial port, the streets immediately beyond have an aura of post-apocalyptic desolation.  That being said, it is only a few blocks walk to the open air market.  When we arrived this was a pretty busy place, with bananas, peppers, sweet potato, and tobacco for sale.  Rabaul did not feel unsafe, nor unfriendly, simply down on its luck.  A couple of general stores were all that was open.  It did not seem like the sort of place that would have a café, let alone a restaurant.

 

Garove Island.

Our next port of call was Garove Island.  Garove island is essentially the exposed tip of Garove Volcano, a largely submarine volcano in the Bismarck Sea, some 40 miles north of New Britain Island.  The island itself is a shaped like a giant donut, some 7 nautical miles in diameter.  This ring of land is in fact the emerged rim of the volcano caldera.  A mile-wide breach in south side of this rim allows ship entry to the large body of sheltered water within, known as Johann Albrecht harbour (presumably named after Johan Albrecht de Mandelslo, the 17th Century German traveller – by accounts a rather colourful character – rather than Johnan Albrecht the Russian diplomat, Johan Albrecht the German theologian or even Johan Albrecht the 17th Century German prophet , but who knows; I have not been able to find any information detailing why the harbour is so named).

 

Two young boys playing in an old inner tube, Garove Island, Vitu Islands, Bismark Sea, Papua New Guinea. Colpyright Colin Munro

Two young boys playing in an old inner tube, Garove Island, Vitu Islands, Bismark Sea, Papua New Guinea.

 

 

Unlike lagoons within coral atolls, this harbour is not shallow, most of it is over 100 metres deep.  Thus snorkelling (or SCUBA diving for that matter) is limited to the steep walls of the caldera or a small, shallow area on the east side on the harbour.  This shallow area lies between a little un-named island and the inner wall of Garove Island. A glance at a chart reveals that this island is, in fact, the tip of a rocky promontory projecting in to the caldera.  Apart from the island-forming tip, the rest of the promontory lies just a few metres below the surface.  This was where we chose to run our snorkelling operation.  As one might expect on such a small patch of shallow seabed surrounded by deep water, the coral present was quite limited.

Soft corals, Johann Albrecht harbour, Garove Island, Vitu Islands, Bismark Sea, Papua New Guinea. Copyright Colin Munro

Soft corals, Johann Albrecht harbour, Garove Island, Vitu Islands, Bismark Sea, Papua New Guinea.

There were quite a few soft corals and a few sponges though, so the area was interesting if not terribly diverse.  The presence of significant numbers of white people and two Zodiac inflatables piqued the curiosity of a couple of young local boys playing in the water nearby.  They were having fun splashing around in an old vehicle tire inner tube when they spotted us.  Wearing big grins, they paddled across to us, the older boy sculling with what looked like a small piece of driftwood. The younger towed a towed a little, hand-made wooden boat attached to a pole and string.  Quite what they made of us is hard to know.

Sponge, Garove Island, Papua New Guinea. Copyright Colin Munro

Sponge, Garove Island, Papua New Guinea

They spoke no English and we did not know what language they spoke (there are 840 extant languages listed for PNG; English is an official language but spoken only by a tiny percentage of the country’s population).  Thus our communication was limited to smiles, waves and thumbs ups, but that was okay.  Garove Island, with its lush vegetation, warm clear waters and (at least from our snapshot perspective) idyllic lifestyle seemed as far removed as could be from the dusty dreariness of Rabaul.  But of course snapshot impressions of tropical paradises all too often fail to capture underlying problems of poverty, lack of opportunity, and health problems, so I make the comparison cautiously.  Both Rabaul and Garove island have been shaped by volcanos.  Rabaul more recently and more catastrophically.  Garove is the visible remains of a stratovolcano (reports of most recent eruptions vary from tens of thousands of years to possibly only a few hundred years ago).

I finally finish this blog in a small cafe in Oban, in the West Highlands of Scotland.  I promise the next one will not take so long.

The basking shark

Large basking shark feeding
Large basking shark feeding

Large basking shark feeding

I clearly remember my first in-water encounter with a basking shark.  Quite a few years ago now, I had gone out specifically to try and video a basker underwater.  After a couple of hours we spotted a pair slowly circling a ball of plankton.  I slipped mask, fins and snorkel on and slid in to the water.  Basking sharks can be sometimes be wary and dive when one gets close, but these two seemed quite unconcerned by my presence.  I floated on the edge of the plankton ball and watched them circling.  As one approached out of the gloom I started to swim towards it.  Even through you know it’s quite harmless it is still a strange feeling watching a six metre long shark swimming straight towards you with its mouth wide open.  A mouth I could easily fit inside.  At the last moment the shark would alter course slightly and cruise past me.  The experience was similar to standing too close to the edge of the platform watching a train go past.  Again and again the sharks would circle and cruise past, sweeping by less than a metre from me.  Just me and two large sharks.  It was a mesmerising experience, but I could not help thinking ‘this is so easy!’ Little did I realise at the time quite how lucky my encounter was.  Several years and quite a few attempts would pass before I was able to repeat the experience.

The basking shark, Cetorhinus maximus, is the second largest fish in the World. Mature adults commonly reach between six and and seven metres in length, occasionally reaching around nine metres. Despite their massive size basking sharks are quite harmless. They are gentle filter feeders. During summer in the north-east Atlantic they can often be seen swimming close to the surface with their mouths gaping wide. A baskers’ gape can be over a metre top to bottom, so that’s pretty wide. As they swim forwards water is forced in to their mouths, passing across their gills where oxygen is extracted, and out through their large gill slits. This water flow serves a dual purpose. The arches between the gill slits are covered in long stiff bristles called gill rakers. These gill rakers sieve the water flow, retaining planktonic organisms. This is the food of basking sharks. In northern Atlantic waters they feed especially on copepods (planktonic crustaceans) particularly those of the genus Calanus, which occur in enormous numbers in the North Atlantic. Large numbers of such tiny creatures are required to sustain something as large as a basking shark.  Therefore baskers need to filter very large volumes of water.  It has been estimated that around 1.3 million litres of water will pass through the mouth and over the gill rakers of a large basking shark every hour.

Basking shark feeding, showing large gill slits the almost encircle its head

Basking shark feeding, showing large gill slits the almost encircle its head

In the North East Atlantic basking sharks start to appear off the tip of Cornwall (SW England) in early May.  This co-incides with what local fishermen call ‘May-water’, where the coastal seas turn green and turbid due to the seasonal population explosion of plankton.  Throughout the summer months sharks will move northwards through the Irish Sea and around the west coast of Ireland.  In the years immediately following WWII the author Gavin Maxwell ran a basking shark fishery from the island of Soay in the Inner Hebrides, exploiting this northward seasonal migration. The operation was beset with problems and drove him to the edge of bankruptcy.  Basking sharks were hunted by Norwegian and Irish boats also. Due to concern over dwindling numbers, the basking shark received full legal protection in  U.K. waters in 1998.  The last British shark fisherman, a larger than life character called Howard McCrindle, ceased operations a year earlier.  The basking shark is now protected throughout E.U. waters. In 2006 hunting also ended in Norwegian waters.

A basking shark swimming through plankton rich waters off Southwest England

A basking shark swimming through plankton rich waters off Southwest England

Despite their large size, relatively slow movement and surface feeding habits there is much that remains unknown about the life history of basking sharks. Each year the they appear in late spring, then disappear again at the end of September.  Where they go and how they live for the rest of the year has been a mystery, and remains so today, though we are starting to get tantalising clues as to the the answer.  Occasionally, basking sharks would be caught in trawl nets during the winter months.  Some of these were found to have shed their gill rakers, suggesting they were not feeding.  This lead to the theory that they became dormant in winter, hibernating on the seabed.  This theory had a certain plausibility to it.  Basking sharks have enormous oil-filled livers.  The liver can be 25% of the sharks body mass (the low density oil gives the shark buoyancy, allowing it to swim efficiently at the surface; it was also this high quality oil for which they were hunted). It was suggested that this enormous store of liver oil could sustain the shark for months without feeding. Recent research using data logging tags has begun to shed light on shark behaviour during the winter months.  The tags used detach after a predetermined time and float to the surface, where they transmit the data data to satellites. The data at the time of writing indicates that basking sharks are active all year round, but spent much of their time at considerable depth, 200 and 1,000 metres.  It also seems they are highly migratory.  One 5 metre female nicknamed ‘Banba’, was tagged off Malin Head, the most northerly point of Ireland, in the summer of 2012.  On the 13th December 2012 the tag popped off and was located by satellite – just west of the Cape Verde islands 5000km to the south.  The still sparse, but growing, body of evidence now suggests that – in the North East Atlantic move in to coastal waters from deep water in April or May.  As the water warms and daylight lengthens (and so plankton blooms) there is an erratic movement northwards.  At the end of the summer they return to deeper water, heading west away from the British isles and mail and Europe, and some probably heading south also.  So in reality we should maybe consider the basking shark as a deep water species that happens to congregate in shallow water during the summer months in pursuit of rich feeding.

As a final aside it is often written that basking sharks are toothless filter feeders. Basking sharks are filter feeders utilising gill rakers in a similar fashion to the baleen plates of great whales to trap small planktonic creatures but surprisingly they also teeth.  In fact they have hundreds of tiny, backward-pointing teeth.  What, if any, purpose these teeth serve is not known.  They may be a vestige from a more predatory ancestry; equally there may be more still to learn of the basking sharks feeding habits.

You can see more of my shark images here

The extraordinary life cycle of the lion’s mane jellyfish

Lion's mane jellyfish, Cyanea capillata, underwater clearly showing tentacles trailing in many directions. Colin Munro Photography

Jellyfish, or sea jellies as they are now often called (clearly they are not fish) are amongst the most ancient of multi-organ animals.  Fossils of jellyfish (or scyphozoans, to give them their scientific name) are found only rarely as they contain no hard structures within their bodies, which are 95% water.  However, under the right conditions fossils of soft bodied creatures will form; current fossil evidence suggests they first evolved at least 500 million years ago.

Lion's mane jellyfish, Cyanea capillata, underwater clearly showing tentacles trailing in many directions. Colin Munro Photography

The lion’s mane jellyfish, Cyanea capillata, is the largest known species. The bell of individuals in colder northern waters can reach two metres across.

The lion’s mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata) common throughout the North Atlantic, epitomises this image of a large, slowly pulsing, gelatinous bell (or medusa) and long trailing tentacles that pack a powerful sting, but this is in fact only one stage of a complex life cycle.  Lion’s mane medusae begin to appear in April or May in the Northern Atlantic, but are quite tiny at that stage.  These jellies are voracious predators and grow rapidly through the summer.  By August the medusae are commonly one third to half a metre across, with trailing tentacles many metres long.  However there is considerable variability;  large specimens have been reported at over two metres across with tentacles up to 37 metres long, though these generally occur within the more northern parts  of their range.  As they grow large in late summer they will often drift, under the influence of wind and tides, in to sheltered bays where they may aggregate in large numbers. This is when sperm is release and egg fertilisation takes place.  In common with most scyphozoans (the taxonomic group to which jellyfish belong) the sexes are separate; lion’s mane jellies are either male or female.  Sperm is released from the mouth of male jellies and drifts in the current, some reaching female jellies, where the eggs are fertilised. Fertilised eggs are stored in the oral tentacles of the female, where thy develop in to tiny planulae larvae. Once fully developed the planulae larvae detach and, after drifting for a short time, settle on the seabed.  Here they metamorphose into a polyp, not dissimilar to tiny sea anemones or coral polyps (both of which are relatives of jellyfish).  These polyps then grow, taking on a layered appearance until they resemble a stack of wavy-edged pancakes.  Each one of these ‘pancake layers’ will then separate from the parent polyp, once again becoming free living and drifting with the currents.  The ‘pancakes’, more properly ephyra larvae, will grow throughout the summer into the giant lion’s mane jellies and the cycle is complete.  With a lifespan on only one year, during which they can grow to be as long (possibly even longer) than blue whale, lion’s mane jellies need to catch and consume considerable amount of prey.  Each trailing tentacle is packed full of vast numbers of stinging cells, known as nematocysts.  When touched these cells fire out a harpoon-like structure which pumps toxins in to the hapless victim (this is what causes the painful sting from jellyfish).  These toxins incapacitate the prey, which is then drawn up towards the mouth of the jellyfish.  A large lion’s mane may have over 1,000 tentacles trailing far behind them.  Many SCUBA divers in Scotland and Scandinavia have experienced the situation where, having completed their dive on a sunken wreck and returned to the buoy line they planned to ascent to the surface, only to look up and see numerous lion’s mane jellies strung out along the line.  As the current sweeps the jellies along so their tentacles catch on the buoy line, leaving the divers with the unpleasant prospect of ascending through thousands of jellyfish tentacles.

A diver warily watches a large lion's mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata) drift past. Isle of Arran, West Scotland.

A diver warily watches a large lion’s mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata) drift past. Isle of Arran, West Scotland.

Not every creature lives in fear of lion’s mane jellies however.  Leatherback turtles, the only species of marine turtle that can tolerate the cold waters these jellies inhabit, consume them with relish, apparently oblivious to the stinging tentacles.  Lion’s mane jellies can make up 80-100% of a leatherback’s diet.  When you consider that a full grown leatherback weighs up to 800kg and may consume up to its own weight in jellyfish daily (bear in mind jellyfish are 95% water) then that equates to pretty large numbers of jellyfish being eaten.

As summer wanes and autumn approaches the lion’s mane jellies begin to die.  This provides a feeding bonanza for many scavengers.  On the surface seabirds will peck away at the gelatinous bell, whilst those that sink are often torn to shreds by shore crabs (Carcinus meanus) and velvet swimming crabs (Necora puber).

Dying lion's mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata) that has sunk to the seabed being eaten by a velvet swimming crab (Necora puber).

Dying lion’s mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata) that has sunk to the seabed being eaten by a velvet swimming crab (Necora puber).

At the other end of the scale these deadly tentacles can provide refuge to some unlikely creatures.  Juvenile whiting (Gadus melangus) have long been known to swim underneath the bell of lion’s mane jellies, apparently unconcerned by the curtain of tentacles they weave between. In fact they have been observed to rush into the mane of tentacles when startled by predators.  A series of fascinating experiments by the Swedish zoologist Erik Dahl in the late 1950s showed that, compared to other fish species, juvenile whiting were able to adapt their movements such that even when surrounded by tentacles they rarely came in to contact with them.  Also, unlike other fish species, when they did brush against them it seemed to cause them little concern. Biopsies of the tissue of whiting where they had contacted tentacles showed that very few if any stinging nematocysts had fired into the fish’s body; this compared to hundreds per square millimetre for other fish species.  We still don’t understand the mechanism behind this protection. So does the lion’s mane get anything in return for the refuge afforded the young whiting?  Well another creature found on lion’s mane jellies is the tiny planktonic amphipod (a type of crustacean) Hyperia galba. Hyperia is, for the jellies, a rather irritating ectoparasite. It lives on the outside of the jellies’ bell, nibbling away at it.  Now whiting don’t appear to like the taste of lion’s mane jellies, instead they are rather partial to planktonic crustaceans; in particular (you’ve guessed this already) Hyperia galba.   It is these elegant little symbiotic collaborations that make nature so beautiful.

These, and many more of my images, can be found at colinmunroimages.com

Sign up to my newsletter

Orcas and Common Seals: Summer in Norway and Scotland

A curious common seal, Shiant Islands, Hebrides, Scotland. Copyright Colin Munro

I’ve spent most of this summer sailing along the coast off Western Scotland and Norway, with a brief swing by the Faroe Islands. I think this includes some of the most dramatic scenery in the World and some of the best marine wildlife.  From the wild remoteness of St. Kilda to the sheer majesty of Troll Fjord there is little that betters the coastline of the northeast Atlantic.  The one downside is that internet has been working only intermittently and then at a glacially slow speed.  However it has been a great trip for marine mammals, with regular sightings of grey and common seals, harbour porpoise, common and bottlenose dolphins and even the occasional orca and sperm whale.  So whilst siting in a bar in Bergen on a chilly and rainy August evening I thought I’d take the opportunity to upload a few images of orcas (Orcinus orca) and common seals (Phoca vitulina).

Male orca cruising off the Lofoten Islands, Norway. copyright Colin Munro

Male orca cruising off the Lofoten Islands, Norway

We were lucky with around the Lofoten Islands, where a small family group of orcas altered course to swim alongside us for a few minutes, rather like overgrown dolphins (which is exactly what orcas are).

 

A female orca (or killer whale) Orcinus orca, cruising along near the Lofoten Islands, Norway.

A female orca (or killer whale) Orcinus orca, cruising along near the Lofoten Islands, Norway.

The western isles are always good for seals, with common seals pupping whilst we were there.  We had particularly good sightings around the Shiant Islands and The Isle of Skye, where both common seals and grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) occur together.

A curious common seal, Shiant Islands, Hebrides, Scotland. Copyright Colin Munro

A curious common seal, Shiant Islands, Hebrides, Scotland.

Very often they would pop up behind our Zodiac, always at a safe distance, but curious as to what we were doing.

A common seal cruises with its eyes and nostrils just above the water. Dunvegan, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Copyright Colin Munro. www.colinmunroimages.com Colin Munro Photography

A common seal cruises with its eyes and nostrils just above the water. Dunvegan, Isle of Skye, Scotland.

With only the tops of their heads, eyes and nostrils visible, seals can be tricky to spot. A glance in their direction frequently results in a loud splash as they duck dive out of sight, rather like inquisitive but shy children.

Common seals playing on rocks, Shiant Isles, Hebrides, Scotland.  Harbor seals, copyright Colin Munro www.colinmunroimages.com

Common seals playing on rocks, Shiant Isles, Hebrides, Scotland.

Basking on the rocks they were often quite playful.

Female common seal or harbour seal, Phoca vitulina,  dozing on the rocks, Dunvegan, Isle of Skye. Copyright Colin Munro Colin Munro Photography www.colinmunroimages.com

Female common seal or harbour seal, Phoca vitulina, dozing on the rocks, Dunvegan, Isle of Skye

Colin Munro Photography

Facebook: Colin Munro Photography

My stock images : www.colinmunroimages.com

Sign up to my newsletter

Fine art prints and canvas wraps printed in the USA

Fulmars and gannets over stormy seas, St Kilda, West Scotland. Colin Munro. www.colinmunroimages.com

I’ve recently decided to make some of my photographs available as fine art prints and canvas prints through a print vendor based in the US.

Fulmars and gannets over stormy seas, St Kilda, West Scotland. Colin Munro. www.colinmunroimages.com

Fulmars and gannets over stormy seas, St Kilda, West Scotland.

These can now be in a wide range of fine art print sizes, rolled canvas prints and stretched canvas wraps (canvas on wooden frames).  These can be browsed and purchased direct from my website www.colinmunroimages.com.  Printing and delivery is handled by EZ Prints. EZ prints are a large-scale printing facility based out of Norcross, Georgia, USA, whose innovative technology and personalization expertise combine to deliver affordable and easily accessible prints and products.

Hound Tor, Dartmoor, Devon, fine art print

Hound Tor, Dartmoor

All EZ Prints orders are processed in a state-of-the-art manufacturing plant using the latest digital printing components.  This process is fully integrated within my website.

Sunrise over the Navua River, Viti Levu, Fiji. Colin Munro Photography www.colinmunroimages.com

Sunrise over the Navua River, Viti Levu, Fiji

 

Printing within the US allows far cheaper shipping costs within the US and Canada. Print sizes from 10″ x 15″ to 24″ x 36″ are available.  www.colinmunroimages.com

 

Not quite Phileas Fogg

The katuali or flat-tail sea snake (Laticauda schistorhynchus) is a type of sea snake, or more precisely a krait, found only around Nuie Island in the South Pacific. There is some debate as to whether it is a seperate species or a sub-species of the black-banded sea krait (Laticauda semifasciata) also known as the Chinese sea snake. Colin Munro Photography www.colinmunroimages.com

I have been very lucky recently.  In the past 12 months alone my work has taken me to around 23 countries. Whilst not quite in the slipstream of Phileas Fogg it has nonetheless been something of a wild roller-coaster ride.  This has enabled me to greatly increase the range of my stock images, from orang utans to komodo dragons and Pitcairn Island to St Kilda.  The down side (I know, I know…. I’m not complaining) is that time to sort, edit, key-word and upload this exponentially growing back catalogue has been in short supply.

American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) lying on a muddy river bank, Tempisque River, Costa Rica. www.colinmunroimages.com

American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) lying on a muddy river bank, Tempisque River, Costa Rica.

Often this has been limited to brief spells in cafes or airport departure lounges with sluggish WiFi.  However, the up side of a recent accident and a few weeks enforced recuperation in one country has been  time to sit down and tackle the rather daunting task of sorting through almost a terabyte or raw images.

The katuali or flat-tail sea snake (Laticauda schistorhynchus) is a type of sea snake, or more precisely a krait, found only around Nuie Island in the South Pacific.  There is some debate as to whether it is a seperate species or a sub-species of the black-banded sea krait (Laticauda semifasciata) also known as the Chinese sea snake. Colin Munro Photography www.colinmunroimages.com

The katuali or flat-tail sea snake (Laticauda schistorhynchus) is a type of sea snake, or more precisely a krait, found only around Nuie Island in the South Pacific.

I am now doggedly sifting through these and uploading to my stoc images website www.colinmunroimages.com.  This is a seachable site, where named galleries can be browsed (e.g. Norway, Cape Verde islands, Fish, Seabirds) or images can be searched by keyword, geographical area and other parameters.  The opening page links to a small number of showcase galleries which I will rotate as I update galleries.

Grey-headed kingfisher(Halcyon leucocephala) Cape Verde Islands, West Africa. Colin Munro Photography www.colinmunroimages.com

Grey-headed kingfisher(Halcyon leucocephala) Cape Verde Islands, West Africa

So if you haven’t checked out www.colinmunroimages.com yet why not give it a few minutes during your next coffee break.  If you have, then come back again next week and hopefully there will be updates since last time.  Either way, if you have any comments or requests then please get in touch colin@colinmunrophotography.com.

colinmunro

Blue sharks, graceful sea wolves

Blue shark, Prionace glauca. A female blue shark swimming close to the surface off Southwest Cornwall, UK.

The blue shark, Prionace glauca, is possibly the most beautiful of sharks.  It is a slender, fast and graceful shark, but it is the vivid, almost electric blue colouration that is most striking.

Blue shark, Prionace glauca. A female blue shark swimming close to the surface off Southwest Cornwall, UK.

A blue shark passes close by.

Blues are oceanic sharks, uncommon in shallow coastal waters.  In the tropics they are normally found in deeper, cooler waters, but in temperate seas they are more likely to be found in surface waters (thus are described as being epipelagic).  This does not mean that in temperate waters they occur only in the warmer surface layers.  Recent data from satellite tags have shown that they blues may regularly undertake dives to more than 1000 metres.  One male blue shark, nicknamed Bodi by the researchers, was logged as having dived to 1250 metres off the Bay of Plenty (New Zealand) three weeks after being tagged in 2013.  An earlier joint British- Portuguese study recorded a female blue shark diving to 1160 metres off the coast of Portugal (Queiroz et al, 2012).   This behaviour is probably linked to hunting activity.  Blue sharks are quite catholic in their diet, eating a wide range of mid-water fish and cephalopods,  but appear to be particularly fond of squid, and of course squid will often undertake marked vertical migrations, with many species occurring at considerable depth.  That this deep diving behaviour of blues is primarily foraging for food is supported by a preponderance of deep water quid species found in the gut of contents of blue sharks caught by long-lines, in particular the wonderfully named vampire squid, Vampyroteuthis infernalis, a small deep-water squid those scientific name literally translates as the vampire squid from hell.

In the northern Atlantic at least, they appear to undertake seasonal migrations. They are unusual amongst ocean sharks in that they will sometimes aggregate in groups, often all same sex, as they roam.  This pack-like activity has lead to them being dubbed the wolves of the sea.  Around Southwest Britain blue sharks start to appear in June each year, and hang around until late October or early November.  Although there have been attacks on humans by blue sharks, aggressive behaviour is relatively rare.  Certainly in British waters, where large blues are rarely seen, most are quite timid and easy to scare off accidentally.  The largest blue caught in UK waters was approximately 2.5 metres long and weighed 107kg. This was caught off Penzance, Cornwall, in 2012 (but was also released).  Blues can grow up to 3.5 metres or more (the largest on record was 3.83 metres long) the females being significantly larger than males.

Blue shark, Prionace glauca. A female blue shark swimming close to the surface off Southwest Cornwall, UK.

Blue shark, Prionace glauca. A female blue shark swimming close to the surface off Southwest Cornwall, UK.

An underwater encounter with a blue shark is a wonderful experience, and provided one takes sensible precautions (i.e. wearing gloves, not wearing shiny bits of equipment and NOT trying to feed them) is normally quite safe.  Blue sharks have been one the shark species hardest hit by the practice of shark fining in various parts of the World and there numbers appear to have declined markedly.  Consequently it’s worth remembering that most blue sharks have far more cause to fear us that vice versa.

The above, and more of my blue shark images, can be found on my stock image website www.colinmunroimages.com. They can be licensed for publication, or purchased as fine art prints and canvas wall art.

If you enjoyed this post why not subscribe to my blog (see box on right) and like my facebook page .

 

References cited: Queiroz N, Humphries NE, Noble LR, Santos AM, Sims DW (2012) Spatial Dynamics and Expanded Vertical Niche of Blue Sharks in Oceanographic Fronts Reveal Habitat Targets for Conservation. PLoS ONE 7(2): e32374. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032374

 

Stock images website: landscape, environment, underwater, wildlife and travel.

Stock images website: landscape, environment, underwater, wildlife and travel.

I now have a new website dedicated to my stock photography up and running.  The site is hosted by Photoshelter and links directly from my colinmunrophotography website, just follow the my stock images link to access it from my home page main menu.  Alternatively you can type in the url www.colinmunrophoto.photoshelter.com to take you directly to the site front page.  Currently I have galleries of sharks, other marine life, seals and sea lions, people (mostly in water), Norway, Scotland, Cape Verde Islands, Senegal, Tonga, Cook Islands, Dartmoor, Devon coastlines and Exeter.  More galleries and many more images will follow shortly.

Close up of a trawl net, full of fish, as it is hauled to the surface. Bottom trawling is one of the most widespread, and most controversial, of fishing methods. colin Munro Photography

Filming trawl nets working underwater

Fine Art Prints and Greeting Cards for sale online at Fine Art America

Sunset creating a dramatic sky of pinks, purples and orange hues. Colin Munro Photography

I’ve recently bit the bullet and created a Fine Art America website to allow a wider audience to view and purchase my photographs.  what’s great about FAA, apart from the ease of use, is the wide range of print styles (canvas, framed, metal, acrylic etc.)and  sizes available.  They also offer images as greeting cards with personalised messages.  but rather than me waffle on, you can check out my new FAA website here.

As a taster, I’ve included a little javascript slideshow of some of the images available through my FAA website.

Art Prints

Find me on Google+ Colin Munro
Like my page on Facebook
My main website Colin Munro Photography