2003 A Star is Born!

By Carl Roessler

Every year since 1976 there has been one especially wonderful facet to my great white shark expeditions in South Australia. Each time we find our sharks there emerges one that is the most curious, aggressive—in other words, the one that provides the best pictures! Sometimes, a shark is so good that it earns the coveted rating of "Great Performer."

Last year our Great Performer was the famous "Curly," who circled our cages for four days. (GWS 2002 Story and Trip) From earlier years I can recall sharks with names like King Kong, Jabba the Hutt and Nick providing dozens or hundreds of amazing images.

This year, the star of our show was a 14-foot female whose I.D. tag (used so scientists can track individual animals) contained the designation "U4." For all of us, though, this fabulous leaping creature earned her nickname, "U.F.O." She richly deserved it, for she was not only an astounding performer at the surface, but she also came right to our cages to study us.
She was always very focussed on her next bite, and our crew was kept very busy providing her big with generous servings of tuna and snapper.

Each year, when new divers join us for the expeditions organized by my long-time friends Rodney and Andrew Fox, we carefully drill them on The First Rule of Cage Diving: keep your elbows inside the cage. We teach that because any time you are concentrating on one shark, another one could approach from your blind side.

This year, I had the perfect incident to illustrate the wisdom of that rule. It happened while I was looking at a hanging bait, waiting for U.F.O to come and get it. Suddenly, to my surprise, the huge shark approached from a direction I hadn’t anticipated, lunged at the bait, turned completely over and ended upside down, hanging by her front teeth on the lower aluminum bar of my viewing port. Desperate to get this on film, I backed away to get her in focus, and as she struggled I had time to take four frames of the struggle.

U.F.O finally rolled her vast bulk off the bar and disappeared into the depths, leaving me with a tableau I will never forget, and the pictures to prove what a Great Performer she was!

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