Have a listen to this. That is a short extract from Ali Harrison’s upcoming documentary Britain's Whales and Britain's Sharks. In it, the body of a nine-metre humpback whale drowned and washed up on a coast is returned to the ocean to review how its death can sustain ocean life. And it resulted in the largest gathering of sharks ever recorded in UK waters. She spoke to the BBC.
There was two sides to me. The night before when my co-presenter had the opportunity to dive first when there were just a few blue sharks on our whale. And then it was my turn. It’s sort of six o’clock next morning. Conditions change quite a lot overnight, you know. Every single way you turned, there were blue sharks coming out from the darkness. Every single way you turned. It was incredible.
Two hundred blue sharks. You didn’t sound scared in that clip. But I understand that one of the divers who was with you actually got a bit of a nip from one of the sharks?
Yes, yeah that’s right. They’ve been there for a little while, so we had our cameraman and a really experienced dive crew who were supporting all of our activities. Things sort of change. Once I got in the water, I think what happened was there was a lot more talking. And it sends out a lot of electrical signals into the water which started to change the behavior of the sharks. And I think once all that activities started, one of them got a little bit excitable and gave him a nip, which he was actually delighted about it. This is quite a badge of honour to have.
I bet. He was trying to be polite to the shark. But let’s talk about the whale. Tell us about that. I mean, you’d never done this before obviously. And this has been the biggest number of sharks all together. What was that like? Describe it first.
It was incredibly difficult. It took us three years just to get to this stage because we have people on watchout waiting for the right size. It has to be not too big and not too small. And eventually we got this humpback who tragically died. But the logistics of getting a whale, it took the permissions of fifteen different government agencies and then freezing experts to get this whale back out into the sea. It hadn’t been done before, so it’s the first ever study of its type.
And tell us what did it tell you.
We knew that there were sharks in our waters. We knew that we had about thirty different species of sharks in our waters, but we’ve never expected that to be the numbers. Seeing that number of blue sharks together has given a lot of academics a lot of behaviour that they are able to write up about and not really knowing that they could congregate in numbers this big, that was probably our biggest finding.