Stalking Hammerheads

Diver Bruce Watkins shot both of the images accompanying this article on his April, 2010 trip

Divers onboard the Solmar V often encounter Hammerhead Sharks at various locations throughout the Socorro Islands - particularly at Roca Partida and San Benedicto Canyon. We have individual encounters, plus groups (we call them "hammerhead gangs"), and even very large schools!

While it's always amazing to spend time relaxing underwater with Hammerheads - how do you get close enough to take pics and video? 

Chasing Them Doesn't Work
If you try to swim directly at them to get closer - they will either slowly move away or ZOOM away if they are startled. They seem comfortable at 10 -15 feet away - as long as you don't make any sudden moves. Close enough for great encounters - but not close enough for great pics. 

Can You Sneak Up On Them?
Yes - you can get close to Hammerheads. But No - you can't really sneak up on them. So, how do you get close? Check out the underwater terrain and look for rock outcroppings and/or boulders. Hide behind them and stay close to the bottom!   Wait a couple of minutes, and you'll see the Hammerheads start to move closer. Stay patient - and you'll get the shot you want! 

One important point here - the closer you can get to the bottom, the better. Swimming around 5 feet above the bottom will spook the hammerheads just as easily as swimming toward them!

Study Their Swim Pattern 
Individuals, small groups, and large schools often have different swimming patterns depending on current, water depth, and time of day.  Large schools, for example, are nearly always facing the current - and moving only enough to maintain their position. They may be approached from the side (very slowly) but it's still a better idea to see if you can pick a path close to the rocks to avoid spooking them. Individuals and small groups will usually be actively swimming - so you watch their pattern. If you see them swiming over the same spot (a shallow portion of the reef) - it's a good bet more will follow. Position yourself accordingly, hunker down and out of sight, and get your camera ready. 

Move Your Camera Very Slowly - Keep Bubbles To A Minimum   
OK - the hammerhead is only 5 feet away - has not seen you yet - but you need to change your camera angle. As frustrating as it might be - you must move the camera very slowly -or the sharks will disappear. These sharks are also not fond of SCUBA bubbles - and a quick exhalation will see them veer away.

Try Different Angles
Underneath and from the side yield the best results, although because of the position of their eyes - you sometimes have some interesting "head on" encounters, as Bruce Watkins did on his April, 2010 trip. Stay low on the reef, preferably out of direct sight, let the Hammerheads come to you - and you'll come home with great pics and video.

The crew of the Solmar V will use their extensive diving experience in the Socorro Islands to brief you on how to dive with Hammerheads on every cruise.


This article is from the Solmar V eNEWS Article Archive

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