‘Adolescent great whites lurk in the depths waiting for seals. Then they launch themselves at the surface – and their sheer power takes them clear of the water’
There is no more iconic species on the planet than the great white shark. Everybody knows what they are, even in the most landlocked countries on Earth, and people are fascinated by them. The great white sharks at Seal Island, a few miles across the water from False Bay near Cape Town, use a surface hunting technique called breaching. They lurk in the depths waiting for seals porpoising along the waves, then launch themselves with incredible speed towards the surface. Their sheer power takes them clear of the water and results in these dramatic breaches that have become famous on documentary channels all across the world.
Sharks tend to hunt differently depending on their environment. In the Farallon Islands near San Francisco, they’ll bite off the flippers of seals and let them bleed out. But at Seal Island, certain environmental factors encourage this sort of aerial hunting. First, it’s the ideal topography: the shallows turn to depths quickly, meaning the sharks patrolling the deeper waters can surprise their prey. Stealth is key.