From the Photographer...
The far eastern edge of Palmyra Atoll emerges abruptly from the ocean. The deep reef rises up from the Pacific and becomes colorful coral and bright water. Ocean waves that began their rise and fall thousands of miles away, crash unimpeded upon this reef, breaking down coral and making piles of the rubble. Currents of water swirl and eddy. A semi-permanent, constantly changing strip of land was createdfrom these coral fragments and this island weakly shelters some of what lies to the west. It is a barren place above water, and teems with life below. It is home to a small population of newborn Blacktip Reef Sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus).
In the two weeks that I spent on Palmyra Atoll in 2012, I photographed many incredible things, including Manta Rays,Coconut Crabs, Bohar, and Blue-Footed Boobies. But finding this Blacktip Reef Shark nursery was a lifetime highlight. The sharks swim in an eight-inch deep lens of water that flows over a tabletop of coral rubble. It is surrounded on all sides by water that is considerably deeper. Big sharks swim the depths, but cannot mix with or chase the baby Blacktips simply because the water is too shallow to swim in. The baby sharks are a nervous group and seem to be only vaguely aware of their safety.
I lay for hours in this shallow water and watched the little sharks swim worried circles. Most of the time the small pack kept their distance. But every few minutes, curiosity would win over anxiety, and 6- or 8-inch sharks would swim within an arm's distance. The clarity of the water, the pebbly bottom and the overhead light all made it seem like I was looking at an aquarium. But one glance behind, past my fins, and into the deep water where bigger sharks swam, made me very aware that I was IN that aquarium.
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