In the News

A Firsthand Account of a Jumping Thresher Shark

All Photos ©Michael Leonard

Saturday morning August 10, 2002 at about 11:20 AM I was on the final leg of a Nature cruise aboard the 4 masted Windjammer Margaret Todd out of Bar harbor, Maine listening to the captain calmly describing the details of the vessel we were sailing on over the loudspeaker system when he abruptly interrupted himself saying, "Whoa! -- LOOK TO PORT!" I, along with the other 35 - 40 people aboard all turned to the left side of the ship and saw what looked like a ring, about 10 feet in diameter, in the water as if a whale may have breached. The captain cut the engine, and I removed my wide angle lens and grabbed my telephoto lens and put it onto my 35 MM camera. I focused in the direction of the disturbance in the water when this shark quickly flew into the air. I snapped the first frame of the fish in mid air and maybe 5 seconds later the whole episode repeated and I got a second shot of the shark in mid air. Coincidentally those 2 shots were the last 2 pictures left on my roll of film -- and the shark never surfaced again. I used a nearly 22 year old Canon A-1 camera with a 70 - 210 MM zoom lens and Kodak Royal Gold ASA 200 negative film to catch the images. The location of the sighting was between Little Porcupine Island and Iron Board Island, just off of Bar Harbor, Maine in Frenchmans bay.

Jack Arnott, the National Park Ranger who had been aboard to offer a narration during the cruise, looked at me along with several other passengers and commented, "You got that ... didn't you?" to which I replied, "Yes ... not just once, I got it both times!" The captain spoke of how he had never seen a shark breach like this ever before in all his 20 or so years of sailing. The Park Ranger echoed the same comment. A nearby deep sea fishing boat radioed over that they had seen the jumping fish and they were thinking that the shark might have been a 'Thresher' shark which has later been confirmed by reviewing my images. The size of the shark was estimated to be about 15 feet long.

I sent the image to the local paper and to the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) and neither were very interested until about a week and a half later when I again sent the image to the on-line version of the local paper and that's when everyone suddenly took an interest. The reporter later told me that the DMR didn't think the shot was 'credible' until after they were told about the other witnesses with whom the reporter had spoken. In fact I have had 6 people now ask, "Where's the fishing line?" in the picture?

I knew I had some unique photos and considering the odds of getting one, let alone 2 just made me think that I should get letters from the Park Ranger and the Captain just to authenticate my images as being real and not a product of some digital photo manipulation. I have these letters available for your inspection should you require proof of these images as being authentic.

Just a couple more stats:

I am not a Professional Photographer, I do consider myself in the 'Serious Amateur" category as I do have most of the same equipment that a Pro would use but I don't derive the majority of my income from photography. I work in the field of television for Time Warner Cable Productions in Portland, Maine.

I have been a photographer for many years and my work has been seen on various websites, annual stock reports, vacation planners, on corporate calendars, published in coffee table type books, magazines, and other advertising materials.

I do credit my shot with being at the right place at the right time but I also strongly feel that my knowledge of my equipment was a major factor in the equation. Being able to quickly remove one lens and install another, zoom in, focus, zoom out, and then catch the moment in time, twice - and all with in just a few seconds - wasn't entirely luck.


Michael Leonard