Sept. 6, 2012 — Wayne Davis has been spotting fish for 40 years, flying his airplane low over the water in search of bluefin tuna and swordfish. Usually he guides commercial fishermen to them.
But in all of his flights over the Atlantic from his home in Wakefield, R.I., he's seen a lot of other animals, including sharks and whales. And he's taken photographs.
"A lot of people don't believe me when I tell them about seeing these animals in New England," Davis said. The photographs are proof.
Having worked with fishermen since purchasing his single-engine Citabria airplane in 1973, he recently tired of chasing fish. So he has strayed even farther from shore to find whale sharks, hammerheads, great white sharks, basking sharks, humpback whales, mobula rays and other giants of the deep.
He's partnered with underwater cinematographers and researchers to help them film and study these amazing animals. (Images: Sharks & Whales from Above)
Two weeks ago, on Aug. 22, Davis helped underwater cinematographers Tom Burns and Eric Savetsky find a school of about 20 hammerhead sharks above Oceanographer's Canyon, 100 miles (160 kilometers) southeast of Nantucket, Mass. Davis saw the sharks from his plane and radioed their position to Burns and Savetsky. They piloted their boat toward the sharks and hopped into the water.
After failing at first to get close to the scalloped hammerheads, which are usually pretty shy, the school approached and surrounded the duo, Savetsky told OurAmazingPlanet. "It was fantastic from a visual experience, but a little unnerving because they were acting bolder than I typically know them to be," he said. But they didn't get too close, and swam off after a couple passes.
"It was an amazing experience, to swim among them, that never would have been possible without Wayne," Burns said.
At some point, Savetsky took his eye off the camera to gauge his surroundings. "When I looked up, there was a 500-pound (230 kilograms) tiger shark about 10 feet (3 meters) away, and I actually screamed into my snorkel," he said.