The Story Behind the Shot: Keri Wilk
The Crocodile Smile
By Keri Wilk
"My buddy, Lucas Price, and I were diving on board the Bilikiki in the
Solomon islands. We dropped anchor near a small village, intending on
doing some dives on some historical WWII wrecks, but our interests
were piqued by a local fisherman who gave us information of a
saltwater crocodile living along a stretch of mangroves adjacent to
their village. We searched for it in the tenders to no avail, then
warily got in the water and waded through the mangroves for nearly 150
yards. We gave up looking, so called for the tender to pick us up, and
while it made its way over, I made one final sprint along the
coastline – and found it just yards from where we stopped.
After calling Lucas over, I approached it cautiously, using my camera
system as a shield. As I began to take photos it made a break for open
water, leaving its mangrove home behind, probably hoping that we
wouldn’t pursue it onto the reef. It was wrong. We followed it down to
60 feet where it remained eerily motionless for a few minutes, and
then rocketed to the surface in another attempt to lose us. Throwing
caution to the wind, we made a drastically unsafe ascent to stay with
the animal, and broke the surface several meters away from it.
By then, I had the distinct impression that this crocodile was timid,
scared, docile, and generally unthreatening, which gave me the
confidence required to take the next series of photos – head-on shots
as the crocodile made its way back to its mangrove home. I positioned
myself in its path and waited for it to approach, expecting that it
would veer out of my way in another attempt to avoid contact. I
couldn’t have been more wrong. The croc opened its mouth in an
aggressive manner, turned its head, locked its jaws onto the camera
that was in its face and shook itself spastically for a moment. No
words came out of its mouth, but I clearly heard it say “GET OUT OF MY
WAY AND STOP BOTHERING ME!!”, so I did exactly that!
This photo won best of show in the 2010 Ocean Art Underwater Photography Competition.
Some of the judges of the Ocean Art competition were quite impressed that Keri could remain composed and get such a rare and beautiful shot of a dangerous marine animal in open water, which was clearly not without risk.