Photographer and amateur astronomer David Finlay was testing his new drone over a beach in New South Wales, Australia on Monday, when he spotted something that sent a chill up his spine: a shark lurking beneath the surface of the water where three surfers were relaxing on their boards.
“I’ll be honest, it was quite a bit of panic. These are young surfers and it was directly beneath them. I could see that it was right there. I felt a lot of concern for those guys,” said Finlay.
Finlay said last year, a surfer lost a limb to a great white shark at a nearby beach and he was worried about a similar outcome.
The surfers had no idea that a shark was swimming just below them, even waving and smiling at Finlay’s drone.
“They didn’t know what was going through my mind and the panic I was feeling for them! It was quite obvious they didn’t know what was swimming beneath them,” he said.
Finlay can be heard in the video asking people around him if anyone had a phone on them to call a lifeguard. He said he then decided to run down the beach to find a guard, only to find that the lifeguard’s shift had finished an hour prior.
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“As I was running down to the beach, I was quite happy to see that [the shark] was moving away to a much safer distance,” said Finlay.
But Finlay said he stuck around a bit to inform other surfers coming out of the water of what he and his drone had observed.
The government in New South Wales launched an AU$16-million drone observation project last year to help detect and deter shark activity on their beaches. They released footage of other close encounters between sharks and surfers earlier this year.
Finlay believes that with the popularity of commercial drones, even everyday drone enthusiasts could help swimmers become aware of any shark activity in their vicinity.
“We don’t necessarily have to rely on the government to do these things for us, there’s no reason why people can’t go out and do these things themselves.”