Read of the Week

Orca

The Day the Great White Sharks Disappeared

Richard Peirce

Struik Nature

Review: Karen Watkins

Business was booming in the fishing village of Kleinbaai, Gansbaai.

Once known as the White Shark Capital of the World, boat loads of tourists were taken to nearby Seal Island where they climbed into cages hoping to witness the feeding frenzy of great white sharks.

Then, in 2016, Shark Town gradually became a ghost town as the great whites disappeared. Meanwhile, two super predators of the deep were spotted in Hermanus, travelling south from Table Bay and heading for Danger Point.

These killer whales, actually part of the dolphin family, were often seen swimming together, their fins collapsed, one to the left, the other to the right. They were later named Port and Starboard. In this book, Richard Peirce deftly takes us through the unfolding drama and into the lives of the characters who got caught up in the epic clash of two top-predator ocean giants and the battle for survival.

From Kleinbaai to False Bay, from shark cage operators to a marine biologist and a naturalist and marine wildlife tour skipper, Orca reads like a thriller as we realise we can never take the ocean for granted.

Peirce also touches on the threats sharks face from man, which are infinitely worse than that of two orcas.

And he should know. He was chairman of the Shark Conservation Society in the UK, and was the first person to start cage diving with blue sharks there as an eco-tourist activity. Peirce and wife Jacqui spend half the year in Hermanus and the other half in Cornwall, England.

His previous books are The Poacher’s Moon about rhino conservation, and Cuddle Me, Kill Me about the captive-lion breeding industry.