700 sharks in the night


  • 4th expedition to the southern pass of Fakarava atoll
  • 55-day expedition
  • 3000 hours of diving over 4 years
  • 85,000 photographs taken

During the Gombessa 2 expedition in 2014, Laurent Ballesta’s team went to the southern pass of the Fakarava atoll, a UNESCO biosphere reserve located in French Polynesia, to study the annual reproduction of camouflage groupers. On site, the team observed an unusual density of grey reef sharks: they counted up to 700 individuals, the highest density ever recorded for this species. The team was also surprised by their hunting behavior, which appeared to be coordinated. After the first expedition in 2014, the team returned every year to prepare Gombessa 4 and develop precise and unique scientific protocols. In 2017, the pack of 700 sharks that inhabit the pass was studied. The mission demonstrated that shark hunting is not anarchic, but relies in part on social organization within the horde.

  • The expedition focused on 3 major areas

Scientific research : 40 transmitter tags fitted with accelerometers were placed in the sharks’ abdomens to track their movements in the pass over a 1-year period. Acoustic study of the pass to decipher its sound identity card and isolate fish sounds to understand their motivations: communication, stress, rest…

Performance : 50 consecutive nights of diving to study, photograph and film the horde. Diving exploration of the deep zones of neighboring atolls to compare the biological activity of the passes and the reliefs of the outer slopes with those of Fakarava, during dives to -120m.

Never-before-seen images : Bullet Time Shot technique used for the first time on animal scenes. Production of a 90′ documentary for the ARTE channel and a photographic collection “700 Requins dans la nuit” ed. Andromède Collection.