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One Great Shot: A School Visit

A diver experiences a forage fish shoal so dense it blocked out the sun.

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by Jake Wilton

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swimmer in the middle of a large school of fishWhile freediving with friends along Western Australia’s Ningaloo Reef, I had the greatest experience swimming with schooling fish of my life. With no predators around, the fish—possibly anchovies—stayed in place and swarmed around us in clear, shallow waters. When we dove, we were completely engulfed. The fish were so plentiful that they blacked out the sun. In this photo, a circle of fish cast the surrounding seafloor in shadow, leaving a small spotlight for freediver Elle Mayell.

This was the only time I’ve abandoned a shoal of forage fish first—normally, they dart away or are attacked by predators. Vast schools of forage fish were once common in the world’s oceans, but have become increasingly rare due to overfishing.