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On the Scene: In the Underwater Shadow of a Giant Manta Ray

Off the coast of Mexico, a photographer captures marine life in black and white.

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(Photo: Anuar Patjane Floriuk

In the Pacific Ocean, approximately 500 miles from the west coast of Mexico, lies the Revillagigedo Archipelago. It’s a collection of largely uninhabited volcanic islands, rich with marine life. The waters are home to several species of sharks, whales, dolphins and the manta birostris—giant manta ray.

As the name suggests, the giant manta ray is, well, enormous. The wing span—measured from point to point of the pectoral fins—can reach up to 23 feet. Evidently, they can also be friendly, as photographer and anthropologist Anuar Patjane Floriuk found out when he took the above photo during a January 2014 diving expedition.

“Giant mantas are usually very curious about divers and enjoy the bubbles that we generate while diving,” he says, “so they approach very closely to us.”

In these same waters, Mexico-based Floriuk has also photographed humpback whales, for which he was recognized in the 2016 World Press Photo Contest. When shooting underwater, he says, “you don’t think too much, you feel and improvise … most of the thinking process is focused on diving properly. The rest of your senses are overwhelmed by the spectacle of nature.”