Book review

The Shark Callers by Eric Campbell (1993)

If you ever need to attract a shark's attention, all you have to do is to make a knocking noise in the ocean, and they will all hear you and come to you over great distances. They won't be coming for a chat, of course, they will be coming to hunt you, for they are terrible killers.

If you are a young lad living in the islands off Papua New Guinea, you might build yourself a canoe one day and a larung (a bamboo and coconut shell rattle for calling sharks) and set off in the grey dawn to hunt your first shark. That is what Kaleku did.

But he wasn't the only one at sea that morning. Andy Thompson was on board the beautiful yacht, Quintana, with the rest of his family. Frankly, it was a bad day to choose to be at sea in any craft because that was the day that Matupi, the local volcano, erupted with devastating force. The eruption was followed by a tidal wave:

The noise began to grow, the hiss deepening to a long, susurrating roar. It seemed almost to come from above him. He tipped his head backwards and looked up. The sky was clear and cloudless with no sign of turbulence at all.
The sound increased inexorably, not loud yet, but of great power. It sounded like water; like the hiss of a great cataract rushing to the edge of a precipice.
Andy felt the hair on the back of his neck begin to rise.
Quintana rode to the top of a swell and paused.
Once again Andy felt that she was being held back.
The roar increased, deepened.
It was coming from behind Quintana.
The noise was behind them.
Andy spun round.
Hurtling towards them, blotting out the horizon, stretching as far as he could see in each direction, was an immense, curling wave. A hundred feet high, a hundred and fifty, it was impossible to tell.
For a moment he was paralyzed by disbelief. Nothing, no ship on earth, could ride a wave like that.

Quintana doesn't exactly ride the wave, but she does survive it and so do the Thompson family, and Kaleku.

Kaleku is really cool. He just carries on shark hunting, because that is what he came for. You will be able to see for yourself what kind of job he makes of it.

The Thompson family are in a bad way. Quintana is disabled, but they manage to erect a jury mast for the dinghy, steered with a single oar through the sternboard, and send Andy off alone to get help. He's an experienced sailor, having lived aboard Quintana practically all his life, but the knockings of the new mast and steering oar as they shift in their temporary housings unnerve Andy. Worse, what he does not know, and indeed never discovers, is that the rattle of the oar in the sternboard mimics exactly the call of the larung. Who knows why the sharks come to that call? It is a primitive response to an ocean noise. They come to hunt.

So now we have two shark callers, one knowing, the other unknowing. Andy watches as the black, triangular fins circle his little dinghy, pushing in closer and closer ...

Want to know what happens? You'll have to read the book because I'm not going to tell you any more. If you enjoy adventure, I think you will have a great time with this book.

What can I read next?

Eric Campbell has written others. You might like to look at:

  • Elephant Gold

You might also like to look at Geoffrey Malone's book:

If you enjoy adventure books, you might like to look at these stories set during the Second World War, by Martin Booth:

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