The Shark Caller author Dianne Wolfer lures readers to AQWA shark tunnel


Dianne Wolfer signs copies of her book The Shark Caller at a launch at AQWA. Picture: Frane Lessac
Dianne Wolfer signs copies of her book The Shark Caller at a launch at AQWA. Picture: Frane Lessac

AQWA’S shark tunnel seemed a fitting location to lead into a launch for a fictional book about shark rattles.

Author Dianne Wolfer launched her novel, The Shark Caller, at the Hillarys venue recently, inviting guests to learn more facts about sharks.

Wolfer found inspiration for the book in a Papua New Guinea custom of using shark rattles to call the fish, and included environmental themes in the manuscript.

The story weaves reality with fantastical possibilities, encouraging readers to decide what could be true and where traditional belief meets the modern world as it tells the tale of twins descended from a shark-calling family.

Wolfer said the story emerged from her PhD scholarship in creative writing at UWA and visits to PNG, where she went diving.

“The underwater environment there really sparked my imagination,” she said.

“Originally it was going to be two dog characters, then this long ago shark idea surfaced.”

Speaking at last month’s launch, UWA’s School of Animal Biology and the Oceans Institute Professor Shaun Collin said people in PNG used rattles made from a range of materials, particularly shells, to attract sharks.

“People using the rattles do attract sharks, which they revere and as depicted in the book, think of as ancestors,” he said.

“The book brings to life so many of the traditional beliefs shared by PNG people.”

Wolfer said she learnt more about the traditional practice for the book, and received culturally sensitive advice to ensure she did not write the wrong things.

Prof Collin said that researchers were investigating how sharks see, feel, smell and taste and aimed to use the knowledge gathered to protect both sharks and humans.

“We strive to understand the senses of sharks,” he said.

“(We’re) using this knowledge to determine whether sharks mistakenly attack humans.

“Sharks are ancient animals that have been around for over 400 million years.

“They help keep the ocean in balance.”