PHOTO SPECIAL: Life’s a beach for underwater photographer who has experienced volcanos, earthquakes, hurricanes and sharks

A diver explores the cathedral at Silfra canyon, a deep fault filled with fresh water in the Rift Valley between the Eurasian and American tectonic plates, at Thingvellir National Park, Iceland. In this photo the American plate is on the left and the Eurasian plate on the right.
A diver explores the cathedral at Silfra canyon, a deep fault filled with fresh water in the Rift Valley between the Eurasian and American tectonic plates, at Thingvellir National Park, Iceland. In this photo the American plate is on the left and the Eurasian plate on the right.
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Diving on an active volcano, experiencing earthquakes and hurricanes and facing up to frenzied sharks are all part of the job for a leading underwater photographer.

So it is fair to say Dr Alexander Mustard has enjoyed an eventful and colourful career, which a fortnight ago culminated with him being awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Devon born Dr Mustard, who lives in Hawksbill Way, near the Peterborough United stadium, has been very successful in his chosen field, with his books winning major awards and his photographs being displayed in exhibitions around the world.

The 43-year-old has taken many incredible photos - some of which he has kindly shared with the Peterborough Telegraph - which occasionally leads to an element of danger, whether it be diving on an active volcano in Indonesia (surrounded by bubbles of gas coming up through the rocks), being underwater during an earthquake or being caught in a Category 5 hurricane, which can cause huge destruction.

Dr Mustard avoided any problems on those occasions, and was fortunate again when he was confronted by frenzied sharks earlier this year.

He said: “Sharks are actually one of the few marine species that keep their distance underwater, so we often use bait to attract them into photographic range.

“I have done hundreds of dives with sharks and it is usually amazing to be in the presence of these predators. But in January this year I forgot the golden rule and thought I knew best, jumping into the water first to try and get some extra minutes with the Caribbean reef sharks.

“Unknown to us, the sharks had managed to open one of the bait crates. Usually we use the smell of the bait to attract them, but don’t actually feed them. Anyway, these sharks were in a full on frenzy and as soon as they spotted me they raced towards me as a pack to investigate.

“They didn’t want to eat me or anything, but they came crashing into my camera and my flashes while I spun around and around trying to keep my camera between me and them. It was one of the few times I was glad it is so big.”

Back on dry land, Dr Mustard also hosted the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at a gallery in Estonia 15 years ago where some of his work was being featured.

“She is an amazing woman. When you meet her, the power she has when she comes into the room - I have never experienced anything like it. The whole room goes silent,” he said.

“She is very enthusiastic and puts you at ease. She was quite a keen photographer and was quite interested in how I get the photos.”