Tuesday, March 27, 2012

To touch or not to touch sharks - that is the question...

... that flares up every so often.

My good pal Mike Neumann abhors these discussions, however, he posted two most eloquent and well balanced blogs on the subject which are worth to be read by those who dive with sharks. I won't participate in these debates anymore as I don't consider myself qualified enough to utter an authoritative opinion on what is meant by "safe" diving, and adequate "protocols".

Subjectively speaking, my interacting with sharks is perfectly safe, as I also believe that I am good driver (I have never had a car accident since I got my license in May 1960, and still love sitting behind a wheel). That, of course, does not mean that I could be bitten by a shark on my next dive or that I could crash my car into a concrete bridge pillar tomorrow. But it means that the inherent risk of being alive will not deter me from touching sharks or driving my car - people who know me know how much I enjoy both pastimes.

I just hope this doesn't look like a potentially dangerous situation - it wasn't.

Photo: Isabel Muscat

Anyway, when I interact with sharks I do not use sticks to "protect" myself, and I would not put on a chain suit. I "hug" sharks the way others hug trees or their wives. I don't believe that sharks are being driven exclusively by food and sex which would really make them rather unpleasant fellow creatures to interact with ... Whether or not they have a 'soul' I don't know. Does a dog have a soul? I don't know. Do I have one? Not sure - to put it succinctly - and if I had one, where would it be?... :-) Whatever, I can happily tolerate being referred to as an idiot when it comes to my relationship with sharks.

Many shark operators would not allow me to free-dive with sharks for safety or protocol reasons. While I agree that protocols are important, and that conscientious shark operators need to manage the risk of accidents, I quite dislike to have someone lead me by my nose, and tell me how to behave in the presence of sharks.

Should an accident happen (I know of only one fatal accident for which the operator could not be blamed, even though other shark operators thought otherwise) - so bloody what?? Shit happens, life happens, death happens. No matter how much we want to play it, and have it, safe: It's a jungle out there, and it's one we cannot control - thank God.

OK, dear readers, I am outta this - and should I ever not be allowed to touch sharks on a dive boat anymore, well, then I will rent a 17 ft Boston whaler and do my own thing, all by myself, which is for me the quintessential way of diving anyway. No strangers, no buddies, just me, the silent blue world, and the sharks - this is how I dove for countless years until I got to know my favorite sharks: The awesome, gentle, intelligent and, yes, potentially dangerous but basically non-aggressive tiger sharks which I can only get to see, and swim with, regularly when diving with specialized dive operators. The very few ones I go with understand my deeply felt need to get up-close and personal with these incredible sharks. One of them is Captain Scott W. Smith of the Dolphin Dream.

Some think I have a special way to interact with sharks, others think I am an idiot. Either way, I don't care - I just do my thing... :-)

Photo: Paul Playbird, aka Spielvogel

PS: Last words, not famous but relevant in this context - they are posted on our blogspot as a disclaimer:

Please be aware of the fact that diving with sharks can be potentially dangerous. Do NOT closely interact with sharks, touch them, feed them unless you are very experienced and know exactly how to interpret their body language. While it might look easy and harmless to interact with sharks the way we do, we do NOT encourage this type of underwater activity.



DaShark said...


Re-read this.
Then, we hadn't met - now that we have, all I can do is repeat myself: go for it!

And for the record: you're not an idiot, you're nuts - big difference! :)

Wolfgang said...

Oh, gosh - I completely forgot that 2009 post of yours... Everything going down the drain: memory, stamina, powers of discernment - being an 'idiot' or 'nuts' is the same for me, and talking about nuts, yeah, they, too, ain't what they - OK, OK, you know what I mean... :-) :-)