Monday, November 24, 2008


I've just finished reading "Sea Salt", by Stan Waterman.

Quite frankly, I feel somewhat deflated.
I honestly thought that some of the threads that get bounced about in the Blogosphere might cast a novel, maybe sometimes even a visionary light onto the relationship between humans and the most iconic denizens of the Ocean - and now I find out that Stan has said it all ages ago.

Well, I should have known better.
Like Ron and Val, Stan has participated in the very inception of the Fiji Shark Project when we held that memorable first brainstorming on the upper deck of Pelagian back then in 2002. I did and still very much value his insights and support and he always makes it a point to come check on our progress during his yearly forays into Fiji.
I now understand that much of what I believe and have come to learn is a direct consequence of having had the privilege to spend time with him and all of the other diving legends I've been fortunate to meet over the years.
As always, nihil novi sub sole, just another turn of the Wheel.

Be amazed!
Here's what the Great, gentle Man has written in (italics are mine):

1986: "The Rambo Out-of-the-Cage Club" (this is about cageless diving with Great Whites)
"So what are my thoughts about all this? I of course (now that I've had my go in the arena), hope there will be a lid on such activity. In all seriousness, I begin to think that such stunts demean the magnificent predators. We prove for the consumption of our own human egos and the titillation of the public that we don't know the meaning of fear.
The Sharks themselves are not impressed. They have no sense of machismo; they just survive.
After many years of diving with Sharks, I believe I would rather see and film them in the wild, unmolested by man and happy that they do not eat me. I like to think that intelligent fear may be synonymous with healthy respect.
Henry Beston wrote in his book, "The Outermost House": for the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they live finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we will never hear. They are not our brethren. They are not underlings. They are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and the travail of the earth."

1994: "Neither Friend nor Monster"
"The Shark-feeding syndrome has such broad currency these days that I feel the activity has endengered a too-casual attitude towards the Shark. Divers who started with a healthy fear (let's call it healthy respect) of the animal are wooed by its grace and control and apparent shyness in the presence of humans.
Despite the common opinion that Sharks are unpredictable, they have proven very predictable. Their behaviour within the Shark-feeding exercise is steady and under control. However, the margin of safety is very thin indeed. One small mistake in the conduct or appearance of the human element in this banquet can be the catalyst for a sudden, nightmarish accident. There have already been accidents and there will be more.
Humans are fallible. The Shark's response to instinct is constant and immutable. The point I want to make is that these fascinating animals are neither monsters nor friends. Their instinct is to feed.
Most of the Shark-feeding performances are safe, with the odds strongly in favor of the divers involved. While these activities have done much to dispel age-old fears, they have led to complacency and carelessness, which is the flipside of respect and regard for potential danger.
The Shark's instincts were shaped over 300 million years ago. Its course is clearly programmed. Our instincts, on the other hand, are both young and easily eroded by familiarity. Let us use our intelligence to sustain a prudent, careful relationship with the Shark."

1999: "To Feed or not to Feed"
"Maybe "prudence" and "respect" are the key words. The exposure to great marine animals by diver experience and through the entertainment media has done much to build a consensus for Sharks. That in turn bears on legislation to protect them. Like so many controversies over humanity's relationship to the animals with which we share the planet, there are varying sides - not all good, not all bad.
Just keep in mind the words of William Blake: "What immortal hand or eye/ Could frame thy fearful symmetry?"
That "symmetry" may be thought of as a deep-rooted instinct in all predators. The "immortal hand or eye" imbued them with that instinct millions of years before we evolved. That imperative is still deeply rooted in them."

And! Check out this: Stan and his family!
Yes, January 1958!

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