Monday, July 19, 2010

Free Diving with the Big Ones?

Great pic by Fred Buyle - and yes this is a link!

You may want to check out this video clip.
Will it be kept online, or will it be retracted?

It shows what I believe to be an investigatory bite by a large Tiger Shark.
I hear that the free diver (no it was not a dummy) was not hurt in the process, which is great. If I may venture a hypothesis, the animal does not look highly motivated and may also not have liked the taste of rubber.

As to the diver's apparent total lack of reaction, hmmm...
Playing possum may well be a life saving reaction once one is being cornered by a Grizzly - but from everything I've ever experienced, the correct way of addressing the unwanted attentions of Sharks is to confront them. Mostly, a determined stare and a small shove will do the job but sometimes, the reaction needs to be way more assertive - before one ends up in the animal's mouth! To remain completely passive, to me, equals surrendering the initiative to the animal and hoping for a positive outcome - not really what I would consider the best of survival strategies!
In the softest possible way - there are lessons to be learned here and no, this is not proof that Tiger Sharks are harmless!

Which brings me straight over to the subject at hand.
Safe free diving with large predatory Sharks and other large marine predators is certainly possible, as witnessed by countless such encounters in South Africa - and not only there! Now, some of the same highly experienced free divers are mounting a commercial expedition to the North-Eastern Pacific. And yes this includes Guadalupe and having asked, NO it does NOT include cage-less commercial encounters with Great Whites - whether free diving or on SCUBA!

The one factor that caught my eye is the emphasis on education and training.
Free diving is not snorkeling, far from it: both mentally and physically, it is a highly demanding sport requiring life-long training and dedication. And when interacting with marine life, it also requires ocean sense, i.e. a profound and instinctive knowledge of the ocean and the animals that can only be garnered in years of experience, often whilst spearfishing. No wonder that so many excellent free divers describe it as a transcendental experience!

And I may add: no wonder that many of them progress to become Shark divers - on SCUBA!
Just teasing!

Bottom line?
Like mountain climbing with which it shares many similarities, free diving needs to be tackled in increments - and if free diving with large pelagic predators can rightly be considered to be the Everest (yes I'm being facetious), it needs to be addressed in exactly the same manner: by experienced, well prepared and well trained individuals and with excellent guides.
With that in mind - may the expedition be a total success!


Diving Discoveries said...

Very informative read and I agree with you. I could imagine the majority of people who might try this could lack the "ocean sense" you speak of; I can easily see shark free diving as being the next extreme sport that every adrenaline junky might want to try but like you´ve pointed out, this particular sport takes heaps of dedication and who knows what´ll happen when you throw wildlife into the mix.

Regarding the video, simply stunning, yet I am convinced it´s a dummy... he played possum too well.

DaShark said...

No DD, as I said, that was not a dummy!

As to free diving with Sharks, given the right people and the right protocols (!), it is perfectly OK.

In view of the required skill set and the many challenges of free diving in the open ocean, I just don't think that this will ever evolve into a playground for the thrill seeking yahoos - thankfully!

Diving Discoveries said...

The video has already been removed from Facebook.