Friday, June 24, 2011

Jackass Guadalupe?

I wish!

I've asked the question and here is the answer.
The good news: it really looks like this got nothing to do with the commercial Shark diving industry in Guadalupe. For once and with the exception of yet more of those pathetic summit expeditions by the indefatigable and totally unrepentant Amos, I haven't heard about any particularly stunning stupidities and on the contrary, one prominent industry member has posted some remarkable pro-Shark footage, see further below.
The bad news: other people dive there, too.

But lemme first tell you a story so you know where I'm coming from.
It very much looks like GWs may well be just another large predatory Shark, meaning that very experienced people who take the time to observe them and to learn are able to interact safely with determined individual animals in determined conditions. This is really nothing new as evidenced by the following epic video of Valerie hand feeding one particular GW that she observed and deemed to be particularly friendly.
What incidentally totally blows me away here is that a Fish is sticking his head out of the water and very much establishing a personal relationship with a person - just amazing!

And then, there are those free diving dudes.
About ten years ago, GW diving pioneer Andre Hartman whom I totally respect for having spent years learning about GW behavior, and this at great personal risk, allowed a punter named JM Cousteau to hang on to one of his Sharks. This was pure Gallic macho bravado and had nothing to do with trying to demystify anything like it was later portrayed. I know because I got friends who were there.
Ever since, there has been a deluge of copycats abusing Sharks as underwater scooters, first Great Whites and now alas also those poor placid Tigers. There's no denying that all of them are brave (and probably stupid) and that many have an excellent water sense - but still, I find their lack of respect simply appalling and would wish that this idiotic fad would go away, be it owing to the insight that the message, or whatever, actually sucks or far more likely, due to somebody pushing it just a bit to far and finally getting nailed - and take a wild guess as to who would be blamed if that happened! :(
But the fact remains that certain individual GWs appear to be unendingly tolerant of our shenanigans and that so far, everybody has lived to tell the story, sometimes in a disarmingly charming way. Good on them.

Anyway, with that in mind, I had an idea about a possible documentary.
After talking to people in the know, I am intimately convinced that given a suitable site and a lot of time, patience and dedication, one can develop a dive where one can safely interact with GWs outside of the cage, very much along the lines of what we do here in Fiji. If somebody of the caliber of, say, Mike Rutzen of whom I remain a big fan put his mind to it, I see no reason why one would not be able to safely feed a GW underwater.
Our Rusi speaks Shark and I wondered whether one could shoot a documentary about him feeding our Bulls and Tigers and then traveling to Lupe, spending a long time observing the Sharks and then identifying and feeding a suitably mellow individual - not out of bravado but in order to show that given the respect and the empathy, people and Sharks can work together harmoniously, just like what happens here in Fiji.

Having asked two friendly operators in Lupe, their reaction was unequivocal: no way!
Apart from it being illegal, they did not want to take on the responsibility of a possible accident and above all, they were extremely wary of possible copycats, something I had overlooked and where I completely concur.
Consequently, out of respect, the project was shelved.

But the idea remained, and I was thus happy to read this.

A shark is a mindless killer, an eating machine.
They are so dangerous; in fact, that the only way we can observe them safely is through the bars of a steel cage.

But, is it possible that our terror of the animal and perhaps even the cage itself, is warping our perceptions?

Academy Award filmmaker Mike Hoover, believes the answer to that question is, “Yes”.
Having spent much of the last decade filming and interacting with the great white sharks at Guadalupe Island, he has come to believe that the common perception of the mindless killer is not only deeply flawed but incredibly destructive. Hoover believes that the only way to change that perception is to interact with the great white shark in a new way. Essentially, he wants to do for sharks what Jane Goodall and Dian Fosse
(sic) did for the chimpanzee and the Mountain Gorilla.

The goal, is to see the world through their eyes, to interact with them, touch them, maybe even form a relationship with the animal. If we can do all this, we might learn new things about white shark behaviour and, just maybe, change the perception of the demon shark.
And then, I watch the trailer.
And then, I see the token Shark pornographer spout his pseudo-conservation message.
And then, I see a bunch of weapon brandishing yahoos abuse those poor GWs as underwater scooters.
And then, here comes the f@$%ing mermaid.
I mean, you just can't make these things up!

A MERMAID???? Is that the f@$%ing message???
Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey my ass! How dare that guy compare himself to them!
This is nothing but yet another one of those self promoting punters parachuting into somebody else's turf and using bogus conservation messaging to play to the googly-eyed sharkitarians in order to justify the latest stupid and utterly disrespectful circus stunt with Sharks - the sad part being that like all those other self professed visionaries, he's likely to be successful!
Makes me wanna puke!

The correct way to go about it?
Look no further than this stellar video by Lawrence. Those peaceful scenes of mellow GWs minding their own business, the harmony between them and those Sea Lions - that's the message.
No need for arrogant weapon toting simians, let alone brain dead bimbettes, in the same way that nobody would dream of depicting the African wilderness by having people in clown suits go walkabout in the Serengeti.

And that latest trailer about night diving with OWTs?
My call: not everything that can be done needs to be done and not everything that is being done needs to be publicized. Once again, those dudes are seriously brave (and probably stupid) and all the power to them for having pulled it off. But this got NOTHING to do with conservation: it remains extremely dangerous and the bogus conservation messaging will inevitably encourage the punters to try and do the same. The old man with the red hat and incidentally, Ron and Valerie are right when they deem this Shark to be exceptionally dangerous!

Guys, if you really feel that you must showcase it, tell it as it is: a bunch of brave divers did something dangerous. Please, walk away from that touchy-feely conservation spin. Seriously, and I know you know what I'm talking about: if you really care about those Sharks, please, don't go there.

Special thanks to the saffron pimpernel for having donated the cover shot!


Lawrence Groth said...

Thank you for your very kind words Mike. And as usual you hit the proverbial nail on the head about Amos and Hoover.
Bula Vinaka my friend!
PS the video of Valerie is absolutely awesome!!

DaShark said...

Thanks amigo, appreciate!
I feel for you man, with that seemingly unending procession of morons raping the site it has taken you guys so long to develop!

Also, seriously, congratulations on your video - simply mind blowing, especially how unfazed those GWs appear to be about the SPSC!

As to Valerie's video, the awesomeness is the lady herself - now there's somebody who really understands!