Day 357 6/27/14: Handy Tips for Shark Cage Divers

I’m leaving for my South Africa shark trip tomorrow night. In addition to packing seasickness pills and stacks of books for my million hour flight, I’m trying to “prepare” to meet the sharks. For example, I got a mani-pedi in a gorgeous slate gray color in tribute to the white shark’s camouflage. On a more practical level, I’ve been reading a particularly helpful volume given to me by shark legend Ralph Collier, is the wonderful bookimages-4 Field Guide to the Great White Shark by R. Aidan Martin.   Here are a few excerpts:

1. Do not extend your arms or any part of your body out of the cage. While observing or filming one shark, you could easily be nipped by another.

2. Even very large great whites can be very cautious or even timid on approaching shark cages and are easily “spooked.” Sharks are very aware of divers’ eyes and seem to dislike being stared at as much as you or I do. To foster the closest possible approaches by Great Whites, avoid flash photography or direct eye contact during the earliest phases of your dive. Wait for the sharks to build up their courage and approach the cage in their own good time. Once they have decided the cage and its bubbling inhabitants are not a threat, Great Whites will more-or-less ignore both to fuss their attentions on the bait or each other. That’s when you can observe the most interesting behavior and capture the best images.

3. Be aware that Great Whites have attacked boats. In some instances the boat sank; in others the attacking shark actually leapt into the boat in pursuit of pinnipeds or hooked fish.

4. This tip will come in handy if the shark destroys the cage and I have to somehow make it to the surface:

While in the presence of a great white, maintain a vertical orientation in the water column. Perhaps because most swimming animals are longest horizontally in the direction of travel, many sharks seemed more unnerved by height than length. A vertical orientation—combined with persistent eye contact—may make you seem larger and more intimidating to a Great White.

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