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Friday, April 3, 2009

SA's shark-whisperer

I'm not sure I agree with riding on the dorsal fin of a great white, but it definitely shows that they are not mindless killers!
SA's shark-whisperer
Fri, 03 Apr 2009 17:53, travel

Mike Rutzen dives with great white sharks — without a cage. While he isn’t the first to do it, he’s taken shark diving to a previously unimagined level. He does it not for fun, to win bets or for the adrenaline rush, but to prove a point. And the point is that great white sharks have a gentle side to their nature.

But he’s not an airhead hippy claiming sharks are harmless. He is fully aware that sharks in general — and great whites in particular — are fearsome predators. But, he insists, they don’t target humans. If they did, a person would be taken out at least once a day.

“When we get in the water, we’re the dumbest, slowest form of protein,” he says. But we don’t taste good. White sharks are extremely selective in their diet.”

Rutzen had an amazing interaction with a 4.5-metre great white. While he didn’t manage to get her into tonic, they bonded, achieving a level of trust that is hard to imagine. For about a minute, she towed him gently and slowly through the water while he held on to her dorsal fin.

“I’ve never ever in my life had an experience like that with such a big animal,” Rutzen says. “You realise how wonderful and powerful these animals are. You’re so in touch with the animal, you can feel every little thing. If the animal starts looking at you, you can feel how it’s banking its head and looking at you. We’ve just done the longest dorsal fin ride I’ve ever ridden. It’s surreal, it’s super-peaceful. It feels like you want to stay there.”

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