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A Dinner Date with Man-Eaters Previous Log
Date: 17 December 2008 Next Log
Africa > South Africa > Western Cape > Gansbaai Log Menu

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Duuuuh-na...."This is madness."
- Sam

We have come to Gansbaai, South Africa, with Dyer Island on the horizon - home to one of the world's densest populations of Great White Sharks. The Man-eating Shark. Carcharodon carcharias.

And we're strapping on wetsuits. Sam is right. This is madness!

The Great White Shark, one of the greatest predators alive, is considered an endangered animal. Humans have hunted them to "vulnerable" levels. Even here at Dyer Island, sightings of full grown sharks (up to 20 ft long and over 4000 lbs) are rare nowadays. The Great Whites' diet is carnivorous and eating habits are legendary. If you believe in reincarnation, it's probably best not to wish to come back as a sea lion.

...duuh-na...The shark speaks with its teeth. They don't have hands, so they use their mouths for just about everything. They communicate with eachother and settle territorial disputes by biting eachother. As you can see in the photos, all of the sharks look pretty beaten up. They live a rough and tumble life. It is possible that many so-called attacks on humans were simply "test bites", as the shark will chomp on just about anything such as buoys, surfboards, flotsam, and even humans, just to find out what it is. Problem is, if a single shark bite can rip apart 30 lbs of meat, even a small nibble could be a nightmare.

Tourism from cage diving is unquestionably more prosperous and sustainable for local economies rather than outright fishing for the sharks. As well, it raises awareness, though admittedly most tours probably don't teach tourists much about the sharks. Tourists come for the big teeth, not a lesson in conservation. However, I think the dive operators would be surprised of how many people are truly interested in learning more about the sharks.

...dun-dah-duh-dah-dun-dah...The main concern of cage diving is that it encourages sharks to approach humans by baiting them with chum (fish bits and blood). This is a valid concern, but noone has so far been able to determine if sharks now associate humans with food, and if so, if it will result in more humans being attacked. I couldn't find any statistics to support either side. My opinion is that we simply don't know much about Great White Sharks and this is the change that needs to occur first.

Overall, the instances of humans being attacked by a Great White are very rare, and when it does occur, it is often a case of mistaken identity (thinking a human is a seal) or a test bite.

Responsible dive boat operators will try to draw the shark away from the cage using the bait, but as you can see from the video above, it is pretty difficult to judge where the shark will move next. There aren't exactly ...dun-na-na...din-na-na! (If you didn't already guess, I was doing the Jaws theme.)"Responsible Use of Chum" regulations for operators to follow.

Ironically, as the sharks circled the boat and attacked the chum, it was hard not to pity them. Their brethren are being choked to death in shark nets strung along beaches around the world. Countless numbers of sharks die simply because we fear them. Our sense of security demands bloodshed. Other Great Whites are flopping around on the decks of fishing boats. It might be illegal to fish for Great Whites in a few countries, but if they just happen to get caught, they'll be processed anyway and sold under the label of a unprotected type of shark for a nice profit.

Cage diving may be controversial, but we couldn't resist. After all, madness is in the eye of the beholder.

Underwater photo credit: C. Reed and Z. Wood

Lock and Load!
It didn't seem extreme enough, so we strapped plastic explosives to ourselves. LET'S DO THIS!
Best of Chums
Rubbing chum all over yourself makes it even MORE extreme. I swear that's why I did it.
Here fishy fishy!
What's this sissy cage business all about?
Greetings, Human..
Step into my parlor..
Chum! I love chum!
..And now it's your turn!
Get in my belly!
Get me outta here!! I give up!
Tourists are no fun..
Oh My!
What large teeth you have!
Sam says..
"That shark bit off 3 of my fingers.. AWESOME!"
Send more tourists!
The last ones were delicious!
It's a bad day to be a sea lion
Sam and Zach
Happy to be back on the boat.
Has anyone seen Clive lately?
Last I saw he was trembling in a corner of the cage
And like that, he was gone..
:: Inukshuk ::

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