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March 2017    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 32, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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MV Kate, Tiger Beach, The Bahamas

don’t forget, you are still prey

from the March, 2017 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Dear Fellow Diver:

On my fourth day of diving at Tiger Beach -- that's the once "secret" spot in the Bahamas where one is all but certain to be face-to-face with tiger sharks -- I made a mistake that could have hurt me, seriously hurt me. And then some.

I was only 45 feet (14m) deep, wearing 22 pounds (10kg) of lead to stay down because of the expected currents, but there was no current. Three active tiger sharks buzzed around as the dead fish smell was everywhere. I pulled my housed Olympus OMD with dual strobes toward me to photograph an approaching tiger chasing a fish our shark wrangler had tossed, but she missed the bait, and in the blink of an eye, she transformed from scavenger to predator and came at me. Our shark wrangler moved quickly to push her away. But, "Butters," an 11-footer (3.5m), turned around and came back again, this time chomping down on the strap between the two strobe arms and swimming away with my camera rig before dropping it a few feet away. I retrieved my camera, but she came back at me again, then again, and again, and each time I pushed her away. Unnerved, I headed to the surface to end the dive. She followed me up a ways, before returning to the feed.

Mv Kate Docked in FreeportAfter the dive, Mike Black, who has 10 years' experience as a shark wrangler, explained what Butters was doing. By pulling my camera back, he said, I caused her to become a predator, and I was her target because she perceived me as running away, as prey do. I managed to remain calm with his explanation, but the incident preyed upon my mind all night. So much for anthropomorphizing a half-ton tiger shark with the cute name "Butters." Jaws would be better....


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