POV: You’re swimming off the coast of South Africa, and along comes a great white shark. What do you do?
When this happened to a diver near Mossol Bay last week, they managed to stay calm enough to film the whole encounter. The footage shows the diver holding steady as the shark turns straight toward the camera and shows off its hollow eyes and a mass of nightmarish teeth.
It probably helped that the videographer appears to be an employee with White Shark Ocean, a company that organizes “immersive” shark experiences. With these kinds of outings, a professional tour operator takes clients out to see great whites on purpose. During the entire experience, divers are under close supervision of an expert.
While the shark in this video appears to be pretty docile, South Africa has been the site of some other, more gruesome animal news in recent weeks. Last month, notorious “shark-hunting” orca whales killed 17 female sharks off the coast of Cape Town, according to 9 News in Australia. The whales, named Port and Starboard, ate only the shark’s livers.
Port and Starboard were first observed hunting sharks in False Bay, Cape Town in 2015, according to tweets from Dr. Alison Kock, a marine biologist in Cape Town. She later co-authored a research paper about her observations.
In the paper, titled “Running Scared: When Predators Become Prey,” she and her fellow researchers examine how the killer whales only eat the nutrient-rich livers of the sharks they hunt, and how they subvert the food chain in the process. In 2017, Kock tweeted, Port and Starboard started targeting great whites, too—which resulted in the sharks abandoning their usual haunts.
That’s not great news for divers looking for an immersive shark experience. But for everyone else, well, fewer sharks might just mean some welcome peace of mind.