We normally would not cover news about a shark attack. We leave the sensationalizing to the mainstream media, who have done a great job of giving these beautiful creates a really bad name. However, yesterday's incident touches the hearts and souls of the underwater imagery community. The online forums are ablaze with conversations regarding the fatal shark attack on the Shear Water, a popular shark diving boat among underwater photographers and videographers, based in Ft. Lauderdale and operating in the Bahamas.
Our condolences go out to the family of Markus Groh, a 49 year old lawyer from Vienna, Austria, who was attacked by a Bull Shark and subsequently passed away. Instead of recreating the wheel here, we are going to point to a comprehensive thread on Wetpixel regarding the incident on the M/V Shear Water, where Eric Cheng & Wetpixel have been running shark diving trips with Jim Abernathy aboard the Shear Water for several years now, so there's no better source for information on this incident. Eric writes:
"This is the official thread on the February 24, 2008 shark bite in the Bahamas.
On February, 24, 2008, a 50 year old man was bitten by a shark in the Bahamas while on a shark diving expedition aboard the M/V Shear Water (also mentioned in the press as “Shearwater” and “Sheerwater"). The man was bitten in the leg by a shark while scuba diving and was reportedly flown via Coast Guard helicopter to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami for treatment.
I just spoke with Jim, who is just clearing immigration right now back in Florida. At the moment, he is completely swamped with everything that must be done. He did say that he is praying for the diver’s family and loved ones, and that the accident was extremely unfortunate."
(image above by Terry Goss via GNU Free Documentation License via Wiki Commons)
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It is no less a tragedy and loss that Mr. Groh has died from the shark bite. It appears that the bull shark did not attack him, but mistakenly went through the bait box and bit him on the calf. It was a bite and release without tearing the flesh. More evidence that the diver was neither prey nor the target.
Regrettably, the tragedy is personal for Marcus Groh, his family and friends. Yet, it is not without effect on the rest of us who love doing what he perished doing. I did not know him, but as a fellow lawyer and shark diver, I feel the camaraderie of his reasoned choice to be among sharks in the wild. I am sure such a person with his credentials was well aware of the risks and dangers. Unfortunately, delayed medical treatment is part of the risk of having to travel to remote locations to find the sharks. They are not being baited near human populations. I mourn his loss and the pain that death brings to those who knew him.
I have been privileged to be included on Jim AbernethyA?a‚¬a„?s early exploratory shark expeditions, too. I never have felt threatened by the dozens of large predators surrounding me in 360 degrees. Did they come in close and eyeball me? You bet. Are they curious? Absolutely. Jim has always put safety first. He has gained an unparalleled wealth of knowledge of sharks and their behavior in the wild. The nature of his encounters over the years has given him an understanding of individual sharkA?a‚¬a„?s personalities and moods. Jim sets the rules, and there are rules. He wonA?a‚¬a„?t hesitate to send recalcitrant customers home or order divers out of the water in a ramped up situation.
But Jim Abernethy is the most enthusiastic, positive, tireless, and devoted character, and I do mean character, I know in the dive industry. He will try anything to afford peak photographic opportunities for the thousands of professional filmmakers who have come to trust his expertise. Going on these dives is a huge investment of time, money and physical stamina. No one and no business would continue to expend such resources on Jim Abernethy and his company unless his successes were not legendary. This is serious business. People are not fooled or cajoled into a false sense of security. But these are wild animals that have teeth. We all know we could be bitten. The risks we accept are well within sound reason.
Jim has a proven track record of uninjured and safe diving with these majestic wild animals. Under that outgoing exterior, he is all seriousness. He breathes marine conservation. His briefings are exhaustive. He does bait the larger predators who have aggressive reputations. Ironically, his detractors support attracting sharks to kill them, but not to bring them close to photograph them. The idea is to bait them without feeding them to keep them around. There is no blood and rarely frenzy.
The analogy of throwing people into a lion cage at the zoo is inappropriate. Taking wildlife conservationists and enthusiasts to remote locations to experience, first-hand, the awe-inspiring, admitted predators is more like a big game guided safari. Indeed, if a leopard jumps from the brush and kills a hunter, should all safaris be banned? Hardly.
Let us all hope that the instant overreaction against sharks, shark diving and, certainly Jim Abernethy, subsides really soon. Let us hope the Bahamian government and the Bahamas Dive Association do not pull the plug. I would go back out there with Jimmy in an instant. I am a shark lover. I would see sharks on the inside of my eyelids when I finally closed my eyes after a full day on the Shear Water. These trips are some of my most memorable dives in my life. I am alive and exhilarated to be among the sharks.
Jay Garbose Underwater Video
& Internet Productions
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