Saturday, June 23, 2012

Shark Man

A month ago on May 23, 2012 I interviewed local urchin diver Ron Elliott about his many years of underwater experience with sharks in the wild, for an essay I'm writing about great white sharks, fear and spirituality. Here is an excerpt from that interview: 

Describe your first great white shark encounter in Northern California.  
“In the late 1980s I was diving for abalone on the outside of Fish Rocks out by Anchor Bay at the Farallon Islands. It was just a sighting, I had no real encounter with it. Not a big deal. It was just one pass, then it went swimming away in the underwater haze and I never saw it again. That was a pretty big shark, probably 15 foot. 
“When I started diving I was more aggressive with sharks, if I saw one I would make a move to make them break off. Then after a while you learn to keep your head down working, not looking because if you’re looking you’re seeing them. You can either keep watching behind your back and not get any work done, or you keep your head down working and get the urchins. 
“Late summer to early fall through December is the most shark sightings around here. It’s a seasonal thing and the smaller sharks seem to hang out on the coast more. I never had a problem with the smaller sharks, most of them were pretty skittish towards me as a diver. The 12 foot to 13 foot sharks seemed pretty aggressive out at the Farallones. One small shark on a bad underwater visibility day kept making passes, it kept coming back, getting really edgy with me - I’d turn around and it would be behind me again, staring...” 

(To be continued -- coming soon to a publication near you.)

photos copyright Josh Berry 2012.