Sharks are among the most misunderstood creatures on the planet. They are the subject of myths and sensational media reports. They feature in gruesome and terrifying stories from around the world. Even Hollywood fiction movies have contributed to the villainization of sharks. A common belief is that they are robotic, cold-blooded killers that patrol the waters looking for people to eat. But the truth is very different than perception. This video shows divers who have ventured into shark habitat and had close encounters with these "terrifying beasts", yet they have not been in actual danger. In each case, the shark has approached the scuba divers out of curiosity and has chosen not to bite. They clearly have the opportunity and the ability to inflict harm on the humans in each case. Yet, they have no reason and no desire to do so.
Most sharks are opportunistic feeders or scavengers. They prey upon the weak and the dying and seldom try to eat animals that are healthy and capable of even the mildest protest.
Most scuba divers have a thorough understanding of the true nature of sharks and they know that there is little to fear if these animals are treated with proper respect. But despite this knowledge, even a seasoned diver is still startled by the sudden appearance or close approach of a shark. In the first clip, a dive master from Belize is finishing a dive with his group. In the middle of their safety stop and planned ascent to the surface, a large reef shark makes an unexpected appearance below him and angles suddenly upward to inspect his fins. This approach is driven by curiosity and the shark appears to recognize that the diver is not food and quickly leaves him alone.
The shark approaches another diver in the group and bumps him in the groin. The diver pushed the shark away with his camera and was not harmed in any way. In the third clip, a harmless nurse shark startled a young diver who had not noticed the shark coming. The shark is simply hoping for a chance at a free meal since it recognized the spear as a means for the people to spear lion fish.
In the last clip, a sudden investigative approach at a diver's face caused her to bop the shark on the nose to send a clear message to respect her space. The shark veered away and did not return so closely. In all of these cases, the sharks exhibited no desire to bite or harm the people who were guests in their domain. Sharks are fascinating and beautiful and they play a vital role in the health of our reefs and ocean ecosystems. Greater understanding of them will help ensure that we do not lose them.