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The Man Who Speaks With Sharks.

 

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No animal quite captures our imagination like sharks. In Journey From the Source: Episode III we visit Jupiter, Florida, to meet a shark diver who swims, cage-free, with the ocean’s top predator every day. His advice? Never turn your back on a shark.

The average beach-goer in the US is about 10 times more likely to get struck by lightning than attacked by a shark. Let that sink in for a minute.

It’s a stat that doesn’t reflect the fears of the beach-going public. In Florida, for example, where a quarter of the year is spent in thunderstorms, no one blinks an eye when lightning strikes. But if a shark is spotted in the bay, you can pretty much guarantee pandemonium.

It’s fair to say – and how much blame you want to place on Jaws is up to you – that sharks terrify us. But the animal, and its threat, are so wrapped up in mythology and fear it’s hard to separate fact from fiction. Because if sharks are the merciless man-eaters we have been told, how can someone like South Florida-based captain Bryce Rohrer swim with them every day? Without a cage. And never get bitten.

Determined to understand more about sharks – many species of which are endangered due to finning and overfishing – we headed to Jupiter, a little town two hours north of Miami, to meet Bryce and witness his shark-o-philia firsthand. Within two hours of arriving at U-Tiki Marina, where Bryce keeps his diving boat, I’ve already heard him described affectionately by a fellow captain as a ‘mad scientist’.

“I guess I just never fell for the mainstream hype on sharks, you know what I mean?” says Bryce, pulling ropes on deck ready for our dive. “Being out on the water you start seeing sharks for what they are, and it just becomes pretty natural to get in the water with them. All that fear and anxiety just kind of evaporates as soon as you see that shark.”

Bryce spends about 300 days a year on the water with sharks either in Jupiter, Florida, down on the Keys, or up in Nantucket, where he runs another charter. He’s got no desire to swap it for office life anytime soon. “I’ll definitely be involved with sharks for the rest of my life, without a doubt,” he says, revving up the boat for today’s dive. “I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m driving a boat when I’m 70. In some fashion or another, I will be involved with sharks and the ocean and conservation and bringing people out there to see sharks; whether it’s through film, whether it’s through a charter, anything to get people out to see these things and what they’re really all about.”

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