It seems as though South African men have a knack for developing close relationships with some of the world's most ferocious wildlife. First there is Kevin Richardson AKA The Lion Whisperer and now, Andre Hartman who has figured out how to calm down the world's largest known extant macro predatory fish - The Great White Shark!
Andre's first encounter with the Great Whites came in 1977, when he was spearfishing in the open waters around Cape Town. Attracted by the vibrations caused by the distressed fish, the sharks would often circle around the area, and one decided to confront Andre. Luckily, the Great White did not like the spear gun that he used to fend it off and decided to swim away. However, the experience left him petrified and from then on he would try steer clear of them, as much as, possible.
However, given that the region is known as the mecca for Great Whites, there was no avoiding them and his fear gradually subsided. In 1996, he and a friend decided to set up Marine Dynamics, a charter company to take tourists on caged diving trips to see the Great White Sharks that inhabit the waters around Dyer Island. Their diving prowess and understanding of this ferocious fish soon became known worldwide, attracting even documentary photographers from National Geographic, BBC and The Discovery Channel. The more time Andre spent around the sharks, the more comfortable he became with them.
Then one day, he discovered the secret 'whisper' that has made him world famous. Often while they were out diving, the Great Whites would out of curiosity try and take a bite off the boat's motor. Concerned that they would harm it, he pushed one off by touching the tip of its snout. To his surprise, the big fish lunged up and then fell backwards, like it was in a happy trance!
What he had accidently done is touch the Ampullae of Lorenzini, the electronic receptors found in the snouts of cartilaginous fish like sharks and rays. They are so sensitive that just a mere touch creates a rush of information and puts the fish into a temporary sensor overload - The shark is so overwhelmed by this experience that for a few moments, it goes into a trance.
Andre, who has starred in several documentaries, including Discovery Channel's Great White Sharks, where he is filmed swimming with these predators- cage less, is today considered to be one world's biggest experts on the Great Whites and the only known person that has figured out how to put them in this happy uncaring mode, albeit for just a few seconds.
Great White Sharks are amongst the most feared of the species, and rightfully so, given that of the 100-plus shark attacks that occur annually worldwide, a full third can be attributed to this gigantic fish. However, most of them are not fatal and its not because the humans are able to get away, but because researchers believe that these large fish are naturally curious and hence often take a sample bite off the humans they encounter, with no intentions of devouring them.
On the other hand, sea creatures are not as fortunate - That's because these giants that grow to an average length of 15 feet and weigh up to 5,000 pounds, are the world's largest predatory fish, devouring everything that comes in sight.
Since they are not indigenous to any one area and can be found in cool coastal waters throughout the world, researchers are not sure of the population. However, most agree that their numbers are declining, due the threat to their food caused by over fishing. To make matters worse, they are also being hunted down for their fins, because in some Asian countries like China, shark fin soup is considered an exotic treat - One that sells for over $150 USD a bowl.
Resources: nationalgeo.com, huffingtonpost.com, dailymail.co.uk