How does a Mermaid end up with a Shark Hickey?
I did a shark dive while shooting with Per Petersen - we filmed around an open ocean shipwreck with black tipped Carribean reef sharks. That was just a phenomenal experience. I was a lot more comfortable in many ways than when I was swimming with the great white sharks. There, the shark reef dives happen every day.
The divers here go down wearing chainmail suits over their whole body and they hand feed the reef sharks. They really are like a pack of wild dogs. They’re used to being fed by humans, by hand, and they know where the dinner’s served, and yet they’re completely wild in the open ocean.
So I’m getting in my tail and I thought “okay I’ve swum with 14-foot great white sharks before, so this is no big deal!” The diver guys told me that when I swim I had to keep my hands by my side, because if I put my hand out that’s a sign that I’m trying to feed them dinner and if I don’t have a fish in my hand they’ll probably just take my whole hand off.
I thought, “Okay. I’m not feeling so comfortable anymore!” And I look down and realize the divers are all wearing full-body chain mail and I’m half naked in a fish suit. That was the moment I realized I might be just a little bit insane.
We went down about 40 ft deep. I was in my mermaid tail and buddy breathing from my scuba diver’s air tank. There were probably about forty sharks just swarming all around me.
They’re really comfortable with humans down there on a daily basis, so they came a lot closer than the great white sharks ever did. Suddenly I’m swimming and I feel this pulling back and forth on my tail.
I look down and there’s this shark attached to the end of my tail having a good go at it!
That’s the thing I always hope: if they’re going take a bite, just eat the plastic! But it let go and I was like, “Okay, it’s okay, no big deal,” It wasn’t until I was back up at the surface that the photographer showed me that he got an amazing photo of the shark actually taking a bite out of my tail.
It was a misleading photo though, because the shark looks so cute and friendly, like it was smiling, gently posing for the photo, holding my tail gently in its mouth with a cute grin on its face!
It certainly felt a lot more scary when it was happening!
Despite this scare, I decided to go back down again to get some more footage, but this time the sharks were getting antsier.
One came up and bumped me on the shoulder roughly. The divers looking after me were totally freaked out! They were asking if I wanted to go up to the surface. I responded, “Well, I don’t know, should I be going up, is this dangerous? You guys are the experts!”
I ended up staying; I really wanted to do more photos because it was such an incredible opportunity. And it wasn’t until we got up to the top, that I saw they were all white-faced.
“You guys get bumped all the time and you push them away, why was that such a big deal?” and they replied, “That shark had its mouth around your shoulder, we’re in shock that you still have a shoulder!”
They asked, “Are you crazy, didn’t you feel its teeth at all?” And I said, “Nope! Didn’t even feel it.”
I got a hickey bump from a shark. That was a phenomenal experience, I can’t wait to go back.
Written by Mermaid Hannah Fraser