Nat Geo WILD: From ‘Shark Attack’ Diver Clare Daly

From Clare Daly, shark diver and conservationist, shark attack survivor, “human bait” on Shark Attack Experiment LIVE:

The filming of this show has been a very personal journey for me. When we first started I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to finish it and sometimes would lose sleep worrying about getting back in the water, about one of us getting bitten and about all the things that could go wrong. The shark attack a few weeks prior to the start of filming impacted me hugely and deeply but I was determined that it would not stop me.

I never feared sharks. I’ve been attracted to their beauty and mystery since my first glimpse of a great hammerhead shark patrolling the blue waters off Roatan Island in Honduras and that brief encounter sparked a quest for more encounters. Without hesitation, I’ve thrown myself into the deep world of sharks, joining them without fear or cages.

Then the shark attack happened and everything changed. I had dedicated myself to sharks but suddenly I was questioning everything I’d told people about sharks, everything I believed. It made me skeptical of the work I’ve committed myself to and worst of all it made me fear sharks.  I’ve introduced many people to sharks, helping them face their fears and dive with them unafraid and respectfully but suddenly I couldn’t imagine ever getting back in the water.

Aliwal Shoal, South Africa: Clare Daly performs the 'Bare Skin Bikini' test. Photo by Aquavision.


Often the experiments and results weren’t that important for me. Instead, each day we got in the water with sharks I was facing my greatest fears and that took a substantial amount of energy. But I was committed to what the show was about and was keen to participate. At times I convinced myself that what we were doing was stupid and dangerous, that we were being reckless. In fact, I’d never been in safer diving conditions, surrounded by very experienced divers as well as competent and skilled medics (especially with the white sharks). Gail and Olivia were so supportive of me as I struggled. These amazing women helped me work through my fears, reminding me who I am and what I believe in. It was great being part of such a strong team and I really can’t wait to be in the water with them again for the live event. Diving with such experienced and talented shark-men as Andy and Mark was inspiring and helped me to see the bigger picture. I don’t know if the fear of sharks that was burned into me during the attack will ever completely go away, but this team has helped me face and fight my fears. I feel so privileged to work with each of them.

Clare Daly (on right) with Gail Addison (left) and Olivia Symcox (middle). Photo by Skye Ebden.

 

I really loved diving with the blue and mako sharks. I’d dived with a mako before, an unforgettable experience in the Philippines, but had never seen blue sharks before. They are the most dazzling color blue. I’ve never seen anything like it. That was certainly a highlight for me. The white sharks were really special as well. It was humbling to be in the presence of such a spectacular creature and we were really lucky to be able to dive outside of a cage with them. Each species and each location we dived was so different and it was really an incredible experience for me to be able to dive and travel so much throughout South Africa. It really is a remarkable and diverse country.

I surprised myself on the shoot—amazingly it was easier for me to dive outside a cage in poor visibility off a seal colony with great white sharks than it was for me to dive in conditions similar to the day of the attack—in clean blue water. I still struggle with blue water and while I’m so far ahead of where I was when we started filming, I’m still a little apprehensive about the live shoot. But I’m too stubborn to let my feelings get in the way of what I want to do and I’m ready to face my fears again. I want the person sitting on the other side of this screen, I want you, to understand that sharks are beautiful predators, not monsters. I hope that this show can help to re-educate, turning fear into curiosity, curiosity into passion and passion into action.  I want people to know what is happening to our sharks, to our planet. Sharks deserve respect. They belong to this ocean planet and not to us, for our consumption and exploitation.

The show wasn’t easy, but it was fun. I imagine the live event will have its challenges as well but this team is up for it. I’m crossing my fingers that the sea will welcome us with good topside conditions and clean water. I can’t wait!


Clare Daly is originally from Colorado but now lives in South Africa and Mozambique. She works at Blue Wilderness South Africa as an expert dive guide and instructor. Through her experiences diving with sharks, Clare has become committed to shark conservation. Read more about Clare Daly and her work with sharks.

Wildlife

Alison Walsh is Director, Digital Media, for National Geographic Channels. She loves history, space, cats, and the Oxford comma.