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Scubaverse Interviews Rodney Fox, the Great White Shark Adventurer and Protector

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When Scubaverse photography editors Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown headed off to South Australia to collect images for their latest book, they decided that a meeting with scuba diving and Great White Shark legend Rodney Fox was too good an opportunity to miss…

In this interview, we found ourselves talking to one of the great pioneers of shark diving. For anyone who is unfamiliar with this incredible man, perhaps we should introduce him with a brief bio. Over 50 years ago, in 1963 in fact, Rodney Fox was a young, free-diving, spear fisherman who set about defending his spear fishing champion title off the coast of South Australia when, without warning, he was hit at full, striking speed by a large Great White Shark. The attack was relentless and went on for several minutes as Rodney tried to defend himself, and only after grabbing the shark’s eyes was he released. Despite needing 476 stitches and having every one of his ribs broken, Rodney survived the attack, and yet still went on to become one of the great exponents of shark conservation and protection. He was the consultant for the film Jaws and it was after seeing the damage to people’s perception of these animals that he realised he needed to help them and set about trying to convince the world that the Great White Sharks were not wanton killers.

We had been using Adelaide as a hub for our various diving excursions around the coast of South Australia and had arranged to meet up with Rodney and Kay Fox on our only free morning. Despite using sat-nav, we managed to get lost in the suburbs of Adelaide looking for Rodney and Kay’s house. We were a little embarrassed to be a few minutes late for our visit with them, but we found their house and made our way to the door. We were aware that they had just returned from a long-haul trip to China and that it was very generous of them to have agreed to see us at all. We need not have worried in the slightest, as Rodney opened the door and greeted us with a huge smile and showed us into their lounge. Kay appeared and said that they were aware we were English and so she had just been out to buy tea and cake, “to make us feel at home.”

Rodney Fox

Rodney and Kay Fox

We settled down and instantly felt at ease with these two pioneering ocean explorers who had been role models to us for many years. We were there to discuss the stories in Rodney’s book “Sharks, the Sea and Me”, which is full of amazing tales from an age of underwater discovery, and also to talk about the great white shark expeditions he, and more recently his son Andrew, have been running for film-makers, underwater photographers and shark lovers for 50 years.

N&C: When you first assisted in the production of the film Jaws did you ever imagine just how much it would affect people’s perception of the Great White Shark?

RF: No I didn’t, not at all. I had been working on producing a cage that I could use to get into the water with the sharks, so that I would be able to study them in an effort to try and understand these amazing, iconic creatures. When Hollywood approached me to help out, I saw this as a way of helping to fund my research work. It didn’t occur to me at the time that the movie would be such a huge blockbuster that would instil in the public an absolute fear of being eaten alive by these “mad, crazy, man-eating monsters.” Now, of course, anyone who works with these incredible animals will realise that this perception is such a long way from the truth.

N&C: What would your reaction be to those who say your shark trips are encouraging man-eating behaviour in the great white sharks?

RF: Firstly, I would point out that the trips, as you call them, are expeditions which are designed to educate people about the sharks and to give them an insight into the behaviour and beauty of these superb animals. People like the tingling excitement of fear which they may experience when they are in the cage, but this only enforces their appreciation of just who and what these animals are. You can see and appreciate the great white sharks by watching the television, but it is only by being there and experiencing the awe and magnificence of these apex predators that you can fully appreciate the animal. The expedition has been thought through and designed to educate the general public, and we are confident that we fulfil this brief exceptionally well. The finest ambassadors for the great white sharks, all over the world, are those who have taken part in one or more of our expeditions. These expeditions are not for those people who just want to “tick the box” and then move on. If you want a real life experience, then you have to be there and be a consummate part of it. Rather than just dip people in the water on a day trip, you actually get time to spend at the Neptune Islands, over several days, and hence you get to properly experience it.

N&C: You also bait the sharks; does that not endorse the fact that humans equal food in the sharks’ minds?

RF: Without the bait, there are no sharks for the people on the expedition to encounter. We do not feed the sharks, but rather use a constant flow of fish blood into the water, and sometimes use large pieces of fish on the end of the line to attract the sharks closer to the boat. It is very rare that the shark catches us unawares and takes the piece of fish. The sharks still need to actively hunt to be able to survive.

N&C: What is the Rodney Fox Foundation?

RF: Many people’s perception of sharks is of an evil wanton killer. The word “shark” itself has become one that is right up there with “Devil”, but more recently we have seen huge numbers of people in the waters of Australia rallying against the government’s cull of the great white sharks, and I believe the tide is turning. When we set up the foundation it was a means to help cover the costs of the research into and promotion of a better image of the Great White Shark. Our guests are paying towards the foundation for various reasons, but mostly it is used to support our research. There are various levels of sponsorship and Andrew, my son, is currently reworking the way in which we do this. Andrew is now undoubtedly the most knowledgeable person in the world on all things great white. He took over from me 15 years ago and I can safely say that he has seen more great white sharks than anyone else, anywhere.


We are very lucky indeed, as our next stop was on a tour with Rodney and Kay’s son Andrew Fox out to the Neptune Islands to experience the South Australian Great White Sharks for ourselves. Before we left, however, we asked Rodney to sign our copy of his book. His dedication to us made us very proud and it began with “to another adventurist couple”.  We can only hope to follow in some of their pioneering footsteps and achieve a fraction of what this very special couple have done!

To read more about Rodney’s marine adventures, grab a copy of his book “Sharks, the Sea and Me”.

To find out more about Rodney Fox visit www.rodneyfox.com.au.

To find out more about Nick and Caroline visit www.frogfishphotography.com.

Nick and Caroline (Frogfish Photography) are a married couple of conservation driven underwater photo-journalists and authors. Both have honours degrees from Manchester University, in Environmental Biology and Biology respectively, with Nick being a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, a former high school science teacher with a DipEd in Teaching Studies. Caroline has an MSc in Animal Behaviour specializing in Caribbean Ecology. They are multiple award-winning photographers and along with 4 published books, feature regularly in the diving, wildlife and international press They are the Underwater Photography and Deputy Editors at Scubaverse and Dive Travel Adventures. Winners of the Caribbean Tourism Organization Photo-journalist of the Year for a feature on Shark Diving in The Bahamas, and they have been placed in every year they have entered. Nick and Caroline regularly use their free time to visit schools, both in the UK and on their travels, to discuss the important issues of marine conservation, sharks and plastic pollution. They are ambassadors for Sharks4Kids and founders of SeaStraw. They are Dive Ambassadors for The Islands of The Bahamas and are supported by Mares, Paralenz, Nauticam and Olympus. To find out more visit www.frogfishphotography.com

News

Nauticam announce NA-A7C Housing for Sony a7C Camera

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Sony’s latest full frame mirrorless camera, the a7C offers the underwater image maker one of the most compact and travel friendly full frame systems available on the market today.  The a7C features Sony’s latest stellar autofocus and a much improved battery life thanks to its use of the larger Z series battery. The BIONZ X processor delivers superb low-light performance and faster image processing. For video shooters, the a7C features internal UHD 4K capture in the wide-dynamic range HLG image profile at up to 30p.

Nauticam has housed more mirrorless cameras, and more Sony E Mount cameras than any other housing manufacturer. This experience results in the most evolved housing line with broadest range of accessories available today.

Pioneering optical accessories elevate performance to a new level. Magnifying viewfinders, the sharpest super macro accessory lenses ever made, and now the highest quality water contact wide angle lenses (the WWL-1B and WACP-1) combine with the NA-A7C housing to form a complete imaging system.

Nauticam is known for ergonomics, and an unmatched experience. Key controls are placed at the photographer’s fingertips. The housing and accessories are light weight, and easy to assemble. The camera drops in without any control presetting, and lens port changes are effortless.

NA-A7C features an integrated handle system. This ergonomic style provides exceptional control access, even with thick gloves, with ideal placement of the shutter release and a thumb-lever to actuate the AF-ON button from the right handle.

Nauticam build quality is well known by underwater photographers around the globe. The housing is machined from a solid block of aluminum, then hard anodized making it impervious to salt water corrosion. Marine grade stainless and plastic parts complete the housing, and it is backed by a two year warranty against manufacturing defects.

For more information in the UK visit the Nauticam website by clicking here.

For more information in the USA visit the Nauticam website by clicking here.

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Blogs

BLUE EARTH – Future Frogmen Podcast Series – The Next Generation of Ocean Stewards: Lauren Brideau

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A series of conservation educational podcasts from Future Frogmen, introduced by Jeff Goodman.

The Next Generation of Ocean Stewards: Lauren Brideau

We have a new host, Dr. Colleen Bielitz, and today we’ll be interviewing a recent college graduate as part of our once-a-month episode that focuses on students: the next generation of conservationists, researchers, and activists.

What are the next generation of ocean stewards doing to protect our Blue Earth? Join us as we find out by speaking to Lauren Brideau, a recent graduate of Southern Connecticut State University. Lauren started as an undeclared major but soon found her calling, now she is part of a research team conserving life below water.  She is a prime example that if you want to defend our oceans and the creatures that depend on the sea to survive, now is the time to become part of the solution.


Richard E Hyman Bio

Richard is the Chairman and President of Future Frogmen.

Born from mentoring and love of the ocean, Richard is developing an impactful non-profit organization. His memoir, FROGMEN, details expeditions aboard Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s famed ship Calypso.

Future Frogmen, Inc. is a nonprofit organization and public charity that works to improve ocean health by deepening the connection between people and nature. They foster ocean ambassadors and future leaders to protect the ocean by accomplishing five objectives.


You can find more episodes and information at www.futurefrogmen.org and on most social platforms @futurefrogmen.

 

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