To visit his friend, Rick Anderson has to strap on an oxygen tank, put a regulator into his mouth and dive into the ocean off the coast of Nobbys Beach in New South Wales, Australia.
Anderson has a 6-foot female Port Jackson shark as a buddy. Anderson recognizes her by her marks, even though she doesn’t have a name.
Anderson claims that she always recognizes him.
Anderson told The Dodo, “I started playing with her around seven years ago when she was just a pup about 6 inches long.” “I approached her slowly so as not to startle her, then softly patted her. I’d cradle her in my palm and whisper soothingly to her through my regulator after she’d gotten used to me.”
“I did this each time in the first season she was here,” he said. “Then over the following seasons, she’d recognize me and would swim up to me for a pat and cuddle. She soon got used to me — to the point where she will swim up to me when I’m going past, and tap me on the legs until I hold my arms out for her to lay on for a cuddle.”
“Most first-time divers can’t believe what they’re seeing,” he continued. “I don’t feed her or any of the other sharks I play with; I treat them as if they were dogs.”
Port Jackson sharks are a lot smaller than great white sharks, but any kind of shark tends to ignite fear, especially as the media often wrongly portrays sharks as dangerous to people. In reality, people are far more dangerous to sharks — it’s estimated that people kill 73 million sharks per year.
Anderson, who’s been scuba diving for more than 30 years and runs a dive school, hopes his friendship with this Port Jackson shark will make people less fearful of sharks.
“The most common misunderstanding about sharks is that they are all mindless murderers waiting for humans to enter the ocean so they may be consumed,” Anderson added.
Anderson dives with a variety of sharks, including banjo sharks, grey nurse sharks, tiger sharks, bull sharks, hammerhead sharks, and even the occasional great white shark.
“I have always felt comfortable swimming with these animals,” he said.
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Anderson is always open to giving a shark a cuddle, and even after so many years, his friend — the Port Jackson — can’t seem to get enough of Anderson.