A witty Australian ocean enthusiast has created a thriving online niche for himself: shooting and narrating drone videos of (very) close encounters between inoffensive sharks, and swimmers and surfers oblivious to the predators’ presence.
Aussie drone video captures many, many brushes between sharks and unsuspecting people
Each day, just before sunrise, Aussie pilot Jason Iggleden strikes out around Sydney’s Bondi Beach to shoot drone video of the far more frequent meetings of shark and human than anyone imagines. But if the popularity of his Dronesharkapp Instagram account is any measure, more people than one might expect also want to know about those encounters – especially if they’ve been party to one.
The astonishing drone footage Iggleden posts of people excruciatingly close to creatures that – had they been spotted – would have inspired immediate terror has won enough plaudits for the BBC to do a recent video segment on the pilot and his pastime.
Iggleden films any sea creatures coming to swim among Bondi’s human contingent, including whales, sting rays, dolphins, massive schools of fish, and various species of sharks. That occasionally alarming footage of intermingling is contrasted by Iggleden’s entertaining banter about the oceanic visitors and people alike.
“This guy might be in for a fright,” Iggleden says of one swimmer coming close to a shark he never actually sees.
“Wow, if you don’t see that…” he says of another pair of swimmers paddling right over another shark. “No! How could you not?”
Pilot’s objective: replacing fear of sharks with healthy respect
But perhaps the most fear-diminishing aspect of Iggleden’s narration is his penchant for naming recurring marine actors – particularly a gray nurse shark he calls Norman.
“Watch out – Norman’s about,” he says during one of the shark’s jaunts among people. “Gonna go and say G’day to this crew, are ya? He loves to say G’day to everyone.”
Another time, Iggleden playfully scolds, “Norman, don’t scare people.”
Iggleden says he initially panicked when his drone video feed picked up brushes between sharks and humans. But over time he realized the former were usually innocuously curious, or utterly disinterested in people they identify as unappetizing prey. Sydney hasn’t suffered a fatal attack since 1963, after all, and little Iggleden has seen leads him to think that’s going to change soon.
“As time went on, my perception changed of sharks, especially the gray nurses,” he explains. “So now it’s about creating awareness that we can coexist with sharks.”
He says he has on occasion viewed what he calls bronze whalers, or copper sharks, coming close enough to surfers that he shouted warnings to them with a bullhorn he carries along. In most cases, however, once aware and able to keep watch, surfers remain out in the lineup.
“As soon as I mention great white shark, they’re out,” he adds. “I call the lifeguards if it’s a dangerous event like that.”
Iggleden says he gets feedback from Instagram followers who thank him for his drone videos, and their manner of reducing fears about going into water where the presence of sharks can become too great to brave. Re-establishing proper perspectives of the actual risk involved, he says, is the objective of his Bondi flights in the first place.
“It’s time to show sharks in a different light,” he told the BBC. “But in saying that, you still have to respect that it’s their ocean.”
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