Daredevil Handles Sharks in Feeding Frenzy

This post is so popular that I’m giving it a new look.

A slender, sandy-haired bravado slides onto the back of a whale carcass to be near his beloved Tiger sharks at dinner time.

Heart pounding, eyes flashing, hands shaking with excitement, Leon Deschamps reaches out to stroke the object of his affection…

He is not afraid.

(all photos courtesy of Leon Deschamps)

As the story goes…

Leon and his friends were on a trek to collect genetic samples for the Shark Bay Ecosystem Research Project when they ran into a group of fishermen. The anglers were excited, swearing that the day before they had stumbled across a school of sharks feeding on a whale carcass.

The Australian scientists couldn’t pass up the opportunity to witness such an event. Praying it was real, they raced through the night on a Catamaran arriving at the sight just as the sun was creeping over the horizon.

It was true.

Beholding the whale buried in a meter of water as the sharks tore into its flesh, a light flashed brightly for 32-year-old Leon. He was going for the ride of his life.

“It was the safest time I would ever get to touch these animals during feeding, Leon swore. “I wasn’t scared because I have educated myself about the animal.”

The researcher isn’t a careless bloke. He had studied these animals most of his life, knew that Tiger sharks don’t jump like Great Whites, and that he would be secure.

“Tiger sharks are not aggressive,” Leon informs. “And I thought the most effective way to demonstrate that would be by throwing ourselves into the middle of a feeding frenzy.”

When the ride was over Leon shared his experience:

“They were sedate in their movements and far from aggressive, despite it being a time when they are supposed to be at their most ferocious,” he grinned. “I think they enjoyed the experience.

It was an amazing experience, a once in a lifetime opportunity, and wild horses would not have stopped me from doing it.”

The whale rider insists that sharks are different from one another, which puts the Tiger shark at risk. “We fear sharks because we don’t understand them.”

“They are like a pet dog,” Leon vows. “You can share beautiful, incredible interaction with them, but if you do not show them respect … even a pit bull can tear you apart.”

The hardy conservationist is now at odds with the Department of Environment and Conservation. Touching whales is illegal in Australia, and nobody is supposed to be messin’ with the sharks.

Now Leon wants to bring it on, out in the open, educate people—so we will drop the notion that sharks are blood-thirsty killing machines.

He believes that Shark Bay, with its 40 species of sharks, has as much to offer tourism as Monkey Mia which is famous for its dolphins.

Leon and his supporters have been discouraged by prior council in their work on Team Tiger, a campaign for acoustic monitoring devices to be placed along a 1000km stretch of Shark Bay coastline.

It is part of educating the public about the Tiger shark’s migratory routes and feeding patterns, of which little is known.

Leon is also working to establish a database of images, so that sharks can be recognized by their distinct dorsal fin.

You gotta admire someone who does more than blab; who works like a dog (oops) for what they believe in.

Two folks who believe in Leon’s work are Trevor and Rhonda Humphries, local conservationists, who handed over their retirement yacht as a research vessel. Now that’s put up or shut up.

“All the research at the moment is done by International researchers,” Leon complains, “mostly American and Canadian.”

“I just want to see more Aussies involved in creating their own conservation programs … in their own back yard.”

Here’s tippin’ a hat to ya, Leon.

May Your Glass Always Be Half Full

News from Home:

David had shots last week
to boost his white blood cell

He was really sick this week end.


About Maxi

Hi … I'm Maxi, a retiree with an addiction. I have quit: raising kids, cleaning house, cooking, doing laundry—there is no end the list—everything is done on "have to." The addiction? Writing to my last breath. blessings ~ maxi
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