“I AM THE SHARK WHISPERER,” I had those words floating through my head today, as I was on a morning jog, “Eli the Shark Whisperer.” Those words have been used to describe me throughout much of my career. Even at the peak of all the craziness, I never liked, believed or cared to be called that. In fact, I freaking hated being called that… because I always felt like it was not true and I was a fake.
The facts are, as much as I know and understand shark behavior, especially the species that I have had the pleasure of working intimately with, I really do not know anything about sharks. They are, and will always, continue to be a mystery to me. I have been blessed with sharing countless hours with sharks, and I have been allowed extended glimpses into their lives; and that has allowed me to learn things and behaviors about these animals that few get to see, or understand. But even with that, the idea that I am, or was, some sort of whisperer, makes me laugh.
The thought that anyone could be considered a shark whisperer is a silly idea to me, because there are over 500 different species of sharks. They all have different personalities, hunting behaviors, the way they interact with each other, they are all so very different. So unless you have shared time with every single species of shark, the idea of being some kind of master is… well, you get it.
Plus, these are truly wild animals and even though I have spent a lot of time with many different shark species, especially tiger sharks, I never once felt comfortable, or fell under any illusions that I could snuggle up to them, or that they are some sort of loyal pet. I have always known that if I screwed up, I would pay the ultimate price, at the hands (or mouth), of one of my favorite sharks. That knowledge always drove me to stay vigilant when I was/am down there.
I have seen a few other people out there being called the same thing… and maybe they are? A few pros I know, have been diving with the same sharks for 20 plus years, and know their sharks intimately, they for sure are deserving of that kind of title. They have a deep understanding of their sharks, and for that I do give them props, and I have mad respect for them. But just like me, they lack experience with other species of sharks, and probably, just like me, may find that name uncomfortable.
And don’t get me wrong, I truly appreciated that people would say that about me. Because it meant they respected my work - and it is a good feeling when people see what you have done, and show some love. I think at our core we all want to be appreciated for our life’s work, but to be called some kind of master, just never sat well with me, because I knew that I wasn’t.
Anyway, as we move forward, I am sure I will see future news stories, with new Shark Whisperers, - all with killer images, trying new things and sharing new behaviors with us. Which is the way it is supposed to be - The passion of shark diving, should always be that we move forward, and someone NEEDS to continue carrying the torch; showing people what sharks are truly like. Who knows…maybe, just maybe, a shark diver will show up, that truly is a real Shark Whisperer, and they will be able to come in and finally get a tiger shark to lay down on their lap, or the ultimate, roll a white shark. Now, that is a person that I would love to dive with and learn from. But until that day comes, the world is stuck with the one’s that we have… including a fake one like me.