Photo credits: Juan Oliphant
Note: I updated this post at the request of Ocean and Juan. Originally I exposed (with evidence) multiple examples of hypocrisy and libel committed against Juan and Ocean by "scientific" organizations. Juan and Ocean stated, "We want everyone to get along and work collectively regardless of any betrayals. Let's just channel that bad energy toward shark conservation".
Wow, Juan and Ocean really are jerks!
I had a rather obvious revelation regarding the recent Ocean Ramsey "shark harassment frenzy" taking place as I read the words at the top of yet another post bashing her. This particular post, unfortunately, came from someone I knew. The post read:
"Any positive message she supposedly had was buried under negativity and her desire to seek fame."
The particular link and photo these words were posted with was of Ocean's news article urging Australia to rethink culling. I saw the same news article on another page but without the mean words added to the post and that's when it hit me. All the negativity surrounding this controversy is born of the negative words people are adding to what were originally positive photos and posts. To take someone else's post and repost it in a negative way is already uncool, but to then abstractly refer to "the negativity" associated with it as though it appeared out of nowhere when the reality is that you ARE the the source of that very negativity was too much for me to stomach. I posted a video response but took it down after I calmed down due to the amount of cursing I engaged in.
I couldn't help but notice the attention and benefit all these "reposters" were receiving at Ocean and Juan's expense while simultaneously calling them glory seekers. If you think their images are so terrible stop sharing them. Period. I shared them and can personally attest that it got my pages attention. But I also wasn't simultaneously condemning them for doing this as a publicity stunt. Scientists who lead a hate campaign online and end up on TV for it are the limelight seekers.
How many people understand that this happened in their backyard; the location that they live, work, and dive almost daily?! Diving with sharks is their profession and thus they were blessed with a mind-blowing encounter that you and I didn't experience because we are in our homes thousands of miles away on keyboards instead of spending our lives in the ocean studying tiger sharks in Hawaii!!! It's not like they flew there and arranged a photo shoot for a TV show.
On the same topic, regarding those who claim it was irresponsible for the people who were there to post photos...are you freaking kidding me? They live there, take photos of, and work with sharks regularly, but when the single craziest shark encounter any of us have ever seen takes place they aren't supposed to take a picture!? I'm actually laughing as I type this. Try coming back down to earth. Every one of you would have tried to take a picture of those massive sharks, that is, if you were brave enough to even be out in the ocean on a boat, much less in the water when a living dinosaur swam by!!
Just so we don't get caught up in the "touching and harassing" argument let's go ahead and condemn Juan and Ocean as "animal harassers" for the moment and move on to other topics. OK, agreed? No more of the touching topic for just a minute while we move on.
I glanced down at my phone just now because I was tagged in another post by Ocean and as I scroll through the comments all I see is "Your words are so powerful, thank you! I'm signing the shark fin ban petition right now!" These sort of comments continue down on and on. Then I flip over to one of the haters' posts. It's full of judgment, hate, and hypocrisy. Pretty clear whose message is doing more good for sharks in this case.
You are going to hear me speak of scientists a few times during this post. That's NOT because I flat out dislike science or scientists, it's because scientists hold a position of power and influence and with that position comes responsibility, thus I'm referring specifically to those who abuse that position. I expect all the keyboard warriors at home to post stupid shit on Facebook and Youtube about things they know nothing about. But when people use their credentials as a platform to hate-bash and influence others to join their side, then yes, I have a big problem with those "scientists". Especially those who make false statements about shark behavior and those who commit full-out slander and libel.
Let me pause for a moment to discuss scientific credentials. Ocean Ramsey is a marine biologist. She chooses to spend her life learning about sharks through interaction and observation rather than analyzing tissue samples under a microscope. As far as conservation impact is concerned, which is more powerful? Showing people first hand the majestic beauty of sharks that changes the way they think forever, or publishing a paper that only peers in the field will read? I personally was criticized for my lack of credentials. Well, I have three degrees and before all is said and done I will have more. When the day comes that I have a PhD I hope all of you will remember that I'm still a human and that you need to engage in critical thinking rather than taking a scientist's words for it. Humans, scientists included, are not all-knowing or perfect, most clearly evidenced by the fact that they publish papers that conflict with other scientists. I personally found through life experience, including interviewing scientists, that I could be more impactful through filmmaking and activism. My tagline once said "turning research into film because no one reads research papers." That's not a bash on science, it's reality. My goal was to take the work scientists were doing and help that message reach more people through use of video. I have friends and enemies in the scientific community because I speak my mind. My advice to you is to be particularly wary of those who use every chance they can to name-drop or mention their credentials.
I can't end this without talking about the people stating, "I hope they get eaten. I hope they die." I think that pretty much sums those people up.
But the comments I will spend more time talking about are the ones that state that same old bullshit "It's only a matter of time" or "Play with fire and get burned", "You're going to get what you deserve." They say the same thing on my videos of me diving with sharks and they do so as if they've stated some incredible wisdom. People, "It's a matter of time" applies to everything. EVERYTHING. You are going to die on your way to work if you go to work long enough. I'm going to go blind if I continue editing long enough. If I pet enough cute dogs one is going to bite me.
Then you have the inevitable person who says, "Remember what happened to Grizzly Man?" Yeah, he screwed up. He made a mistake that cost him dearly. Before that he lived with grizzly bears for three years! Three years! That's incredible and insightful. But because he finally screwed up there was nothing to learn except that he "deserved to die"? Tell me, if Juan and Ocean dive with sharks the entire rest of their lives and are finally bitten at the age of 70 do the haters get to say "Told you so?!" An entire lifetime of work showing the world a side of sharks that most people are unaware of...but because one day they were bitten we learned nothing from them?
People say the same thing on the videos of me diving with sharks. That good lovely group of people that "can't wait for you to die". Look, I don't dive with sharks because I'm a daredevil. I'm not brave nor am I suicidal. I do it because I have learned that I can! Sharing space with an incredible predator that can kill me but chooses not to is as eye opening a revelation that I can think of. Once you experience this first hand you can move on from the media frenzy about sharks and start asking important questions, such as "Why doesn't that shark want to kill me?" That question leads to more questions and that answer leads to even more questions all which ultimately lead to a better understanding of the planet we are on. Nature, even predators the size of buses with razor-sharp teeth are not our enemies! This is what Juan and Ocean teach us.
Anything else inferred from their message or mine you added yourself.
Debra Canabal of Epic Diving in the WSV hoodie. Get yours!
About the Author
Skyler Thomas is the primary blog contributor, cinematographer, and lead editor at White Shark Video.