Very chummy
April 29, 2008 12:47 AM   Subscribe

Jim Abernathy will take you out on a boat into the open Atlantic, to some spot he knows is frequented by great hammerhead and tiger sharks. He'll then chum the water and send you overboard -- all for a reasonable fee. (Diving equipment rental is extra, as is Nitrox.) Some folks are sympathetic to his enterprise. Others are not. But so far, only one person has died.
posted by owhydididoit (54 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Previous related post.
posted by owhydididoit at 12:48 AM on April 29, 2008

oh my. I've been diving in the Bahamas but only with wee wussy small shark and now I'm retroactivly terrified.
posted by dabitch at 2:35 AM on April 29, 2008

That's... nuts. I know it's quasi-fiction, but after seeing "Open Water" a few years ago, I can't imagine getting in the water with any potentially lethal sharks, much less tiger sharks. One can respect and admire their beauty, power, and evolutionary perfection without wanting to get near them. I respect the power of the atom, but I don't hang around nuclear test sites... And as noted on the previous post, it seems risky to bring tourists to dive with sharks around chum- not just the immediate danger to those divers, although there's only been one death so far (of course, I imagine the sample size is much smaller than car rides or plane trips). We have no idea what affect this will have on the sharks, potentially making them more dangerous or aggressive around humans, and thus indirectly harming them in a backlash against shark attacks.
posted by hincandenza at 2:36 AM on April 29, 2008

For a moment there, I was halfway hoping you'd say "I respect the power of the atom, but I don't want to get too close to one".
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:44 AM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

I posted a similar thread a while ago. This stuff fascinates me. Part of the thrill of going into in the ocean is putting yourself in a situation you can't control. We're humans and we assume that we're always at the top of the food chain. The ocean messes with that. Even the best of us are just tourists.

I can't imagine getting in the water with any potentially lethal sharks, much less tiger sharks

If you go in the ocean, then there are sharks around you. You just don't know it and the sharks don't think you're worth the effort.
posted by rdr at 3:01 AM on April 29, 2008

He'll then chum the water and send you overboard...

No. No he won't. Not me.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:26 AM on April 29, 2008

There's a Far Side style caption needed for this. Something like "Deep part of the ocean, shallow part of the gene pool."
posted by Pater Aletheias at 3:39 AM on April 29, 2008 [4 favorites]

I wonder if he calls his friends chums?
posted by srboisvert at 4:06 AM on April 29, 2008

No, but the sharks do!
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:30 AM on April 29, 2008

If you go in the ocean, then there are sharks around you. You just don't know it and the sharks don't think you're worth the effort.

That and they prefer plankton where I live.
posted by biffa at 5:35 AM on April 29, 2008

Only one death? Sign me up!

If you go in the ocean, then there are sharks around you. You just don't know it and the sharks don't think you're worth the effort.

posted by DU at 5:42 AM on April 29, 2008

I recently saw a Nigel Marven clip on Jonny Ross wherein he and a shark expert were standing in shallow water with some small sharks, discussing preservation, etc. Pretty dry stuff (Marven is hardly a shock-meister)... suddenly, one of the little nippers bit into the expert's calf and happily swims away with most of it.

Disturbing stuff, especially since the guy had been working with sharks for decades without incident.

Oh, hai. I founds it:
Nigel Marven was standing next to Erich Ritter when a chummed-in bull shark – obviously not a card-carrying member of the I Think Erich Ritter is Infallible Society - decided to eat Ritter's generously proffered and nicely chummed up calf muscle. (Given that the shark decided to eat Ritter's leg just after Erich told Nigel that the sharks couldn't care less that they were there, you have to admire its sense of timing and wonder if it had a sense of humour too.)

Ritter's 'accident' – to use Sharkproject's politically correct term – was, of course, the reason for this film's genesis: to re-use and re-exploit the gory footage for what would have been better titled Son of Anatomy of a Shark Bite or Anatomy of a Shark Bite – The Rehash. And so, there is Erich once again starring in the show and doing his cute grin and making up silly explanations that Marven (if few others) finds convincing. For example we are told that a bull shark close to shore can feel hemmed in by peoples' legs and that it mistakenly thinks legs are competing with it in its hunt for stingrays… Wow! I want to be a world-famous Shark Behaviour Expert too! And I thought Science was too difficult!!!
posted by chuckdarwin at 5:48 AM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you go in the ocean, then there are sharks around you. You just don't know it and the sharks don't think you're worth the effort.

They also furtively watch you while you're on land, patiently waiting for the moment when you let your guard down and go for a swim. Every now and then they hum the theme from "Jaws" and giggle softly.

Sometimes, when it's very quiet at night, I can hear them. Waiting. Hungry.
posted by mmoncur at 5:52 AM on April 29, 2008 [6 favorites]

YT Link

Not safe for people who, um, like to go wading in the ocean with chummed-up bull sharks.
posted by chuckdarwin at 5:53 AM on April 29, 2008

i did a shark feeding dive in tahiti with my wife and 15 year old daughter. we were surrounded by grey tipped reef sharks and fed them scraps of tuna. this was my closest encounter with sharks despite over 30 years of scuba experience. we were all aware of a potential for trouble, but found the trip exhilarating and unforgettable.
posted by kitchenrat at 5:55 AM on April 29, 2008

I'm leaving work now so I can't find an actual cite but here's a map of shark attacks in the United States. Obviously these are only attacks and this doesn't mean that there's a shark swimming behind you every time you go swimming but as you can there's been attacks pretty much along the entire coastline of the continental United States. You can also throw some inland shark attacks in New Jersey.
posted by rdr at 5:56 AM on April 29, 2008

I'm shocked to discover that diving in intentionally bloodied shark infested water has lead to a shark attack death.
posted by The Straightener at 6:24 AM on April 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

I'm pretty sure this would be excluded under my insurance policy's coverage.
posted by resurrexit at 6:28 AM on April 29, 2008

That map spans 340 years (?!) and most of the states have had under 10 attacks. I'm not too panicked about it.

But that's actually irrelevant. My question is not "do sharks ever attack people?" My question was "are sharks actually hovering around any time you 'go in the ocean'?" Without any information on how far from shore these attacks here, season, etc this isn't too helpful.

I find it kind of hard to believe that sharks find other prey even easier than humans would be to attack.
posted by DU at 6:33 AM on April 29, 2008

I've scuba dived for years, but never so much as I have in Florida. Never saw a shark. Then one day I was walking lazily into the ocean near St. Augustine, thinking to myself about how placid the ocean looked and how much I loved the feeling of the warm Atlantic waters rushing over my legs. Out of the blue a smallish shark, couldn't tell what kind, made a bee-line for my right leg and rammed it. I fell over and got a face full of salt water, then sprang up like a gymnast and saw the impish fish darting away into the ocean as fast as it had come. I ran to shore, skittering over the surface of the water and screaming the whole way. When I got back up the beach I turned around to look at the water again and saw only the calm, grey waters of the Atlantic, gently mocking me with their mute amnesia of what had just happened.

Wiley fuckers, sharks. Can't trust 'em.
posted by Pecinpah at 6:37 AM on April 29, 2008 [11 favorites]

Well, when my husband and I went on our honeymoon we took a helicopter ride over a crowded Panama City Beach in Florida. Very clearly we could see the group of sharks just hanging out just past the first sandbar.

We didn't go swimming that day.
posted by konolia at 6:39 AM on April 29, 2008

I'm leaving work now so I can't find an actual cite but here's a map of shark attacks in the United States.

It's a good job they don't have ocean anywhere else then.
posted by biffa at 6:52 AM on April 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

DU: I find it kind of hard to believe that sharks find other prey even easier than humans would be to attack.

The theory is that sharks attack but humans get out of the water before the attack is complete, unlike the rest of their prey.
However some researchers have hypothesized that the reason the proportion of fatalities is low is not because sharks do not like human flesh, but because humans are often able to get out of the water after the shark's first bite. In the 1980s John McCosker noted that divers who dived solo and were attacked by great whites were generally at least partially consumed, while divers who followed the buddy system were normally pulled out of the water by their colleagues before the shark could finish its attack. Tricas and McCosker suggest that a standard attack modus operandi for great whites is to make an initial devastating attack on its prey, and then wait for the prey to weaken before going in to consume the wounded animal. A human's ability to get to land (or onto a boat) with the help of others is unusual for a great white's prey, and thus the attack is foiled.
posted by A-Train at 6:53 AM on April 29, 2008

Growing up in SE Virginia and near the Outer Banks, we'd frequently see small sharks swimming around and between our legs. They didn't bite, unlike those tiny little fish constantly nibbling on our legs. You'd see bigger fins farther out in the water. Led to my habit of sticking close to shore.

There was a kid who got killed there after a shark severed the artery in his leg, but he was swimming at dusk. People tended to know better than to swim at dusk when sharks can't see as well. They're more likely to mistake you for their normal diet.

So yeah ... good rule of thumb. Minimize your time around sharks. They make mistakes.
posted by False Jesii Inc. at 7:04 AM on April 29, 2008

For about $3.50 I'll douse you with tuna and let 33 stray cats have their wai with you.
posted by LordSludge at 7:05 AM on April 29, 2008 [10 favorites]

Reading about this sort of thing always reminds me of that Simpsons episode where there's a company named Pool Sharks - "Where The Customer Is Our Chum".
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:07 AM on April 29, 2008

Why won't people just wake up and face the facts? Sharks are EVIL. Evil, I tell you. They are Satan's right hand fish. They WANT to eat you. They would eat all of us if they could - slowly.
posted by Evangeline at 7:35 AM on April 29, 2008

Shark Attack

Screaming in anguish the pain starts to burn
and then you lose all control
The razor sharp teeth are hungry for flesh
its, wrath needs to unfold

Frenzy begins, their all coming back
To commit lethal sins, Shark attack

Swimming the ocean in search of its prey
it loves to eat you alive, showing no fear
its eyes can see on you only you it will thrive

Devouring everything in its sight this eating
machine from hell, delivering a package that's
labeled as death a story you won't live to tell

Now you have come to see a dead end through
eyes that have seen better days
It shreds apart all your limbs in a water
of blood red haze

posted by The Straightener at 7:48 AM on April 29, 2008

I've been diving with nurse sharks in Belize and black tipped reef sharks in the Maldives. That said, you'd never get me into water intentionally chummed to attract and rile sharks.
posted by JaredSeth at 7:54 AM on April 29, 2008

There's a Far Side style caption needed for this. Something like "Deep part of the ocean, shallow part of the gene pool."

I think the Far Side that applies to this is the one where the wife yells out of the window to her husband what denominations of bills she wants in exchange for the $1000 she just gave him, as several unsavory types look on in glee.
posted by lord_wolf at 8:24 AM on April 29, 2008

If you go in the ocean, then there are sharks around you. You just don't know it and the sharks don't think you're worth the effort.

This is quite true in a lot of places. Take South Africa - lots of beautiful beaches around Cape Town, families playing with their kids in the surf, surfers and body boarders out in the waves. Then I take a boat out to Seal Island about 3 miles from said beaches and watch 18 foot long death machines flying up out of the water for a small blubbery snack.

Took me about 6 months to get back in the surf after that. And you know what happened the first day I got back in? I'm sitting on my board in the mid afternoon with maybe 20 other folk out on the waves, and what does my leg feel but something long and big and slimy rub up against it...

This happened to me once in Mexico too. I've seen sharks in the water off of California, Florida, Mozambique, and a number of islands around the world, to boot. If you think the sharks aren't out there, you're pretty dumb to be getting in the water.

Of course, if you know they are, and you get in anyway...I'm not sure where that places you either.
posted by allkindsoftime at 8:26 AM on April 29, 2008

Somewhat related to my fictional collosal squid comment, as a moment of inspiration:

I was about 10 or so, maybe a bit younger or older, on a private boat and deep sea fishing trip off the northern coast of Catalina Island, one of a number of islands off the shore in Southern California with my dad, my brother, and a bunch of my dad's rowdy friends.

Being whiny, and dumb, and a bit bored and too hot I wanted to go swimming. They tried to talk me out of it, but being a whiny kid I, err, won.

I don't think I've ever swam in water that deep before or since then. The water was very clear. I could see down what seemed like hundreds of feet. I could see my shadow casting down in the water, surrounded by bright, shifting sun rays. We were in the lee of the northern point of Catalina, so the water was fairly smooth, not much of a swell rolling through.

I started to panic at some point. It was more like a fear of heights than a fear of the sea. I felt like I was going to fall those hundreds and hundreds of feet to the sea bed. I nearly drowned some poor women that was with us and also wanted to swim, or maybe was keeping an eye on me. I realized I was actually in too deep, as the saying goes, so I got out after maybe a whole minute of paddling around beside the boat.

When I got back in the boat I discovered they had been chumming on the other side of the 40-50 foot sportfisher. I think that was one of the first, if not the only time, I ever swore at my dad. I want to say my words were "What. The. FUCK!?" but it probably wasn't so succinct or straightforward.

Seconds later one of the outrigged lines was snagged by something really big, the outrigger bending back nearly to the stern and transom, line singing as it was pulled out by whatever giant fish that just hooked itself. I was still toweling off.

Ever see a sportfishing rod? They're like broomstick-thick, or thicker. Very dense composite fiberglass or carbon fiber. You can barely bend them by hand or even by standing on them. The rod they were using was bending in half, the tip nearly touching the handle.

About an hour of fighting and reeling later we finally saw our first glances of a six or seven foot long shark flashing and darting around the boat, trying to break free. I think the guys who owned the boat already knew it was a shark by the way it was fighting. I remember going a little sick and woozy at that point. Even more than I did when I peered down the incredibly toothy throat of a couple of huge barracuda they'd snagged.

Any fear I had for my own personal safety was quickly replaced by horror and empathy for the shark, which was summarily shot in the head after it was tired of fighting and brought up on the transom deck. It covered the whole deck. It was a pregnant Blue shark. It was then gutted, spilling out dozens of tiny semi-opaque shark egg cases each with a tiny shadow of a nearly formed shark. They killed it and threw it back in the ocean because they didn't want it competing for their precious tuna and billfish, and because Blue sharks were considered inedible. (They process urea and wastes in their flesh, apparently.)

Sportfishers aren't very sporting, sometimes.

I was appalled and disturbed, realizing right then that humans were much more dangerous animals than sharks or any other animal.

I still don't think I'd voluntarily swim with them. They've been evolving better ways to bite things for millions of years, and I'm ok with respecting that.
posted by loquacious at 8:34 AM on April 29, 2008 [6 favorites]

Anyone who chooses to dive with tiger sharks is just asking for trouble.

And...This post is nothing without video.

Diving with tiger sharks I II III
posted by KokuRyu at 8:41 AM on April 29, 2008

This video is kind of funny, too.

Although chumming for sharks is pretty disgusting.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:43 AM on April 29, 2008

Sometimes the shark'd go away. Sometimes he wouldn't go away.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 8:43 AM on April 29, 2008

Yeah man, fuck sharks. I saw a big (probably not that big, really) one as a kid in Belize, had endless nightmares for years. Later in life read about how they go deep, under thier prey, then shoot up from the inky darkness and RAAWRRR fucking thrash you like moist beef jerky, nightmares returned. God, they ruined water for me. Thing is, just about my favorite thing in this world is sailing and being out on the water. But while we are all out on my boat, it's all wind and sea for my guests, but for me, we might as well be plying an ocean of molten lava, for saltwater = sharks = total death.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 8:49 AM on April 29, 2008

My heart is pounding just reading about this. I can't imagine actually being there, I'd probably have a stroke. People can be insane.
posted by FunkyHelix at 9:05 AM on April 29, 2008

I know! Let's chum up that Austrian rat-bastard who kept his daughter in the basement and push him into the water with the sharkies.

*munches popcorn*
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 9:17 AM on April 29, 2008

I thought the theory behind this post is that viewing sharks as aggressive killing machines is counter productive to protecting the beautiful and well designed predators that occupy such an important part of our oceans ecosystem. That said, I think humans are hard wired to freak out and be afraid when serious predators are around us and just seeing how sharks move and live is fascinating enough to sell billions of dollars of advertising, movie tickets and museum tickets. New goal in life: earn enough to build, stock and maintain a shark tunnel. Might even be lucrative.

Also, in terms of being scarred as a kid, I'm not sure which James Bond movie has him in a pool where sharks are let in but since then I've never felt entirely safe swimming anywhere. Piranha's in the faucet anyone?
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 9:22 AM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

They prefer tri-athletes and surfers to average beach-goers. I'm beginning to think sharks have some warped sense of humor, too.
posted by misha at 9:43 AM on April 29, 2008

Yes: Fuck sharks. Yikes.
posted by everichon at 9:46 AM on April 29, 2008

Yes: Fuck sharks. Yikes., etc.

Don't worry, soon there will be few shark to fuss about:

Ocean shark populations are crashing.

And it will be within our own lifetimes. Then we can all remember how we used to say, "Fuck sharks."
posted by KokuRyu at 10:17 AM on April 29, 2008

Don't worry, soon there will be few shark to fuss about...

And it will be within our own lifetimes. Then we can all remember how we used to say, "Fuck sharks."

Yes, every time someone says "Fuck sharks" a shark somewhere dies. Or at least gets his feelings hurt.
posted by Evangeline at 10:45 AM on April 29, 2008

So, what's the problem? The people doing this are, apparently, fully aware of the risk involved, over the legal age of consent, and want to do it so much they pay good money to do so. If they die, its their own fool fault for getting into the water with sharks in a feeding frenzy.

Hell, if I weren't such a bleeding heart, I'd say its a good thing from a genetic standpoint. As it is I regret that anyone would chose to die that way, and I'd try to talk anyone I knew out of doing something this frickin' stupid, but ultimately I see it as their choice.
posted by sotonohito at 11:11 AM on April 29, 2008

If you scroll a little further down his site, you'll see the Swimming with Dolphins section.

Just sayin'.
posted by jabberjaw at 11:17 AM on April 29, 2008

How many people have died of the dolphins?

How many will when they get smarter?

These are the things that keep me up at night.
posted by kristinahoge at 11:36 AM on April 29, 2008

I wound up near a shark on one of my first scuba dives - a grey tipped reef shark. They aren't one of your more aggressive species - it kept a safe distance from us, and we respected that.

Still very cool to see - there is something about the way a shark looks and moves that is really quite beautiful (and, yes, menacing.). I would love to go to South Africa and see some more sharks.

However, I also respect the fact that these are wild animals, and they can be unpredictable. Therefore, I am rather amazed that some people are willing to pay to be thrown into the water with sharks who have been excited by the presence of chum. Perhaps I should open up a similar business, wherein I strap raw meat onto tourists and let them wander through grizzly bear country.
posted by never used baby shoes at 11:44 AM on April 29, 2008

I find it interesting that aquatic predators are considered somewhat harmless and there are people who want to swim with them as they're being fed. However you don't see a lot of people walking up to a tiger with a freshly killed goat so they can observe the magnificent beast in its natural habitat doing what it does best.

That said, I applaud every person who does something that everyone else considers stupid, and maybe gets killed in the process. Without those fools we'd still be living in trees being hunted by leopards.
posted by phliar at 12:23 PM on April 29, 2008

I like to fill a pit with hungry pit bulls, then fling bloody chunks of meat down at them, and then dangle my genitalia into the middle. So far, I've only lost one testicle, so I reckon it's pretty safe.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:24 PM on April 29, 2008

Is anyone else sitting with their legs under them in a chair now? I keep looking around my cubicle, expecting a land shark.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 12:30 PM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

I, for one, applaud any person who provides an opportunity for idiots to remove themselves from the gene pool in interesting and creative ways. We should be encouraging this sort of entrepreneurship.

When I get rich, I'm going to sponsor a professional cockpunching league.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:42 PM on April 29, 2008

The newest fad in assisted suicide.
posted by sophist at 1:59 PM on April 29, 2008

One of the cutest things I've ever seen while diving is a baby nurse shark just kinda chilling on the coral.

But yeah, uh, this? No. Go find the hammerhead flocks - you don't need to chum them, and that's badass enough for anyone.
posted by bettafish at 4:08 PM on April 29, 2008

Sharks are statistically irrelevant in ocean related human fatalities.

Humans are the only cause of shark fatalities.

Sharks are beautiful creatures to behold.

I said it once before, but it bears repeating:
Sharks kill about 8 people globally per year, which is 10 times less than falling coconuts. You should be alot more scared of coconut palms if you are the paranoid type.

More people suffer human bites in New York city than shark bites globally per year (by a factor of 22).
posted by asok at 2:46 AM on April 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

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