“Love” and “affection” are terms not commonly used to describe encounters with large sharks, but they’re used repeatedly by Jim Abernethy to narrate his recent get-together with a large tiger shark known as Tarantino.
The special reunion at Tiger Beach in the Bahamas was videotaped and footage shows Tarantino swimming into the arms of Abernethy, and seeming to crave his caresses much like an affectionate dog craves those of its owner after a prolonged absence.
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As Abernethy and the shark are swept down current, he returns to the camera and Tarantino follows, again swimming into his arms. This happens twice in the footage.
“I could tell she had missed it,” Abernethy says of an apex predator he refers to as an “old friend.”
To be sure, Tiger Beach is a special place, known as a destination where close encounters can be enjoyed in what many consider to be a relatively safe environment.
The predators are fed during commercial dive operations, and many distinctive sharks have been given names.
Veteran divers such as Abernethy, who runs Jim Abernethy’s Scuba Adventures, claim to have developed special relationships with some of those sharks.
Abernethy’s footage seems to illustrate this phenomenon as well as any. His video began making the rounds on Monday on shark-themed social media sites.
On the White Shark Cafe Facebook page, Drew Scerbo asked members to share their comments, asking, “Is this a beautiful interaction? Is this tempting fate? What’s the perspective on this video?”
There were no negative comments as of Tuesday morning.
Wrote one person who has been to Tiger Beach: “If you stick to ‘the rules’ they are quite wonderful animals to interact with.”
Another comment reads, “Wow! That shark just wanted some love and not once did it open its mouth or try to nip or bite him.”
Though there are bound to be critics of people “tempting fate” with such close interactions, Abernethy, who was once bitten by a lemon shark, was hoping his footage would send a message.
“I wish there was some way that I could get the world to see what these beautiful creatures are really like,” he says, “so we could end the needless slaughter and keep our oceans healthy, not only for them but for our own existence on the planet.”
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