< Back to news

SHARK vs Ross Edgley- ‘Changing Fear To Fascination’

Posted on: July 3rd, 2024

Read Full Forbes Article here or click to read on Forbes website.

Forbes Article
Extreme sportsmen Ross Edgley comes face to face with great hammerheads in the protected waters of Bimini, the Bahamas. NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC/NATHALIE MILES

Sharks have long held a place in our collective imagination as fearsome predators, prowling the depths of the ocean with a single-minded focus on hunting anything that crosses their path. From the bone-chilling theme of “Jaws” to sensationalist headlines about shark attacks, popular culture has often painted these majestic creatures in a sinister light.

Recent shark attack incidents notwithstanding, the reality of sharks is far more complex and awe-inspiring. Nat Geo’s SharkFest has been instrumental in reshaping our understanding of these incredible animals, debunking myths, and showcasing their vital role in marine ecosystems.

Shark vs. Ross Edgley

Each year, SharkFest dives deep into the world of sharks, providing viewers with thrilling yet educational content that reveals the true nature of these fascinating creatures. One standout special in this year’s lineup is “Shark vs. Ross Edgley,” which follows ultra-athlete Ross Edgley as he embarks on a daring challenge: to swim amidst some of the world’s most formidable sharks. The special is not just an adrenaline-pumping adventure but also a profound exploration of shark behavior, biology, and conservation.

Ross Edgley, known for his extreme endurance feats, teams up with marine biologists and shark experts to get up close and personal with these ocean giants. The journey takes him into the heart of shark territory, where he swims alongside tiger sharks, bull sharks, and great whites, all while capturing stunning footage and collecting valuable scientific data.

Throughout the special, viewers gain a deeper appreciation for the intelligence, curiosity, and grace of these often misunderstood creatures.

Shattering Misconceptions

I turned to Dr. Michael Heithaus, a renowned marine biologist who has dedicated his career to studying sharks and their ecosystems, to gain more insight. He told me that his passion for marine life began early, inspired by childhood trips to the beach and the captivating documentaries of National Geographic and David Attenborough. His interest in sharks blossomed later, particularly as he delved into the intricacies of dolphin behavior and realized the profound interconnectedness of marine species.

One of the most persistent myths Dr. Heithaus aims to dispel is the notion of sharks as mindless killing machines that will go out of their way to attack people. “Even dangerous shark species encounter people an incredible number of times every year and simply ignore them,” he explained. “We aren’t what they think of as typical prey.”

SharkFest plays a crucial role in changing this narrative by showing sharks in their natural habitats and highlighting their importance to ocean health.

Memorable Shark Encounters

Dr. Heithaus recounted several memorable encounters with sharks that underscore their remarkable behavior and the thrill of marine research. One such experience involved diving with tiger sharks while using gel bite pads to study their bite strength. “Being in somewhat murky water with such big animals slowly appearing near you is really exhilarating,” he recalled.

Another striking moment occurred in Hawaii, where a chance encounter with a whale shark feeding amidst a school of small fish provided a breathtaking glimpse into the dynamic interactions within marine ecosystems.

The Marine Ecosystem

The role of sharks in maintaining marine balance cannot be overstated. Every creature plays an essential role. As apex predators, sharks regulate prey populations and contribute to the health of habitats such as seagrass beds and coral reefs.

“In Western Australia, we found that tiger sharks help protect seagrass from being overgrazed by sea cows and sea turtles,” said Dr. Heithaus. “By protecting the seagrass, they are protecting the habitat for small fish and shellfish that grow up to be important to food webs and people.”

Nat Geo SharkFest not only educates but also inspires action towards conservation. Overfishing, habitat destruction, and climate change are among the critical threats to shark populations. Dr. Heithaus emphasized the need for a combination of large, protected areas and sustainable fishing practices to ensure the survival of these vital creatures. He also emphasized that individuals can make a difference by reducing plastic waste, choosing sustainable seafood, and supporting policies that prioritize ocean health.

Nat Geo SharkFest and specials like “Shark vs. Ross Edgley” are pivotal in transforming public perception of sharks from fear to fascination. Through captivating storytelling and groundbreaking research, they highlight the beauty and importance of these ocean predators.

As Dr. Heithaus aptly put it, it’s important that they strike a balance between scientific accuracy and creating content that is interesting and engaging. “Getting the excitement and education right is critical – because if nobody tunes in, we can’t ignite their curiosity and passion for these animals and oceans generally, and we are not making a positive impact if we are misleading the audience.”

With continued efforts in education and conservation, we can ensure a future where sharks thrive and their essential role in the marine ecosystem is preserved. Tune in all week for Nat Geo SharkFest content.

Shark vs Ross Edgley – Click to read our production page with more information about the program