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Fisherman’s ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ risky encounter in Australian waters

Fisherman’s ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ risky encounter in Australian waters

Fisherman’s ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ risky encounter in Australian waters

A fisherman has documented his “once in a lifetime” encounter with a great white shark after coming dangerously close to the apex predator while swimming in the waters off Australia’s east coast.

Sydney-based Sam Clothier, who documents his spearfishing and travels on his YouTube channel Wet Mammal, risked his life to swim with the four-metre-long female shark while spearfishing for dorado off the coast of Newcastle last month.

While most people would run for safety in such circumstances, Clothier told Yahoo that he felt “completely safe” during the encounter with the curious creature, and insists it was a “calculated” decision.

“From the shark’s posture, the speed at which it was moving and even just the feeling of a connection with the shark, I felt completely safe, but always aware that this could change at any moment, which is terrifying but incredible at the same time,” he explained.

Sam Clothier holding a fish (left) and a close-up of a great white shark with a harpoon in the foreground (right).Sam Clothier holding a fish (left) and a close-up of a great white shark with a harpoon in the foreground (right).

Sam Clothier risked his life to swim with the ocean’s deadliest shark. Source: Wet Mammal/YouTube

The 31-year-old, who works in events, described the fishing conditions as “amazing” on the day of the unusual encounter. “Perfectly flat water, crystal clear deep blue water and lots of fish,” he told Yahoo.

Clothier was swimming from a boat with his partner Tommy when he heard his name being called just as he was about to shoot a fish with his rifle.

“The shark was just a few feet away from Tommy and heading towards me,” he said. “Immediately, my heart rate did the opposite of what one might think and slowed down even further. In spearfishing, just like in freediving, we slow down our heart rate by relaxing. This is an important method of holding our breath and is also a great way to stay calm and composed in a situation like this.”

While Clothier has encountered other shark species, including bronze whalers, bull sharks, wobbegongs and grey nurse sharks, this is the first time he has swum with a great white shark.

“This encounter was unique because the shark was not aggressive, this may have been because it was in very clear water and there were two of us in the water at the time and the shark could not find a way to ambush us.

“But it could also have been that the shark was simply curious about what these silly aquatic apes were doing in its waters.”

Clothier even shared an experiment he conducted with the shark to see what piqued its curiosity. Using himself as a “test subject,” Clothier puts his “life on the line” by diving deep into the water before placing his speargun over his head and slowly rising to the surface. As he does so, the shark changes course and swims directly toward him.

“It’s a bit stupid, but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he says in the video, warning others not to try it.

After sharing footage of the moment on social media, many Australians reacted with shock and warned her to “be careful.” “Casually swimming with something that will bite you in the middle,” said one.

“I didn’t need the PSA at the end to convince me not to try this,” said another.

“It’s just a small shark, nothing to fear,” added a third.

While many would not want to swim with a great white shark like Clothier did, he says he consulted with marine biologists and oceanographers who said “we did everything right” during the encounter.

“Of course, there is always a small minority willing to criticise, but usually these are people who are not involved in the ocean and who only know the movie Jaws,” he said. “Whether you like it or not, every time you go into Australian waters you have to be prepared to accept the risk that there are sharks and things get ugly. I always accept that risk.”

Clothier says her main message to others is to “be responsible” if they find themselves in the same situation.

“Do not try to touch the shark and if you are not experienced in the water, get out as soon as you can without causing distress and making the shark excited as if you were fleeing prey,” he said.

“I say all this as someone who thought I had rolled the dice correctly. This could have resulted in my death or serious injury, but I was fortunate that it seemed like the right thing to do, and it did.”

According to the CSIRO, the population of great white sharks along the east coast of Australia and as far as New Zealand is thought to number just 750 adults. There is still much to learn about the species. More great white shark numbers do not equate to more attacks on humans.

In Florida, Australia and South Africa, attacks occur on beaches where numbers are lower, but in California, surfers often swim alongside them without being bitten, and that is something he has seen repeated on the southern coast of New South Wales.

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