By Pete Thomas
An image showing a diver taming a great white shark with a gloved hand placed on the snout of the predator whipped up a social media frenzy over the weekend, as viewers debated the validity of the photograph.
There were no details regarding the image, other than this description on the Perth & WA Fishing Reports Facebook page: “My bro sent me this photo taken of a local diver near Augusta [Australia] pushing away this great white with his glove on the nose. When done right it temporarily sedates the shark. My face would be not as apparently calm.”
Was the image photoshopped? The shark looks inert. The shark looks dead. There’s not enough water movement for this to be real. Is the diver brave, or stupid?
These were some of the assumptions and allegations appearing on various comment threads as the image was shared thousands of times.
But the truth was revealed Monday by the West Australian, which reported that the shark was in fact a dead mako, not a great white.
It appears to have been a joke gone bad. The man who sent the image to Perth and WA Fishing Reports, and was listed as the photographer (Ben Chase), asked that the post be pulled, which it was early Monday.
“It is not his image and was a bit of a joke with him and his friends that unfortunately went viral,” Perth and WA Fishing Reports told me.
The West Australian reports: “After some investigation, it was found out that the great white, far from being on the hunt of fresh meat and ready to claim his next meal, was in fact a dead 2.5m Mako shark.”
The investigation was based largely on a similar photograph sent to the newspaper last month, showing an abalone diver untangling line from a dead mako shark. The shark in both images (posted above) appear to be the same shark. Similar snout markings. Similar size. Almost definitely the same mako shark that apparently died after becoming entangled in fishing lines.
So the mystery appears to have been solved, the hoax revealed.
Writes Drew Scerbo, a shark advocate and an expert who has debunked other hoaxes in the past, on Facebook:
“Looks like we only had to wait 24 hours for our answers and most of us were correct. Dead shark (said to be a 2.5m mako) was being played with by some divers in order to make the appearance of being rescued or defended against, even though it had been deceased for several days.
“There will always be people trying to pull a fast one over on the public, trying to gain notoriety for something they never actually did. It never ends and it often involves sharks.
“Incredibly sad - for many reasons. It seems no magnificent ocean dweller can be safe from exploitation - even after death.”