Rodney Fox Interview: Diving With Great White Sharks

Rodney Fox is something of a legend in Australia. The man who survived a near fatal great white shark attack, he subsequently dedicated his life to understanding and protecting these amazing creatures

Recently I interviewed Rodney Fox for Scuba Diver AustralAsia magazine, and I’m really pleased that the magazine has put the entire interview online. [UPDATE: the complete Rodney Fox interview is now online here at Divehappy]. Fox is one of my heroes, so being able to chat to him – even if only by email – was a real pleasure. Best of all, I’ve subsequently been commissioned by Asian Diver magazine to go and dive on Rodney’s expedition boat later this year and come face to face with the great white sharks off the coast of Adelaide in person. I seriously cannot wait.

Scuba Diver AustralAsia Shark Issue

Meanwhile, here’s the opening of the Rodney Fox interview to whet your appetite:

“Taken by a shark off the coast of South Australia in 1963, Rodney Fox suffered severe injuries that required over 400 stitches from a medical team that frantically worked to save his life. Miraculously, Rodney not only made a full recovery, but also dedicated his life to finding out more about great white sharks.

Over the last 40 years, Rodney has led hundreds of expeditions to see the great whites around South Australia’s Neptune Islands. With his son, Andrew, he brings divers face to face with these fearsome sharks, within the protection of aluminium cages. Rodney also worked on Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster Jaws, and the seminal great white documentary, Blue Water White Death. It’s not just great white sharks that Rodney has been interested in though – he was also instrumental in the discovery of the whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia, in the early 1990s.

Great white shark cage diving
Cage diving with the great white shark

Rodney is currently sifting through his enormous archive of great white shark material with plans to produce a book about his four decades of shark watching. “I have a lot of notes, memories and a huge collection of slide transparencies and pictures to go through,” he said. It promises to be a unique insight into just how much life has changed for the sharks in the last half century. Here he shares his thoughts on his life’s work watching and trying to protect the great white sharks of South Australia.

Rodney Fox and his son Andrew Fox
Rodney Fox and his son Andrew Fox

CM: It’s been nearly 44 years since you were attacked by the great white shark, an event that set you off on a remarkable journey to understand these fearsome fish. What’s the single most important thing you’ve learned about great white sharks, and humans, in that time?

Rodney Fox: While recovering from my shark attack, I was amazed at the reactions of so many people to sharks – everything from fear, terror, and frustration at not understanding sharks. A bit like they would speak of the devil, hell, and death.

I didn’t know anything about sharks and could find nothing in libraries to educate myself. I was frightened of another attack, and knew it was a miracle I had survived. I felt apprehensive about going through it again without some knowledge of the species, habitat, and behaviour. I planned to find out more, to see if I could go diving safely and work out if the fear generated in peoples’ minds was real. The single most important thing I have learned is that we need sharks in our oceans. They are the keystone predators in the ocean’s food pyramid.”

Read the rest of the interview at Scuba Diver AustralAsia‘s website and go and buy the magazine – the pictures are much better in print and there is ton of other good stuff in there!

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