Not much of the footage ended up being used in the final film.»RON: No, there were only about a half-dozen shots of the real live shark and there’s a shot where the shark appears to be smashing the cage. In fact, it was tangled in the steel cables on the cage. They changed the storyboard for the shoot to accommodate that dramatic sequence. Do you think there’s been a change in the numbers of White sharks here?»VALERIE: It would appear to me there’s been a huge change in the numbers of Great White sharks in this area. Because 30-some years ago, you’d come out and have four or five right away. It wouldn’t be unusual to have 10-12 sharks in just two or three days. Sometimes we’d see even more. Now, it’s commonplace to get no sharks at all. If you get one, you’re lucky and if you get two, you’re elated.
Have you ever had any life-threatening experiences with White sharks?»VALERIE: I don’t think a Great White has ever threatened my life. We have been in the water swimming with sea lions and had a White shark come and circle us. That was at Hopkins Island, it wasn’t very deep, I guess it was 15 feet. Ron and I knew the shark was coming. There was no doubt about that because the sea lions just scattered. They made this funny sort of clucking noise as they went through the water, it must have been their fins hitting the water. We had a filmmaker from the U.S. with us, Bruno Valotti, and he had his head up in the air. I had my mouthpiece out and I’m screaming, “Shark! Shark!” I couldn’t see it but I knew it was coming. And he turned around saw Ron lying flat on the kelp. We both flattened down and the shark just came around, very fast, circled twice, and swam away. The sea lions came back and we swam to a little rock – about the size of that shark cage or smaller – and we all climbed out onto it. We could see the boat, way off in the distance at the mooring. The skipper wouldn’t come get us because of rocks. And we knew we had to swim back. Well, I’m pretty good in the water and I didn’t have a camera. Ron had his camera and is a very strong swimmer. Bruno was a lot older than us. Lets’ just say he was a motivated swimmer. Well, he beat us by back to the boat by a good 10 yards or more! It must have been a 100 yards to swim. But we knew that if the shark was around, the sea lions would let us know. They swam with us as we all swam back to the boat. Bruno’s men were on board. They pulled him and his camera out and I was saying, “Hey, help me out. I’ve got to get out of here!” They were ignoring Ron and I completely. That was the same trip when the shark got tangled in the steel trace on the cage. It was a very sharky trip that one.
Departing from the Whites for a minute, what other species of sharks has caused you moments of anxiety?»VALERIE: I was very anxious once off the coast of California when I felt a large bump to my leg and I looked down and saw my leg in a shark’s mouth. I didn’t really have time to feel anxious because I knew I had to stop the shark from moving its head, which I grabbed. But afterwards, when I was lying in this huge pool of blood on the deck of the boat I thought I might be dead. Actually in the water I thought I might be dead. But I stopped bleeding in a few seconds. At first it was like a tap turned on. It just started squirting out and it sort of flowing away. There was a lot of blood because the bite had cut some arteries. That was a blue shark and there were a lot of blues in the water. Howard Hall had just gone in to check things out and he came back and said, “There’s a lot of hungry sharks down there; I sure hope someone’s not going to get bit.” I said, “Ah, well, it won’t be me.” Famous last words.
Weren’t you also bitten when you were experimenting with the chain mail suit?»VALERIE: I was bitten in Australia when I had the chain mail suit in the Coral Sea and that was just sheer accident. We were doing the mesh suit test and we had a nice frenzy going at Action Point at Marion Reef. I had a mackerel or something, a piece of tuna, in my hand and the idea, of course, was to get the sharks to bite me in the suit. So I swam into the frenzy which I felt fairly confident about, but a shark turned towards me and it bit me on the face. And I heard all the teeth going into the mesh – sort of crunch, crunch, crunch – unfortunately it went in under my chin, because my chin sticks out of the suit. And my mask got flooded and my regulator got pulled away. I thought it was bitten off. Actually, I didn’t know where it had gone to and I was down pretty deep. I really thought I was going to drown. I knew I was bleeding. Afterwards, when we looked at the footage – Ron was filming – it was four frames from where the shark turned until it hit me. So, people said, “Why didn’t you put your mesh hands up over your face?” You can’t think that fast. Afterwards, I had a very sore jaw. I couldn’t chew anything for a few days. RON: When we were doing experiments with the mesh suit, I used to get concerned because Valerie was enticing the sharks to bite onto her body by using baits. Even though we were only using medium sized sharks, they’ve got razor-sharp teeth and we didn’t really know whether the mesh would be 100 percent protective. So that was quite a concern on some occasions, when the sharks were feeding violently on Valerie’s arm, for instance.