The Shark Man
My name is Tom Slough and I am a marine biologist. When I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up I always thought I would be a fireman. As years went by and my fascination with sharks grew my answer changed, I wanted to be just like Andre Hartman! For those of you who don’t know who Andre Hartman is, or how he could be a hero to a boy from England then here’s a brief summary.
Andre changed people’s perceptions on Great White sharks worldwide. He was the first person to free dive and interact with white sharks on camera. The original shark man paved the way for the future divers and film makers. Andre understood these underwater giants and was instrumental in removing the negative images that surrounded these highly misunderstood animals.
Andre put Gansbaai South Africa on the map and furthermost. Wildlife photographers from around the globe visited Gansbaai just to have the chance to be in the presence of Andre. Having the chance to go out with Andre and film him diving with the sharks was a honor. These shots are still some of the most iconic scenes captured with these apex predators until todays date.
Andre Hartman is a highly experienced spear fisherman. You will notice at the time in this picture his wetsuit is in springbok colors. The first interaction Andre had with white sharks was back in 1977 when fisherman went spearfishing. Sharks are often seen by spear fishermen due to the blood being released by the speared fish. Andre came across some very large sharks and in turn he started to learn much more about their body language. Great Whites rarely swim through kelp which is a thick seaweed like structure that grows in abundance at the islands. Many divers would be able to hide here if large sharks were around and It was also a great way to watch their behavior’s.
Andre also came across many sharks when working as a commercial diver. He worked as a commercial salvage diver, helping to explore, map and salvage shipwrecks around the Cape. One of these wrecks was the famous HMS Birkenhead. This is where the infamous phrase ‘women and children first’ protocol was first used and is still used by ships worldwide.
Spearfishing and diving in Gansbaai, around the world-famous Dyer Island, Andre learned more and more about the behavior’s of these sharks. Great Whites could be seen in the Gansbaai area year-round. winter-feeding grounds of Dyer Island and Geyser rock (home to Shark Alley), where the awe-inspiring shark v seal interactions (breaching) can be seen. Andre decided to open a business taking tourists out to photograph and cage dive with the Great White sharks. The cage diving industry grew with other operations opening and more and more tourists visiting to do this once in a lifetime experience. Gansbaai became known as the Great White shark capital of the world!
I have been obsessed with sharks since before I can remember. The moment I saw a clip of Andre interacting with great white sharks on TV I was sold. I was going to get there somehow and try and help change people’s perceptions of these beautiful underwater creatures. White Shark Projects gave a boy with a dream a chance. Without them I would not be where I am today. I will be forever grateful so thank you very much shark team Ill never forget about you!
Written by Tom Slough
Marine Biologist at White Shark Projects
Published 25th May 2020
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