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Swimming with Hammerhead Sharks

"I met my first shark face to face in about 20 feet of water near Midnight Pass, off Siesta Key, in Sarasota, Florida. It was a small shark, two feet long at most, a juvenile nurse shark that was hiding under coral rock ledges a few hundred feet out from a beach. As I floated at the surface preparing to dive for a closer look, I recalled Genie's instructions. "You have to sneak up on them," she said, "and grab them by the gills."

Genie was Eugenie Clark, then director of the Cape Haze Marine Laboratory, author of a book called Lady With A Spear and The Lady and the Sharks, and my employer for a summer internship. She had set up a shark pen near the marine lab to run some of the first experiments on shark eyesight. The "baby" nurse sharks Genie asked me to catch were to be part of that shark pen experiment.

I didn't capture any nurse sharks that day, someone else did; but the summer at Cape Haze (now Mote Marine Laboratory) has changed the way I look at sharks forever. It was a time when scientists had begun to make revolutionary new adjustments in our understanding of how sharks live, what role they play in the ocean, even discovering new species of sharks."