(10 April 2002, Bahamas) It might sound dumb to throw bloody chum into the waters of Walker's Cay, where dangerous bull sharks congregate, and wade among the sharks in a Speedo while they're in the midst of a feeding frenzy. But to a reputed expert in the body language of sharks. Not to "Unbiteable Erich" of Switzerland!
The scientist believed that sharks could sense fear, and that his mastery of his heartbeat through yoga techniques made sharks regard him as a fellow predator, not fearful prey. Other shark experts advocate dressing in black wetsuit, hood, and gloves, to cover skin that resembles pale-colored prey in murky waters, but not Erich. He had "waded with sharks" for years. And this Wednesday, a video crew was prepared to tape throwing fish into the water to attract bull sharks, then wading into the sea with bare legs to observe their body language.
The sharks are often accompanied by remora, quasi-parasite fish that clean the sharks and sometimes attach to them with a suction cup for long rides. Just after one remora swam between Erich's legs a shark followed, and--unaware that Erich's yoga techniques had turned him into a fellow predator--snapped off a huge chunk of his left calf. He was pulled from the water in shock and flown by air ambulance to West Palm Beach, Florida, where doctors tried to save the remains of his leg and his life.
He spent six weeks in the hospital trying to figure out what went wrong. He concluded that nothing went wrong; the shark simply mistook his leg for the remora in the murky water.
The documentary, originally intended to prove Erich's theory that bull sharks will not attack unless provoked, was re-titled "Anatomy of a Shark Bite." A former colleague told a diving magazine: "It was an accident waiting to happen. He's more like a philosopher than a scientist. There's no evidence to support his theories." Erich is no longer called "Unbiteable."
[sidebar] Hundreds of shark species have been identified, but just three species are responsible for most attacks on humans: the great white (Carcharodon carcharias), tiger (Galeocerdo cuvier), and bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas). Divers often encounter bull sharks. Their preference for shallow coastal waters makes them potentially the most dangerous sharks of all. More information: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/07/0719_050719_bullsharks.html