This is a short “home” movie of Bob Friel with gray reef sharks in the Republic of Maldives during the late 1980s, back when just a few divers in the world were working this close with dangerous sharks. It’s also well before divers started wearing chainmail anti-bite suits and hand-feeding sharks in the Bahamas and elsewhere. Even with those suits on, you won’t see any divers attempt what Bob does near the end of the video: stick baitfish in his mouth while surrounded by dozens of hungry sharks.
Bob’s shark dives weren’t designed just to get him his daily fix of adrenaline (though they certainly did that). They were an early effort to bring regular divers into close proximity to sharks and educate them about an animal that had long been demonized and misrepresented as a mindless, bloodthirsty killer. Step into the water when sharks were around, we’d been told, and you’d surely be attacked. By not only attracting big, wild, “dangerous” sharks with fish scent but actually hand-feeding and even mouth-feeding them without getting his head bit off, Bob was able to dispel those myths.
We apologize for the video quality (and the loud soundtrack). It’s third gen analog conversion and the video skips every time a shark rams the camera. If you visited the Maldives back in the late 80s and saw Bob with the sharks while at Vadoo, Bandos or Embudu Finolhu, and you have photos or videos, we’d love to see them.