Fabien Cousteau has come face to face with great white sharks more times than he cares to remember.
The underwater explorer spent four-and-a-half months swimming with the apex predators for a documentary and gained a special insight into their unique habits and behaviours.
In order to study the fearsome beasts in their most natural state he even developed a shark-shaped submarine called Troy.
During one terrifying episode Troy broke down and Cousteau was forced swim back to shore…in the dark…in a shark feeding zone.
‘I stacked the deck against me,’ Cousteau said. ‘It was pretty frightening.’
Fabien Cousteau spent almost four months studying sharks at close range for a CBS documentary
Cousteau admits that at times the sharks would get ‘twitchy’ but says attacks are very rare and tend to happen when a ‘perfect storm’ occurs.
While there are more than 400 species of shark, only seven have ever been known to have a negative encounter with a human being.
‘Any accident is almost always triggered by a number of circumstances,’ Cousteau explains.
‘Low visibility in a known feeding zone, people making a lot of noise, splashing, possibly someone fishing in the area and bringing a scent into the water.
‘These create a perfect storm of bad circumstances.’
Last month two English tourists, Alistair Raddon and Danny Maggs, were attacked by a suspected tiger shark while snorkelling in Hook Passage in the Whitsundays.
English tourists, Danny Maggs, left) and Alistair Raddon and (right) were attacked by a suspected tiger shark while snorkelling in Hook Passage in the Whitsundays
Raddon, 28, lost a foot during the terrifying encounter while Maggs’ leg was badly mauled.
Both men were reportedly thrashing around in the water, which Cousteau believes could have led the shark to believe they were a dying animal which made them more susceptible to attack.
‘The reality is animals make mistakes too,’ he said.
Cousteau is the grandson of pioneering French diver Jacques Cousteau who developed the original aqua-lung – allowing people to breathe underwater for the first time.
He became an expert on sharks when filming the CBS documentary ‘Mind of a Demon’ in 2004.
‘Being around them long enough you get to know their behaviour,’ he said.
‘In the four -and-a-half months we never had any dangerous situations where an accident could have happened.’
While filming, Cousteau took a number of precautions such as always diving with a safety net and making sure he was always followed by a diver who would look behind him.
There was also a cage at the bottom of the ocean that the divers could shut themselves inside.
But while there was never an ‘incident’ Cousteau admitted that there were times the sharks would become ‘funny’.
‘As soon as they did that we would get out,’ he said.
In order to study the fearsome beasts in their most natural state Cousteau developed a shark shaped submarine called Troy
‘We don’t get triggered in the same way so we don’t know what caused it. There could be a vibration, there could be a scent in the water it could be mating season.
‘It could be that there were a pod of dolphins in the water. They get very twitchy and they leave. Sharks and dolphins don’t like to share the same space.’
In 2002 Cousteau was dubbed the world’s ‘sexiest explorer’ by People magazine but admits he is unsure if he still holds the mantle.
‘That was years ago,’ he laughs. ‘I’m not sure who it is now.’
‘There are plenty of explorers I admire, many of them aren’t famous at all but are just really good at what they do.’
In a tribute to his grandfather, Cousteau spent 31 days underwater from June 1 to July 2 in 2014 to film marine life and collect scientific data.
Cousteau said that while there were 400 species of shark, only seven have ever been known to have a negative encounter with a human being
He set the record for longest time underwater for a film crew, surpassing his grandfather’s previous record of 30 days set in 1963.
Now 52, Cousteau lives in New York with his fiancee, the real estate agent Lisa Singer, and her daughter from a previous relationship, Dylan.
He runs the Ocean Learning Centre which runs dive missions, coral reef restorations and beach cleanups around the world and is brand ambassador for Seiko’s Prospex dive watch.
Seiko donates a portion of all sales from the watch to the Ocean Learning Center.