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Rodney Fox — The original Shark Tank Entrepreneur

Rather than let a horrific shark attack deter him, Rodney Fox discovered a passion for sharks that became a thriving and ethical enterprise.

Our Places

Rodney Fox — The original Shark Tank Entrepreneur

Rather than let a horrific shark attack deter him, Rodney Fox discovered a passion for sharks that became a thriving and ethical enterprise.

Our Places

Rodney Fox — The original Shark Tank Entrepreneur

Rather than let a horrific shark attack deter him, Rodney Fox discovered a passion for sharks that became a thriving and ethical enterprise.

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South Australia has long been considered the global home of shark diving experiences and largely attributes this accolade to one extraordinary man.

Rodney Fox is a name synonymous with sharks, more particularly, the Great White Shark. His passion has influenced and affected the attitudes of individuals, organisations, and governments for more than 50 years. Rodney was the first to give sharks a voice and is largely responsible for Great Whites becoming a protected species in the 1990s.

A devastating encounter that led to an innovative idea.

Rodney’s shark story began in 1963 when he was attacked by a Great White while defending his spearfishing title at Aldinga Beach.

Venturing a little further out than the other competitors in pursuit of a Dusky Morwong, Rodney thought he had been hit a submarine; such was the force of the impact from the Great White.

Surfacing for air, the water was awash in blood, and the shark had rounded on Rodney for a second go. Fortunately, the shark took his fish float instead. However, the float was attached to Rodney by a belt, and he was pulled under again. Seconds away from drowning, the line broke free, and Rodney scrambled to the surface, where a nearby boat came to the rescue. What followed was an incredible effort to save Rodney’s life.

His horrific injuries have been much publicised, showcasing the 462 stitches to put him back together. The attack is perhaps the most severe ever to be survived. All ribs on Rodney’s left side were broken. His vital organs were exposed, his lung had collapsed, and his hand was shredded. In fact, Rodney still has a piece of shark tooth embedded in his wrist.

While such a devastating incident would put off anyone else from ever getting in the water again, Rodney’s curiosity was piqued, and he was intrigued by the shark’s behaviour. It wasn’t until he visited the Adelaide Zoo many months later that an idea began to develop.

“It was about eight months later when I was at the Adelaide Zoo looking at the man-eating lions in the cage, I looked down the side, and there was a watery moat. It was basically to stop the lions from biting the silly humans who put their arms through the bars. I thought maybe I could reverse the role. Maybe I’ll get in the cage, lower the cage over where the sharks are, and make up my own mind if I want to go back diving.”

Fortunately, he did and unbeknownst at the time, a new tourism industry was born. Rodney drew up plans and had a two-person steel cage built. He then organised a boat and found sponsors for the first-ever cage diving shark expedition. His friend Ron Taylor filmed the event, and it was the first time sharks had been filmed in their natural state underwater.

It confirmed Rodney’s thought: that Great Whites were not vicious man-eaters but fascinating, graceful, curious creatures more interested in fish than humans.

“I noticed the sharks were far more interested in the fish than in the diver in the water. They didn’t come racing in and try and bite the cage or the diver. So I realised there was more to it than just mad killers…that they weren’t as bad as people had said.”

The first-ever underwater diving expedition was a success.

Rodney, along with Ron and Valerie Taylor then filmed a feature film called, ‘Attacked By A Killer Shark’ to world-wide acclaim. Steven Spielberg’s production company was impressed enough to ask them to film the live footage for the blockbuster movie, Jaws.

A business with bite.

Soon after Jaws was released, interest in shark cage diving soared and Rodney Fox Shark Expeditions, the world’s only ocean-floor shark cage experience, was under way.

The business thrived taking tourists out to Neptune Island to see Great Whites along with sea lions, schools of fish, and even whales in their natural habitat.

“The water (around Neptune Island) is so clear you can see the fish swimming around in large numbers underneath. It’s a peaceful, sometimes rugged, but on a smooth day with the sun coming up, it’s fresh, it’s perfect, and a wonderful place to be.”

Today, the business continues to take tourists eager to see, experience, and learn more about the magnificent Great White. The incredible MV Rodney Fox, an ex-pearl ship, is a tour, dive and research vessel carrying scientists, thrill-seekers, and nature lovers alike to the pristine waters of the Neptune Islands off the coast of the Eyre Peninsula

Rodney’s son, Andrew, a shark conservationist, filmmaker, and environmental scientist  now helms the business along with business partner Mark Tozer. The tourist business offers ocean goers a choice of itineraries and live-aboard options to surface or deep dive with the gentle predators.

However, Rodney still gets a kick out of hearing people when they first come out of the cage.

The business also extends to an Online Shark Shop and a dedicated shark museum in Mile End. The Rodney Fox Shark Museum and Learning Centre is open for special hosted evenings.

“So many people come out of our cages and say theyre such a wonderful animal: I cant believe anybody would want to kill them.”

Research and rewards.

While the expeditions are a once in a lifetime opportunity to come face-to-face with a Great White, each tour advances critical research and provides an insight into the importance of the ocean and its inhabitants.

The Fox Shark Research Foundation was set up in 2001 by Rodney Fox, his son Andrew, and Dr Rachel Robbins. The foundation’s objective is to identify and catalogue Great White Sharks using non-invasive tracker tags and satellite technology to study shark behaviour like breeding, migration, social interaction, feeding habits, and any impact humans may have on the Great Whites.

The foundation’s mission is to inspire the appreciation and understanding of great white sharks through research and education.

Rodney’s zeal for the Great White continues today. He is a much-awarded, passionate advocate and a key speaker at many international conservation and diving events. He also gives motivational talks at schools and organisations around the world. He is also the author of Sharkman, an award-winning children’s book.

Rodney Fox’s 50+ years of passion, advocacy and ongoing discovery of the Great White are unmatched. And his legacy will be a world with a greater appreciation of a misunderstood, curiously gracious creature rather than the undeserved mantle of man-eater.

Visit the Rodney Fox website if you’d like to know more about Rodney Fox’s incredible journey.

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