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An Interview with Rodney Fox
by Carl Roessler 

Rodney Fox of Australia, a 2007 inductee into the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame, is one of the seminal figures in the history of adventure diving. A young champion at spear fishing who became the world's most famous shark victim. Rodney later became a prolific arranger of great white shark expeditions (well over two hundred) over a span of 35 years. He is also an ardent advocate for understanding and protecting these awesome predators.
During the 1963 South Australian spear fishing championships he was taken by a relatively small (nine foot) great white shark.

Rather than immediately take a bite out of Rodney, the shark for reasons we don't understand merely took him in its mouth and swam away with him. Rodney's description is magnetic. Though I have heard him tell it many times in the thirty-two years of great white shark expeditions we have shared, it never fails to awe me.

It is a testament to human courage that in the very jaws of every diver's nightmare, he would not give, would not be beaten; as a result the Rodney Fox legend has shone like a beacon for more than forty years.

If in the course of the conversation I sometimes seem irreverent to this genuine icon, please understand that Rodney and I banter a lot in the same way that those who have shared combat will joke together. We have shared a hundred close calls with a primeval force that very few other people have ever seen in real life.

Carl: We are standing here in the Great White Shark Museum, created by Rodney Fox and his wife Kay. The museum is among the tourist attractions of the seaside resort town of Glenelg, a suburb of Adelaide. The museum is open to the public, and houses Rodney's incredible collection of shark artifacts.
In two large bays that once housed the fire engines Rodney has assembled an amazing collection of shark memorabilia--the miniature cage used for the midget in the movie "Jaws" to make the sharks look bigger, books, photographs, shark teeth and jaws, two huge fiberglass replicas of great white shark and hundreds more artifacts of his career.

Carl: I'll bet that some amazing stories have been told over good food and wine in these hallowed rooms.
Rodney: That's true, especially the good wine part. However, let's not mislead the readers. I never embellish a story.
Carl: Yes, and may your soul be rescued after such a bald-faced statement. Remember, I've heard these stories a hundred times. They sure have gotten better over the years!
Rodney: It's just that I remember more of the details each year.
Carl: Hey, you don't remember your own name on Tuesdays. I think the wine helps.
Rodney: When you are telling the same story for the five thousandth time you need the wine to oil your epiglottis.
Carl: Your epiglottis is oiled, all right.
Rodney: Let's show some respect here!
Carl: OK, it must be time for business. At that legendary moment in 1963 you were forty-feet below the surface, holding your breath, stalking a fish.
Rodney: That's right, I never saw it coming.
Carl: And because spear fishing competitions were traditionally snorkel-only, you didn't have a scuba tank that might have protected your body.
Rodney: Yes, but if I'd been wearing a tank it might have taken me by the leg, and that could have been worse!
Carl: You had the presence of mind to stick your thumb in its eye to force it to let you go.
Rodney: Yes, I was getting desperate for air because its teeth had perforated my lung.
Carl: So, it let go, and you found yourself for an awful moment floating helplessly in a cloud of your own blood, and then...
The worst part of it his head coming through the cloud of blood to take me again. I tried to fend it off by pushing away its nose, but I missed and my right hand went right into its mouth. I tried to quickly pull it out, but the shark's teeth inflicted damage to my arm which it took 94 stitches to repair. The bite to my midsection took 364.
Carl: By a series of miraculous coincidences you were quickly transported to the operating room of the Hospital. I have sat with clients many times when all were spell bound by your description of that.
Rodney: While they were operating, I was fixated on that light as if it were my link to life, because I was very weak from the wounds and shock. There was one point where the light seemed to get smaller and farther away. I found myself having to fight to keep that light from going out, somehow if it went out I knew I'd be gone. I willed that light to get larger.

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