Eugenie Clark, who earned the nickname "Shark Lady" for her incredible and longtime study of sharks, began dispelling the public's fear of sharks long before "Jaws" hit the silver screen and scared people out of the water.
Not Clark. She wasn't afraid of sharks and didn't think others ought to be. She started championing the cause for sharks soon after she began studying them in the 1950s and realized "that these 'gangsters of the deep' had gotten a bad rap," according to National Geographic.
No, Shark Lady wouldn't dream of getting out of the water, sharks or no sharks.
In fact, the ichthyologist and oceanographer who was a pioneer in the use of scuba gear for underwater research continued diving into her 90s, even after being diagnosed with lung cancer, to which she succumbed on Wednesday in Sarasota, Florida. She was 92.
"She never outgrew this absolute fascination of looking and seeing and observing underwater," National Geographic photographer David Doubilet, her colleague and friend, told National Geographic. "Even when I was a younger man and she was older, I couldn't keep up with her. She moved with a kind of liquid speed underwater."
Her underwater experiences were intriguing. The New York Times reported that Clark ran into great white sharks while scuba diving in Hawaii, studied sleeping sharks in undersea caves off the Yucatan, witnessed a shark's birth, rode a 40-foot whale shark, swam into schools of man-eating barracuda, and encountered a 500-pound giant squid.
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Over the years, Dr. Clark made more than 70 deep dives in submersibles, once to 12,000 feet. She found whale sharks, the world's largest fish, 3,200 feet down, and sharks with six pairs of gills (most have five pairs) in the deep sea off Bermuda. She developed a shark repellent from an exudate of flatfish called the Red Sea Moses sole and taught sharks, once thought to be un-trainable, to perform whole sequences of tasks.
"Sharks are among the most perfectly constructed creatures in nature," she said. "Some forms have survived for two hundred million years."
Clark's achievements are countless, and she earned a global reputation for her work as a marine biologist.
She wrote three books, 80 scientific treatises, and more than 70 articles and professional papers. She lectured at 60 American universities and in 19 other countries. She appeared in 50 television specials and documentaries. She made scientific discoveries and had four fish species named after her.
But much of her work focused on sharks and dispelling the public's fear about them, especially after the 1975 movie "Jaws," National Geographic reported.
Clark wrote a story for National Geographic called "Sharks: Magnificent and Misunderstood," and, in a 1982 PBS documentary titled "The Sharks," said car accidents are far more numerous and terrible than shark attacks.
"When you see a shark underwater, you should say, 'How lucky I am to see this beautiful animal in his environment,'" she once said.
Doubilet was spot on when he simply said of Eugenie Clark, “Her contributions were astounding.”
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