Dangerous tiger shark performs ‘pirouette’ on diver’s hand

A tiger shark named Emma spins in the palm of Eli Martinez's hand.

A tiger shark named Emma spins in the palm of Eli Martinez’s hand. Photo: Eli Martinez/Caters News

Tiger sharks are dangerous apex predators not to be fooled with, yet Eli Martinez has developed an uncanny relationship with a tiger shark he calls Emma, who performs pirouettes on the palm of his hand.

Martinez, a 44-year-old diver who has gained notoriety over the years for his interactions with sharks, spends two months each year in waters off Tiger Bay in the Bahamas, and that means visiting Emma, a tiger shark he claims to have trained.

In his latest video shot in October and released for the first time in the past week via Caters News, Emma performs what is being called a pirouette on Martinez's hand, though it was actually a 180-degree spin.

Still, it's impressive considering the tiger shark could easily make a meal out of Martinez:

Martinez, who is from San Juan, Texas, has been diving with sharks since 2003 and interacting with Emma for more than eight years.

“I was definitely the first person to do this with a tiger shark,” Martinez told Caters News. “I start by rubbing her nose, which I learned quickly relaxes her. You can palpably feel how much more comfortable she is with me. As soon as I felt her relax, I knew I could get her to spin around.”

The odd act started by accident while Martinez was being filmed interacting with sharks. Out of nowhere, one shark did a 360-degree spin on his hand.

“I didn't know what to do,” he said. “I wasn't sure whether it was about to attack, so I was a bit scared; fortunately it didn't. Eventually, I got to the point where I could get them to do it on command.

“I still have no idea why they do it, though.”

Emma, a 2,000-pound tiger shark, has become his star performer. Martinez claims Emma recognizes him and has learned to trust him.

“For her to allow me to do this is the ultimate trust,” he said. “It’s really surreal because the bigger a shark is the less trusting they become …

“At the end of the day, they're wild killers. They can never be domesticated like a cat or rabbit.”

But Emma seems to come pretty close.

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