My Other Life: Peter Clark, shark diver

Peter Clarke

For Peter Clark, an in-house loss adjuster at RSA, a childhood viewing of Jaws sparked a lifelong obsession with sharks that has taken him around the world and within metres of some specimens.

How did your interest in shark diving start?

I got into scuba diving through my interest and fascination with sharks. The obsession started after watching Jaws, when I was far too young. It initially traumatised me, but gradually it developed into an obsession. I then felt compelled to try and find sharks. To do this, I learnt to scuba dive and fell in love with this as well. It’s taken me to loads of amazing places, even some without sharks.

How did you build up your skills?

I started off doing my open water course in winter in Sydney, which believe it not was surprisingly cold. Not particularly enjoying the theory side, I naively thought ‘great, I’ve done my certification now, I don’t need to do any more courses’. Little did I know that this course was just the beginning and since then I’ve done loads of different training exercises, rescue courses, teaching qualifications, technical qualifications and, of course, a shark speciality course.

Peter Clarke Sharks
A close encounter with a shark off the coast of Mexico

What has been the highlight so far?

One special place for me is two small islands, about nine hours sail from the Egyptian mainland. The islands sit on top of two huge coral pillars, there’s no other land insight and being there feels magical and wild.

On my first visit I was counting down the minutes of decompression before I could surface, when I was violently grabbed by my buddy with such ferocity I assumed he’d ran out of air. He turned me around to see a shark swimming immediately above us only an inch underneath the surface. The shark swam round us for a while as we swam back to the dive boat to get out.

We stayed in the water at the back of the dive boat to watch the shark. It swim past us about five meters away appearing to go off in another directly when it abruptly turned and swam directly at us, my buddy bolted up the dive ladder onto the boat and I was lucky to get some very close pictures of it as it swam by.

How has the experience changed you?

Diving and travel have changed me a huge amount. I’ve learnt a lot about people and places which isn’t something I’d really expected. It also changed my eating habits as I haven’t eaten fish (knowingly) since 2003.

What’s your next challenge?

The next challenge is to find basking sharks off the Isle of Coll in Scotland with one of my oldest dive buddies. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for years but other things got in the way. I cannot wait and hope the weather gods are kind to us.

Any crossover between this activity and your insurance day job?

I started diving around the same time I started working for an insurer in Sydney, with no idea how big a part either would play in my life. In insurance you end up working a lot with percentages which has been useful, as when you get a bit further into diving you use different gasses to increase your dive times or depths. You need to plan the gasses carefully and this involves a bit of working with percentages.

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