Mike Rutzen

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A great white shark

Mike Rutzen is an expert on the great white shark and an outspoken champion of shark conservation. His fame spread due to the images of his free diving exploits swimming with the animals without a cage. Mike has spent more time swimming cage-less with great whites than anyone else. He has since travelled the world lecturing on sharks and filming documentaries on them.


Mike "Shark Man" Rutzen started out as a fisherman and local guy, though most definitely not a scientist, based in the South African town of Gansbaai that has since become famous for its white sharks. Like other Gansbaai locals Mike originally knew the great white as a 'Tommy Shark', due to the many British soldiers taken by great whites at the sinking of HMS Birkenhead. As a fisherman he was scared of the animals but as tourism developed in the area there was a need for qualified boat skippers to take the tourists out to the animals. From this point he started to grow to love the fish in more ways than one. Mike worked for Andre Hartman and learned how to free dive with the sharks from Andre. Over time Rutzen learned how to adapt his posture and interpret the sharks' behaviour to avoid being attacked. He discovered that white sharks are very sensitive on the tip of the snout, due to the Ampullae of Lorenzini, and that giving them a light tap or punch there will make the predator change its course. Mike eventually opened up his own shark boat for cage diving. His company Shark Diving Unlimited (which has a self-proclaimed success rate of 99.9%) has since become the world's first to offer a PADI specialisation qualification on white sharks. His life ambition is to learn how to induce tonic immobility on a white shark to simplify research, with the ultimate goal of better understanding these animals.


He has recently appeared in his own television show for the Discovery Channel. Called Sharkman, in the program he toured the world diving with different species of sharks and demonstrated their tonic immobility reflex. Mike also starred in an episode of the BBC TV series Natural World broadcast on 2 January 2009.

He recently appeared on 60 minutes with Anderson Cooper (March 28, 2010)

He is also a living legend of Gansbaai as shown by the BBC film "A Living Legend of Gansbaai"

Mike Rutzen appeared in the History Channels show "Stan Lee's Superhumans" Season 2 episode 2: "Shark Master" (11-3-2011).[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "History Channel: Stan Lee's Superhumans". History Channel: Stan Lee's Superhumans. History Channel. Retrieved 14 January 2012. 

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