Fairmont biology teacher dives with great white sharks


June Martin is a central unit science teacher at Fairmont High School.

By Alexis Cook, Flyer Staff

Imagine being under water and face to face with a great white shark.

June Martin, Biology I and IB Biology teacher at Fairmont High School, traveled to South Africa over the summer and experienced just that. During this trip, Martin checked another thing off her bucket list … shark cage diving. 

Martin traveled to Gansbaai, South Africa in June of 2019 and went on a shark cage diving trip in Kleinbaai Harbour. 

Sixteen people in total went out on the boat to swim with the sharks. Eight people would go down at a time in the cage. Martin and the shark cage diving company recorded the whole experience and posted it on YouTube. 

“I was in the water for 15 minutes and whatever sharks come by, that’s all you get to see,” Martin said.

In the YouTube video that Martin posted, you can see four bronze whaler sharks and two great white sharks. At the 2:14 mark you can see right when the great white shark got close to Martin. 

The great white that got up close and personal with Martin was a 4.5m female. The crew told Martin that, “She is a regular encounter and her name was Brandy.”

“I was definitely nervous beforehand, but I wanted to challenge myself,” Martin said. 

The only complaint Martin had with this experience was that the water was freezing. It was South Africa’s winter when Martin took her trip there in June. 

She has a thrilling bucket list with things that most people would not even think of, such as scuba diving with hammerhead sharks and bull sharks off the coast of Costa Rica. She plans on going to Mexico for spring break to check these activities off her bucket list. 

“I like challenging myself to conquer my fears,” Martin said. “I like doing things that make me different from other people.” 

She even picked up rock climbing years ago to overcome her fear of heights. 

Martin’s next step with sharks is to swim with them without a cage protecting her. There are places where people can scuba dive with sharks surrounding them. 

Martin wanted to add that more and more shark species are becoming endangered by the second due to humans hunting them for shark fin soup and or to protect the beaches. 

According to World Wildlife, great white sharks are one of the main shark species that are dying off. They are being hunted for their fins and teeth. The great white is often caught as bycatch by commercial fisheries and they can also become entangled in meshes that protect beaches. 

National Geographic wrote an article in 2004 about defanging great white shark myths. In this article they interviewed Ralph Collier, president of the Shark Research Committee in Canoga Park, California, and author of Shark Attacks of the Twentieth Century. 

“What we need to remember is that if great whites really liked to eat people, there would be a lot more fatalities, and I wouldn’t interview so many survivors,” said Collier. 

Great white sharks are curious animals that use their teeth just like people would use their hands to touch something unfamiliar. They might take one bite of something and then realize that it isn’t their ideal meal and swim off. 

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature analysts (IUNC), “Out of 470 species of sharks, 2.4 percent are critically endangered, 3.2 percent are endangered, 10.3 percent are vulnerable and 14.4 percent are near threatened.” 

Martin plans to continue checking things off of her daring bucket list and she encourages others to do the same.

“I want people to get out and experience these beautiful creatures before it’s too late,” Martin said.