A commercial sea urchin diver and documentary filmmaker’s run-in with a shark bite in the Farallon Islands has been described as an “accident” rather than an attack.
Ron Elliott, identified as the man bit on the arm by a great white shark on Tuesday morning at the Farallon Islands, has experienced hundreds of encounters with sharks. The documentary filmmaker is well-known in the Pacific Ocean community as one of the few to actively dive for sea urchins at the islands without a protective cage.
Around 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, the United States Coast Guard and San Francisco Police Department’s Marine Unit responded to his distress call from the Farallon Islands. Medivac crews applied first aid and hoisted him onto a helicopter that transported him to the Stanford Medical Center in stable condition, police said Thursday.
Elliott told the responders that he was filming video when a great white shark bit his right arm. But Mary Jane Schramm, spokesperson for the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, says it was more of an “accident” than an attack.
“He simply learned to work with the white sharks in their habitat by learning their behaviors. He’s part of the background” Schramm says. But this time, Elliott “got in the way.”
According to the Diving Almanac, Elliott has had more than 400 encounters with great white sharks at the Farallon Islands. Schramm doesn’t know of other free divers in the area without cages.
The Farallon Islands look rugged and tough but is rather fragile, Schramm says. Because it’s managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the few permitted to go out there have many regulations to be aware of. (A handful of researchers often with Point Blue Conservation Science live out there for some periods of time.)
Elliott, Schramm says, “respects the sharks” by passively filming the wildlife and refrains from disrupting habitats. He is featured in new film Near Miss, which premieres in San Francisco in February, and was the subject of a short film Devil’s Teeth.
“I like the solitude and the quiet, and the sharks definitely keep the crowds away,” Elliott said in the film.