By Alexander Greensmith
MEET THE brave SEVENTY-EIGHT-YEAR-OLD pensioner who has been diving with DEADLY TIGER SHARKS for over SIXTY YEARS.
Breath-taking shots show American underwater cinematographer, Mike Bolton (78) from Panama City, Panama, coolly hi-fiving the nose of a fearsome tiger shark.
Another shows Mike – just inches from dangerous teeth – calmly stroking under a shark’s chin. And an above water shot shows all-smiles with Mike’s supportive wife Becky (67), who helps with his dives.
Mike has been diving since he was 17 and has been a professional ocean photographer since the days of Kodak film.
Mike’s recent ‘jaw-some’ portfolio was taken on a Sony A7R ll around the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.
The ex-competitive spear fisher has dived for buried 17th century treasure, but his true passion is to learn more, stay humble and pass on to others his experiences and knowledge about sharks and ocean conservation.
“I once had a tiger shark eat my spar gun and he shoved me out of the water hitting me three times before I was able to get him off me – then I was okay,” Mike recalled.
“But they are not mindless killers and humans are not on their menu. Yes, attacks sometime happen but ninety-nine per cent are by mistaken identity like a surfer on surfboard that looks like a seal or turtle. Or swimmers splashing in murky water where their limbs are mistaken as being fish.
“But we need sharks in our oceans and seas they are a primary source of a healthy, clean ocean. We need many more people on this planet to push Shark Conservation and understand shark awareness and behaviour.
“My lovely supporting wife of forty-five years almost always accompanies me on all our expeditions and cinema shoots. I can only remember one trip she did not accompany me.
“Becky is also a fabulous top side cinematographer and captures many awesome action shots, she can spend hours on the ship deck, in the sun and cold, standing her ground waiting for that special shot. She is my wife, associate and best friend, and will continue on as long as we can.”
Tiger shark attacks on humans can be fatal, they are second to only the formidable great white.
While they are apex predators, Mike believes that attacks are not done out of malice towards humans.
“I love shooting sharks because of their bad reputation and to raise the importance of their existence. We need for them to continue to survive in our oceans not only for the shark but for our future health existence as to our oceans and seas,” said Mike.
“Through many years of diving and working around all different types of sharks. I do yoga and meditation to prepare. I practice breathing together to bring my heart beat down.
“I concentrate my mind to realise what I am about to do and all the things that could go wrong and to understand in the back of my mind how I should react.
“Even then there are just so many things a shark diver is not prepared for that can happen. But it is my life and I can’t think of any other work or pleasure I would love to do more.”
Mike has also forged cross-generational friendships within the shark community.
You can follow the almost octogenarian ocean-lover on Instagram @silenthunter_pty.