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Shark attack survivor is on a mission to protect these animals: ‘Fear can be a powerful motivator’

Source image: https://www.foxnews.com/lifestyle/shark-attack-survivor-mission-protect-animals-fear-motivator

Paul de Gelder of California lost two limbs in a sudden and awful shark attack in February 2009 while taking part in a routine underwater exercise as an elite Australian Navy clearance diver.

Others in such a position — after suffering this devastating loss — may have wanted little or nothing to do with sharks.

Yet de Gelder developed a completely different view. He wanted to get closer to the animal — and learn all he could about it.

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Today, he’s passionately devoted to saving sharks all over the world partly because of “the ripple effect” their existence has on humans.

He is someone, he said, who “had my life changed in a very violent, painful and dramatic way,” he told Fox News Digital in a phone interview a few days ago from his home in California.

Paul de Gelder of California is shown interacting with a shark. "My goal," he told Fox News Digital, is "to show people the other side of sharks and my really amazing stories about them." He is hoping for people "to potentially fall in love with them and want to protect them, just like I do."

Paul de Gelder of California is shown interacting with a shark. “My goal,” he told Fox News Digital, is “to show people the other side of sharks and my really amazing stories about them.” He is hoping for people “to potentially fall in love with them and want to protect them, just like I do.”
(Paul de Gelder / HarperCollins)

“And if I can come from a place where I knew nothing about sharks, I didn’t care about them — I figured, if we wiped them all out, then we wouldn’t have to worry about being eaten — to going through what I went through and then understanding how actually important they are to the oceans, to the ecosystems and to us as well — if I can work that out, then surely my passion about this subject will relay down onto other people so that they’ll want to understand and learn more and protect these animals as well.”

“Fear can be a very powerful motivator … My fear was that I was going to lose my career.”

He added, “As Steve Irwin said — and this is something that has always stuck with me — ‘If you can make someone fall in love with something, they’ll want to protect it.'”

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And so, “really my goal here is just to show people the other side of sharks and my really amazing stories about them,” he said, “so that they’ll potentially fall in love with them and want to protect them, just like I do and all of my friends do on ‘Shark Week.’”

He’s doing so every day, through his motivational speaking, his new book, “Shark: Why We Need to Save the World’s Most Misunderstood Predator” (HarperCollins), his work for the Discovery Channel on “Shark Week” — and countless other endeavors in which he shares his passion for the animal.

Tried to fight back

While de Gelder was on a training exercise as a Navy diver in Sydney Harbor more than 10 years ago, a 9-foot bull shark grabbed him by his arm and leg. 

He tried to fight back but was pulled underwater and violently shaken.

Then the shark ripped off most of de Gelder’s right arm as well as his right leg.

Paul de Gelder is shown today on the left — and in earlier years with the Australian Army. He said that "in eight seconds," so much that he cared about was "stolen away" from him. He worked hard to get it all back. 

Paul de Gelder is shown today on the left — and in earlier years with the Australian Army. He said that “in eight seconds,” so much that he cared about was “stolen away” from him. He worked hard to get it all back. 
(Paul de Gelder / HarperCollins )

He spent time during his long, hard recovery learning all about sharks. 

“Fear can be a very powerful motivator sometimes,” he said. “And my fear was that I was going to lose my career.”

He added, “I had fought so hard to drag myself up and out of a life where I felt I had no purpose or value, to joining the [Australian] Army and becoming a paratrooper, passing selection for the elite clearance divers and then having this amazing life and purpose — and then, in eight seconds, having all of that stolen away [during the shark attack].”

So it was fear, he said, “of going back to that life of not having any purpose to training my absolute butt off to prove to the Navy that I could still do my job.”

He said, “I pulled that off after six months, when a lot of people said it was impossible.”

He left full-time military service in 2012 and was a reserve Navy diver for a few years. 

He said he’d have his best buddy taken him to the gym so he “could work out and learn to use my body again.” 

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He also said, “Technology is incredible these days. And the military gave me all the best prosthetics I needed to be able to walk and get exercise and all that. So I used all the tools at my disposal.” 

He said he left full-time military service in 2012 and was a reserve Navy diver for a few years. 

Paul de Gelder is shown during his rehab and recovery after a shark tore off two of his limbs in February 2009 during a routine military exercise. 

Paul de Gelder is shown during his rehab and recovery after a shark tore off two of his limbs in February 2009 during a routine military exercise. 
(Paul de Gelder / HarperCollins)

“Now I live in LA and travel around America speaking and working on ‘Shark Week'” for the Discovery Channel. 

He is also engaged to be married to “an amazing American girl,” he said.

How to help

In his view, what can the average person do in regard to sharks and conservation efforts? 

“There’s a bunch of things that people can do,” he said.

“Down at the very basic level, for those who don’t travel that much or may be landlocked but also love sharks — they can follow all the pages that support shark conservation. They can share the information that they provide and they can sign petitions.”

Another view of Paul de Gelder during his rehab and recovery. 

Another view of Paul de Gelder during his rehab and recovery. 
(Paul de Gelder / HarperCollins)

While “this may seem small,” he said, “the way that things change is when a lot of people do small things consecutively.”

So “signing these petitions actually really does make a difference in studies for when we want to get more sharks put under the protection act or when we want to change legislation to protect sharks.”

He added, “The petitions were part of the reason, he said, that America has just come out and said there will be no exports or imports of shark fins, ever — and so, those things really do make a difference.”

“The way that things change is when a lot of people do small things consecutively.”

He also said, “If you’re a little more adventurous — you can go into the shark tourism industry. You can provide your time and have an amazing experience — and that supports them and their conservation efforts.”

He also said that “moments” spent near and around sharks — safely, of course — “are priceless.”

Paul de Gelder today. "Of all the creatures on our wonderful planet, I would argue that none has captured the human imagination quite like the shark," he says in his new book, "Shark."

Paul de Gelder today. “Of all the creatures on our wonderful planet, I would argue that none has captured the human imagination quite like the shark,” he says in his new book, “Shark.”
(Paul de Gelder / HarperCollins)

As part of his travels as shark advocate and passionate environmentalist, he has given talks to the United Nations, the U.S. Navy and large corporations and charities. 

Now, read these two exclusive excerpts from de Gelder’s new book.

‘The perfect predator’ from ‘Sharks’

Paul de Gelder: As a kid I used to dream about a shark eating me alive. But when that nearly happened in 2009, as I encountered that bull shark in Sydney Harbor, it was not a fun experience whatsoever. 

That day I found myself on a different tier in the food chain to the one which I’m accustomed to. 

You see, we may have cars and phones and even space stations, but when it comes to being a lonely predator, we humans are pretty useless. 

“Though some sharks have good eyesight, their sensory organs enable them to detect even the smallest movement or scent before they even see what caused it.”

We’re slow. We’re not as agile as our food. 

We’re not even very strong. Our brain and our ability to work together have helped us survive and thrive as a species, but without tools we are a very lame predator.

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Not the shark. Millions of years of glorious evolution have crafted the shark into the perfect predator. 

Their streamlined body allows them to cruise through the water like a torpedo when it’s time to strike their prey. Their rough skin is so incredibly adapted to swimming that human swimmers have been banned from using imitations of it in competitions. 

Paul de Gelder's new book is

Paul de Gelder’s new book is “Shark: Why We Need to Save the World’s Most Misunderstood Predator” (HarperCollins). 
(Paul de Gelder / HarperCollins)

Though some sharks have good eyesight, their sensory organs enable them to detect even the smallest movement or scent before they even see what caused it. Sharks’ sense of smell is so powerful that they can home in on mates and dinner from miles away. 

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Their teeth are like rows of the most expensive knives, perfectly adapted for killing their prey — bent back and needle-like for fish, thick and jagged for marine mammals — with powerful snapping jaws or wide gaping mouths depending on the diet of the particular species of shark.

‘Held them hostage’ from ‘Sharks’

Paul de Gelder: Of all the creatures on our wonderful planet, I would argue that none has captured the human imagination quite like the shark. 

In fact, sharks have kidnapped our imaginations, held them hostage and led to more nightmares than probably any other animal that’s ever existed (a close second would probably be spiders).

Why are we so terrified about being in the water with them? 

“What’s out there? Is it hungry? Will it get me? A new environment can always be a little scary.”

You are thousands and thousands of times more likely to die from falling down the stairs than being eaten by a shark, but do you break into a cold sweat every time you go upstairs? When you’re on the stairs, are you in a constant state of fear, worrying what could happen at any second?

For almost all of us the answer is no, but I’m sure most of us have felt that feeling of fear and dread as we step into the ocean. What’s out there? Is it hungry? Will it get me?

A new environment can always be a little scary, and so you can understand why someone who grew up in a landlocked city would be wary of the ocean, but I grew up in and around the sea, and I was bloody terrified of sharks. 

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Why?

Humans have a very powerful imagination. 

First published by HarperCollins UK Publishers, 2022. Excerpted from “Sharks” by Paul de Gelder with permission of the publisher. 

Former elite soldier and shark attack survivor Paul de Gelder is a host for the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week.” He was also a key personality in Netflix’s “Seaspiracy,” and hosts the podcast “The Dirt Down Under.” 

Source: https://www.foxnews.com/lifestyle/shark-attack-survivor-mission-protect-animals-fear-motivator

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On this day in history, Feb. 2, 1913, Grand Central Terminal opens in NYC, world’s largest train station

A reimagined and masterful Grand Central Terminal brought jaw-dropping opulence to the heart of New York City after 10 years of reconstruction when it opened on this day in history, Feb. 2, 1913. 

Its stately Beaux Art design, soaring celestial ceiling, shopping and dining concourses, scores of rail and subway lines, mysterious “whispering walls” and central location in the heart of America’s biggest city make Grand Central a tourist attraction — as well as a vital transportation hub.

“There are a lot of great train stations in the world. There is nothing, nothing like Grand Central,” Greg Young, co-host and producer of “The Bowery Boys” podcast, a popular chronicle of New York City history, told Fox News Digital. 

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“It took everyone’s breath away when it opened.”

It still does. An estimated 150,000 gawkers walked through Grand Central for its opening in 1913 — a mere fraction of the nearly 400,000 people, about the population of New Orleans, who now use the terminal each day. 

Excavation for Grand Central Terminal, New York City, USA, Detroit Publishing Company, 1908. 

Excavation for Grand Central Terminal, New York City, USA, Detroit Publishing Company, 1908. 
(Photo by: GHI/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Grand Central is, among many other claims to fame befitting its boisterous name, the largest train station in the world by area (49 acres) and by train services (40 platforms, 67 tracks), according to numerous sources. 

The terminal handles 768 commuter train arrivals and departures each day, while subway trains make 2,400 stops at Grand Central each day, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). 

“Grand Central took everyone’s breath away when it opened.” — Greg Young, “The Bowery Boys” podcast

And yet it continues to grow to serve the city, and by proxy serve the nation. 

Grand Central Madison, a massive expansion that was 16 years in the making, opened on January 25. It adds 16 acres and eight lines of the Long Island Railroad to the Grand Central complex, deep underneath the existing network of rail tracks — about 140 feet below street level. 

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The new concourse will handle an additional 296 daily arrivals and departures at full service. 

“The Grand Central Terminal is not only a station, it is a monument, a civic center, or, if one will, a city,” The New York Times declared on Feb. 3, 1913, the day after it opened.

Grand Central Madison opened at Grand Central Terminal in New York City on Jan. 25, 2023, greatly expanding access to Long Island for the world's largest train station. 

Grand Central Madison opened at Grand Central Terminal in New York City on Jan. 25, 2023, greatly expanding access to Long Island for the world’s largest train station. 
(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

“Without exception, it is not only the greatest station in the United States, but the greatest station, of any type, in the world.”

The media outlet had dubbed the previous Grand Central “a cruel disgrace” in 1899, as momentum grew to give a city bursting at its seams a new world-class transportation hub.

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The original Grand Central Depot was built in 1871 by railroad titan Cornelius Vanderbilt. It was replaced in 1899 by a much larger but widely panned Grand Central Terminal.

Construction began in 1903 on the current landmark. 

A spectacular new city skyline rose around the new Grand Central after it opened in 1913. 

A spectacular new skyline sprouted up around Grand Central Terminal after it opened in 1913, including the Chrysler Building next door in 1930. It was the tallest building in the world at the time.

A spectacular new skyline sprouted up around Grand Central Terminal after it opened in 1913, including the Chrysler Building next door in 1930. It was the tallest building in the world at the time.
(Kerry J. Byrne/Fox News Digital)

The Chrysler Building was the tallest structure in the world when it opened to the immediate east of Grand Central in 1930.

New skyscraper One Vanderbilt, which opened in 2020, towers over the terminal’s west entrance. 

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At 1,401 feet tall, One Vanderbilt is the fourth tallest building in New York City, soaring 150 feet higher than the world-famous Empire State Building. 

Its four-story observatory, a popular new tourist attraction, is accessible through Grand Central.

The majestic terminal also paved the way, quite literally, for one of America’s most lavish thoroughfares. 

Park Avenue sits above what were once open-air tracks that formed “a disgusting little gash” polluted by steam engines in the middle of Manhattan, said Young of “The Bowery Boys” podcast. 

Grand Central Terminal in midtown Manhattan opened in 1913 just 30 years after railroads pioneered the creation of time zones.

Grand Central Terminal in midtown Manhattan opened in 1913 just 30 years after railroads pioneered the creation of time zones.
(Kerry J. Byrne/Fox News Digital)

The advent of electric trains in the late 1800s made it possible to close the gash and put the entire infrastructure of Grand Central underground. 

Park Avenue and its stately high rises for New York City’s nouveau riche covered up the eyesore. 

The terminal occupies a trophy location on the east side of Midtown Manhattan between 42nd and 45th Streets. Park Avenue is actually elevated between those cross streets to wrap around the east and west sides of the terminal. 

“Jackie Kennedy Onassis led an effort to gain landmark status for the terminal in the 1970s – taking the fight all the way to the Supreme Court.”

Grand Central had fallen into filth and disrepair again in the 1970s when a developer proposed knocking down the main concourse and replacing it with a skyscraper. 

Jackie Kennedy Onassis led an effort to gain landmark status for the terminal – taking the fight all the way to the Supreme Court.

Sunlight in Grand Central, 1937. 

Sunlight in Grand Central, 1937. 
(Photo by ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

The high court ruled in favor of New York City in 1978, allowing it to restrict development in the name of historical preservation. 

“Grand Central Terminal stands as a universal symbol between New York City’s past and present,” Onassis is often quoted saying.

It is properly known as Grand Central Terminal — not station, as it is commonly called.

Visitors also marvel at the whispering walls beneath the main concourse where visitors can chat with each quietly over great distances, as sound travels up the vaulted ceiling. 

Commuter train routes to upstate New York, Long Island and Connecticut begin and terminate at Grand Central. None pass through.

Grand Central does serve as a station, however, for five New York City subway lines that pass deep beneath it — making for an extraordinary network of tracks on multiple levels, which only grew more complex with the opening last week of Grand Central Madison.  

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One of those subway lines, the S (shuttle) train, stops only at Times Square about four blocks west; then it makes the return trip two minutes away to Grand Central. The shuttle runs back and forth between the two Midtown hubs 18 hours a day.

Details of the facade of Grand Central Terminal on June 15, 2012, in New York City. 

Details of the facade of Grand Central Terminal on June 15, 2012, in New York City. 
(Victor Fraile/Corbis via Getty Images)

Grand Central’s decorative highlights include its elaborate celestial ceiling of with more than 2,500 stars, with astrological constellations such as Aquarius and Cancer, set in gold against a turquoise backdrop. 

Visitors also marvel at the whispering walls beneath the main concourse where visitors can chat with each quietly over great distances as sound travels up the vaulted ceiling; and at Grand Central’s signature 14-foot central Tiffany clock. 

It was the world’s largest Tiffany clock in 1914 when it was installed.  

“Grand Central Terminal is a story of great engineering, survival and rebirth,” says the Grand Central Terminal website, operated by Metro-North Railroad, which serves New York and Connecticut. 

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Adds “Bowery Boys” co-host Young, “Grand Central symbolized New York City coming out of the Gilded Age as this global supercity of incredible wealth, and the capital city in many ways of the United States.”

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World’s largest, rarest ocean stingrays spotted and tagged in Mozambique

For the first time in scientific history, the wild smalleye stingray has been located and tagged by researchers.

The smalleye species is known for being the world’s largest and rarest marine stingray — and was finally spotted in Mozambique.

National Geographic explorer and ray expert Andrea Marshall set out off the coast of the Bazaruto Archipelago in search of the rare stingray.

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After weeks of looking, Marshall spotted a smalleye in some shallow water, National Geographic (NatGeo) reported.

She was able to dive in after it and touched it with a six-foot-long pole to extract a small skin sample from its underside.

Shown above, a smalleye stingray visits a cleaning station on a coral reef, where fish and other invertebrates clean bigger animals of parasites.

Shown above, a smalleye stingray visits a cleaning station on a coral reef, where fish and other invertebrates clean bigger animals of parasites.
(Andrea Marshall)

The stingray stayed calm, which was good news for Marshall.

Smalleyes have a lethal stinging spine the length of a human forearm.

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One wrong move “would put us in mortal danger,” Marshall told NatGeo.

Marshall is also the founder of the Mozambique-based Marine Megafauna Foundation.

The fish, native to the Pacific Ocean, can grow up to 10 feet long and eight feet wide.

Smalleye stingrays, also known as Megatrygon microps, can measure 10 feet in length and over 8 feet in width, according to NatGeo.

Smalleye stingrays, also known as Megatrygon microps, can measure 10 feet in length and over 8 feet in width, according to NatGeo.
(Ben Scott/National Geographic)

The species earned the name “smalleyes” for their little raisin-sized eyes, said NatGeo.

Since they’re so rarely spotted, smalleyes are likely a critically endangered species, that publication also said.

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Marshall and her colleagues spent the following months diving at dawn for other smalleyes along the Mozambican coast.

The team tagged 11 smalleyes using both acoustic and satellite tags, in order to track long-distance travel and fine-scale movements.

Smalleye stingers can reach the size of a human forearm, said NatGeo.

Smalleye stingers can reach the size of a human forearm, said NatGeo.
(Andrea Marshall)

Although the mission was a success, Marshall shared with NatGeo that she and her team encountered a few close calls.

This includes learning how the massive stingray can raise its stinger over its back and swing it around, much like a scorpion.

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Preliminary data shows that the stingray can dive more than 650 feet deep and swim hundreds of miles in a day, according to Marshall.

Researchers hope that tagging these stingrays will provide an answer to why they travel as far as they do.

Smalleye stingrays may look intimidating, but they're not aggressive and will only sting if provoked, Marshall said, as NatGeo reported.

Smalleye stingrays may look intimidating, but they’re not aggressive and will only sting if provoked, Marshall said, as NatGeo reported.
(Andrea Marshall)

The stingray’s diving depth could explain its extremely small eyes, since vision isn’t as crucial down in the darkness, Marshall said.

The tags reportedly revealed that the stingrays hang out near the reefs at night, which could mean they feed at dawn and dusk.

Many questions remain regarding the behavior of smalleye stingrays; the International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the species as “data deficient.”

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Marshall’s goal is to gather enough information to lead to better protections for smalleyes, NatGeo notes.

Anyone wanting more detail can visit nationalgeographic.com.

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