Walkers Cay is the northern most island in the Bahamas. The island was purchased in 1937 by a US business man who built an air strip, marina and hotel on the island. The Island was well known for deep sea fishing. During WWII the island was used as anti-submarine base. For divers, the island could be easily reached by Pan AM sea planes from Fort Lauderdale Florida.
What is little known about the Island is the work that was done with shark research. Gary Adkison created the Shark Rodeo allowing man to interact with sharks while feeding, without directly changing the normal behavior of reef sharks. This type of shark interaction was different than all others because there is no direct hand feeding of sharks during the process.
During the Shark Rodeo, sharks are called to the location by gunning the engines on the boat. Sharks have become conditioned to the sound of the engines signaling food will be available. Once all the divers enter the water a “frozen chum ball” or basically a large industrial trash can full of frozen fish is thrown in about 40 feet of water. The chum ball is suspended from the ocean floor to keep it submerged.
Sharks and all other fish then enter the theater and the dance to consume the frozen fish begins. Although it may look like a frenzy, a closer look allows you to see the hierarchy in the feeding process. All pregnant females’ first, then other females, than males have priority at the food. The sharks pay little attention to divers in the water, they are viewed as other predators to the sharks. At the end of the dive, divers can find shark teeth directly under where the chum ball was consumed.
Many variations of this dive were done to study the feeding habits of reef sharks. Interesting, sharks were provided with frozen chum balls of various meats (beef, pork and chicken), and would never eat them. Clearly anything other than fish was really not on the menu of reef sharks. Many photographers, videographers and naturalist came to Walkers to study shark behavior and to experience sharks during a close to normal feeding frenzy. Gary educated many professional and amateur divers about shark behavior, and provided a new perspective of how these remarkable creatures interact with humans.
This video production is basically raw footage of a typical shark experience dive at Walkers Cay in 1997.
The Walker’s experience is no longer available to the public. The island was hit by two hurricanes in 2004 destroying the marina and hotel. The airstrip always had huge pot holes on it… and was never really a good option. Today the island is basically uninhabitable and been for sale for over a decade. Although there is talk of several buyers for the island with plans for new hotels and improvements, the shark rodeo experience is lost to the dive community.