Man embraces shark career after near-death bite

Bobby Lewis profiles a man who won't let one bad experience keep him down for long.

Mark Rackley said he didn’t feel pain.

“It was intense pressure,” he said.

A Blue Shark clamped down on his left shoulder.

“I know I provoked that shark to do that,” said Mark, showing off his scars.

Rackley is no stranger to sharks. In fact, they are a big part of his life. For nearly 30 years, he’s been interacting with and filming the ocean’s top predators up close.

He wouldn’t change a thing.

“I like the big predators. The makos. The great whites and stuff,” he said from his dock on Big Pine Key. “When you’re around them, the presence of them, it’s a humbling experience is what it is.”

He was humbled in a big way in 2015 after a friend called Mark to tell him there was a Blue Shark in the flats just a few minutes from his home. It was an opportunity to shoot a rare shark sighting in shallow waters.

“As a girlfriend, yeah, I wait for those phone calls at the end of the day to make sure he’s safe,” said his girlfriend, Kat Rocket.

The photographer slipped in the water and let the shark make a few passes. He slowly crept up behind the shark, daring to get closer and get a perfect shot.

Then it happened.

The shark wheeled around and latched on to Mark’s shoulder. He grabbed its head to keep it from shaking back and forth, likely tearing his arm off.

“It was a brilliant blue color,” he recalled. “It was a lot of force.”

The shark let go and Mark was rushed to the emergency room where he passed out from blood loss. Surgeons repaired his nasty wounds with 58 stitches.

One month later, he was back in the water with his camera.

“I am not any more afraid since I got bit,” he said. “I could get bit again at any point. It’s really a lightning strike if you get bit by a shark.”

Mark continues to do his passion with the animals he loves. He was featured in Discovery Channel’s Shark Week this past summer and was both in front of and behind the camera in the network’s most highly rated show, "Sharks Among Us".

“I wouldn’t change this career for anything. That’s just my nature,” he said with a smile. “That’s what I would do from this day forward.”

(© 2016 WTSP)


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