In a viral video that has a similar energy to that of a dog being reunited with her owner after a long day of work, marine conservationist Ocean Ramsey prepares to dive into the ocean when from underneath the water’s surface pops a toothy 16-foot tiger shark.
“Hi Nikki! Aww!” Ramsey says through laughter, sitting back for a moment as the shark — who she has known for 20 years—nibbles at her flippers before calmly swimming away.
Filming the encounter was Juan Oliphant, who was with Ramsey on a boat about 3 nautical miles off the North Shore of Oahu. It was a typical day in the life for the pair, who offer daily snorkeling adventures for anyone interested in getting up close and personal with sharks and learning about conservation.
“We typically film most dives [with our One Ocean Diving experience] so it was just another day but a bit stormier,” Oliphant said.
Ramsey added that despite Queen Nikki seeming to appear out of nowhere in the video, she had already spotted the shark just before the viral moment. In fact, as is often true with longtime friends, Ramsey was able to make a guess as to what Queen Nikki — who Ramsey recognizes by the way she bumps the ladder — was about to do.
“I was thrilled to see her and excited for her approach but I could tell she was already well on her way up quickly and would partially breach based on the speed she was swimming,” Ramsey explained. “My first thought was to move out of the way of Queen Nikki and to give her space.”
National Geographic once described tiger sharks as having a “duly-earned reputation as man-eaters.” But Ramsey, who says she feels safer with Queen Nikki than she does with humans, used different language when explaining the shark's personality.
“Like a confident queen and grandma,” Ramsey said of Queen Nikki. “More interactive, but also usually gentler than others.”
And though viral moments are fun, Ramsey and Oliphant want to redirect attention on the video to their mission of supporting conservation efforts and education about sharks.
“We are guests in their ocean and we will continue to swim with sharks to better understand their behaviors and personalities with respect and understanding,” Oliphant said. “The media has portrayed sharks as aggressive monsters, however, they are just naturally-curious predators who are generally cautious.”