There’s doing it for the ‘gram and then there’s risking your life for it.
Last month, 19-year-old model Katarina Zarutskie was on holiday in the Bahamas with her boyfriend and his family when she decided that she wanted to snap some pictures with a school of sharks.
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The California native had just finished lunch with her travel mates on Staniel Cay island when she noticed other tourists swimming and snorkelling among a school of nurse sharks at nearby Compass Cay. That’s when she had the idea to take some pictures of her own.
“From my previous knowledge from surfing and scuba diving, I know nurse sharks are usually very safe,” she said to the BBC. “I’ve seen countless photos of people with them on Instagram.”
She waded into the water and started posing for pictures as her boyfriend’s father snapped them. Soon, a local resident who was watching her suggested that she lay back in the water.
“At this point, people were starting to take photos and right as I lay back, after a few seconds, I was pulled under,” she said.
A nurse shark had taken hold of her wrist and pulled her underwater for several seconds. Thankfully, Zarutskie managed to wrench free of the shark’s grasp and pull herself out of the water. Her boyfriend’s father, meanwhile, continued to photograph the scene.
Instinctively, Zarutskie, who is enrolled in nursing and business studies at the University of Miami, held her arm above the water to prevent any dripping blood from attracting other sharks.
“At that point, your body has so much adrenaline going and you just have to get out of the situation, but I stayed extremely calm,” she said. “I think if someone was screaming and flailing around it definitely could have changed the situation.”
Unsurprisingly, Zarutskie did receive some negative reaction online, with some calling her a “stupid Instagram model.” However, dangerous as it sounds, swimming with sharks in the Exuma area of the Bahamas is a common tourist pastime.
A Bahamas Ministry of Tourism press release states that: “Each year, thousands of guests enjoy the pristine waters of Exuma without incident. Compass Cay, which is in the northern Exuma chain, is a popular destination for tour boat operators and allows guests to swim with and feed nurse sharks.”
In addition, at Compass Cay, the marina workers feed the fish, according to travel website Atlas Obscura.
“This makes them very friendly animals; they’re not likely to expend the extra effort to gnaw off a leg when they know that they’re going to get something much better hand-fed to them.”
“They have names. They swim up to you.”
Some commenters even accused Zarutskie of laying blame for the incident on the shark instead of taking responsibility for her actions.
In response, she said to BuzzFeed that she “loves sharks and I’m not throwing them under the bus.”
“They are wild animals and it’s an uncontrollable situation. I would recommend people to do it but be smart about it. You are in their home.”
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