Shark Attack Survivor Paul de Gelder Gets Back in the Water for Discovery’s ‘Shark Week’
26 Jul 2023
When Paul de Gelder recently described what happened to him as “a pretty bad day at work.” It has to be the most massive understatement of this century. While diving with the Australian Navy in 2009, Paul lost his leg and part of an arm after being attacked by a bull shark in Sydney Harbor. And yet, he’s still one of the biggest advocates for sharks and continues to dive with them.
As part of the celebration of Discovery Channel’s 35th edition of “Shark Week,” de Gelder shared his story on CBS Mornings and why he still loves these predators of the deep. He does not blame the shark for the attack.
“I was an airborne soldier jumping out of planes with a machine gun the first part of my military career,” he told CBS Mornings correspondents. “And then I changed over to the Navy and I was doing bomb disposal underwater, on land, tactical operations, shooting guns, playing with explosives … I chose a dangerous path in life.”
For “Shark Week,” de Gelder gets wet again as host of Florida Shark: Blood in the Water on July 26. On July 28, he’s back in the water once more when the channel airs Deadly Sharks of Paradise. Spoiler alert: Both are very sharky, beyond dangerous and nervewracking to watch.
So why does he continue to dive in dangerous waters? “I have a very intimate knowledge of what it’s like to be eaten alive and attacked by a shark,” de Gelder says. “It’s not very pleasant, I got to say … So I don’t want other people to have to go through that either.”
What he is trying to achieve, de Gelder recently told the Boston Herald, is for people to be informed about sharks. “I want people to learn about how you can interact with them,” he says. “Learn how important our oceans are. Because knowledge is power, as we all know.”
Drawing on everything his eventful life had taught him, de Gelder left nothing to chance, conducting his own rehabilitation after the attack. He fought through excruciating pain, smashing challenge after challenge while amazing the medical staff and the Australian public with his will to succeed, and returned to full-time Navy service after only six months.
His inspiring story, as detailed in his autobiography Uncaged, takes the saying “never say die” to a whole new level. Having left full-time Navy Service in August 2012, after continuing to instruct Navy Divers for a further three years, Paul has traveled the world as a top motivational speaker, passionate environmentalist, adventurer and mentor to school kids. He has spoken at venues across the globe, from the United Nations in New York, to conferences across the U.S. China, London, Vietnam, New Zealand, and of course, Australia. Paul also became part of an anti-poaching team in Africa to film the amazing work the Rangers did for FEARLESS, which aired on NatGeo.