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Super shark nanna

Shalveen Chand
Monday, July 28, 2014

AT an age when most people would sit back in their rocking chairs and watch the twilight of their lives, Joyce Bradnam finds herself with an adrenalin rush that keeps her on the go.

And that too after sharks at the bottom of the ocean in the Beqa passage, off Pacific Harbour.

Mrs Bradnam, 86, completed her 1000th dive, swimming with the sharks she has come to love and call her family for the past 30 years.

The New Zealander may not look much standing at a height of five feet, but this lady of the deep is larger than life.

The wonders of the ocean have always captivated this grandmother.

"What got me into it was doing snorkelling in Yanuca," she said after her dive last week.

"It was so beautiful and I thought I'd like to go deeper.

"Although the beauty may be seen from the top, going deeper has always fascinated me."

In 1993, she began to dive.

"And now, doing the shark fishing dives, that is really truly exciting.

"Every dive is different.

"I have been asked why do I keep on doing shark dives.

"Each of the dive is different and it gets even better when one of the sharks come close to you."

Ms Bradnam's love for Fiji isn't only about diving.

In fact, she married a Fijian.

Her husband, Lance, was born here and the couple tied the knot at the St Andrew's Church on Gordon Street in Suva in 1953.

Since her first meeting with the sharks off Pacific Harbour, her love for them has grown.

The shark feeders at Aquak-Trek Beqa, one of two operators in the shark dive sites in the passage, have come to love her as well and enjoy her company with the ocean's oldest predator.

"There's even one named after me, well nicknamed after me.

"They call her Lady Joyce. But I can't tell one from the next so as far as I am concerned they are all Lady Joyces to me."

She stands against the exploitation of sharks, especially the shark fin trade.

She said the act of removing the fin — which renders the animal helpless, sinking to the bottom where it dies a slow, agonising death— is cruel.

The sharks, she said, deserved a lot more from humans for their role in maintaining the balance in the marine eco-system and kept our reefs alive for our sustainability.

For now, Mrs Bradnam will advocate for her friends who she hopes to keep seeing until she can no longer.

"I will continue to dive but I will not go for any specific number. I am not aiming at 2000 dives.

"Who knows? I may not even be here next year. But as long as my health allows me, I will continue to do so.

"The diving I do here is great, the boys are so great, they smother me with generosity, they really do, they are just great.

"It's fantastic, I don't know what it is.

"I see the same things when I go down, but you never know what they are going to do next, they never ever make you feel threatened. My daughter was frightened of sharks but she came on a shark dive here and she no longer is frightened of sharks anymore."

Ms Bradnam turns 87 in February and she promises that if in good health, Fiji will see her again.


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