By now you may have seen it. This photo of a shark making rounds on Twitter and Facebook with the accompanying text: “Rare image of a shark stepping on a Lego.” It’s a universal experience. If not a Lego brick, some toy or small object you didn’t expect to encounter while parading around barefoot.
Robert Petersen posted the image on Twitter several days ago with overwhelming results: nearly 90-thousand shares and almost 160-thousand likes.
Rare image of a shark stepping on a Lego. pic.twitter.com/xkadJmPkRg
— Robert Petersen (@Sonikku_a) September 29, 2016
As it happens, the original image was taken by Mike Coots, a shark attack survivor who lost his leg to a Tiger Shark and is now a dedicated shark conservationist. Mike has an incredible story of transformation, ultimately becoming an advocate for sharks and amputees everywhere. (It just so happens we featured him in our ICON series!)
We reached out to Mike to get his thoughts behind the image and its use as a meme.
The photo was taken in New Zealand. “I was [there] for a friend’s wedding, and it was a little before Christmas when I was planning the trip,” said Mike. “I saw that there were shark dives off of the South Island near Stewart Island, and thought this would be a great Christmas present for the girlfriend. I booked it, and surprised her, she was stoked!”
Apparently the behavior Mike ended up capturing during his dive isn’t often photographed. “The actual behavior it is doing is called spyhopping and I later realized it is fairly rare to see or photograph. Biologists think it’s to survey what’s above the water’s surface.”
When I asked his thoughts surrounding using his photo in a humorous way, he was pleased. “I think the meme is cool,” he said. “If it was using fear or associating sharks with death and attacks, then I would have different feelings. It’s lighthearted and humorous. Humor is a great medium to soften what could be looked at as scary, replacing that with smiles and laughter.”