Scotty Slaughter - in print

Scott Slaughter is still alive in my mind, and will be until I die. As one of the pioneers in underwater photography in the early 50s, my work brought me in contact with Scotty when he was 20 years old. When he told me about his "bang-stick" and his run-in with various sharks, I pitched his story to my magazine contacts of the day.

We did a short piece on his shark hunting for TIME, and then Saturday Evening Post assigned me to shoot a color story on Scotty's exploits in 1962. I worked on the first "shark essay" that National Geographic did in the mid 60s. One of the pieces I did for them was the story of a Miami TV technician, John Hicks, who was the ORIGINAL inventor of the electronic shark repeller, not the South Africans or Australians who claim the honor in recent years.

I called on Scotty to use the repeller with sharks in a natural habitat. We baited sharks in the Keys for 5 days, and drew a blank for the first four days. On the fifth day, we finally baited up a 10' hammerhead. Scotty and I filmed (16mm movies) and photographed this shark repeatly being chased away from our baitfish, after the shark was actually chewing on the baitfish. The little repeller really worked beautifully.

After we finished our photography Scotty said he would "power-head" the shark, so we could take him ashore as proof we finally got our photos. I photographed the shark as Scotty "power-headed" him with his "bang-stick." This was the ONLY photo National Geographic used from that shoot (Feb, 1968 issue). I learned that even National Geographic was influenced by editorial politics. It seems their (Nat'l Geo) resident "expert" had the Navy contract to develop shark repellants, and this repeller was far superior to his. He told Geographic it didn't work, so they left it out. But I was shooting for LIFE at the time, and they were doing a "shark essay" for their international edition. They ran the whole piece, including exposing the Geographic's rejection.

In short, I photographed, and dove with and generally considered Scotty as one of the few "true" individuals I had ever met, and a long time true friend.

Burton McNeely
one more photo


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