Flight attendant with unusual hobby helps museum taxidermy their first shark

MOST people think of the animal as a man-eating ferocious beast, but this man thinks what he is doing will prove otherwise.

THERE’S a couple of places you’ll regularly find Simon De Marchi but both are very different.

Most weeks the Sydney man is working as an international flight attendant serving you on your plane.

But rest assured his hands are well scrubbed by then, having cleaned up from his usual hobby working with dead sharks.

Mr De Marchi is Australia’s unofficial shark jaw cleaning specialist.

His skills are so sought after though, he’s been brought into the Australian Museum to teach their own taxidermist how to preserve a shark because it has never done there before.

The problem with taxiderming a shark is that they have no bone to work with to recreate a bodily structure.

Mr De Marchi and the museum’s head taxidermist Katrina McCormick have spent months working on a 2.2m mako shark caught in the nets off Maroubra beach three years ago.

“Everything is different with cartilage because it’s softer,” he said.

“The process is more involved and it’s a lot more delicate.

“It has to be done in steps because of the length and because it does take quite a while to remove the skin and the flesh and preserve it.”

The shark had to go in a CAT scanner to get accurate measurements as one of the very first steps.

During the process the team discovered a stingray barb in the shark’s tail that has also been preserved so it can be recreated for the display.

While they are currently still removing and cleaning the shark, eventually they’ll start recreating it.

“It’s a bit like an Ikea shark, everything gets put back together,” he said.

The shark will become an educational display, showing different elements inside the animal, something Mr De Marchi is hoping will debunk some myths around them.

“There’s nothing much to a shark at all, there’s no ribcage,” he said.

“Their internal organs are actually supported by the water, they’re weightless.

“That’s why when you lift up sharks from the water it causes a lot of damage internally to sharks.

“You pull back the layers of people’s fears and once you come down to the last common denominator people go, ‘oh, is that it?’ and it’s a way of demystifying them.”

Mr De Marchi said sharks were actually quite fragile animals.

“It takes away the myth of the shark being a hungry killer, where people have probably never seen what a shark looks like inside,” he said.

“All the public has an idea of is the teeth and this shows how vulnerable these animals are.”

One of the key parts Mr De Marchi wants to highlight is the fin that is used to make shark fin soup. Often the rest of the shark is discarded in Asian countries where they’re caught.

“We’re trying to show people what of the whole shark itself gets used — there’s a huge amount of wastage,” he said.

Mr De Marchi has been fascinated with sharks since moving to Australia from Italy when he was 13 years old.

He started cleaning jaws for people in an effort to show people how amazing they were.

His “very different hobby” has seen him collect some 100 jaws, so many Mr De Marchi and his partner had to move to a bigger place for a studio for him to work in.

“It’s a beautiful animal and amazing it’s survived like this for 400 million years,” he said.

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