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Bikini-clad women skip cage to swim with sharks

Swimming with sharks may be a nightmare for some, but it's a plan for a team of five swimmers in Durban, South Africa.

And what's more? They plan to do their 24-hour swim with sharks in the ocean without the protection of a cage, starting tonight.

They're doing it in the name of science.

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On "The Early Show" from Durban, the swimmers' adviser, marine biologist and shark expert Ryan Johnson, said the "Nat Geo Wild" team intends to work toward dispelling myths about sharks.

When asked about the endeavor's danger, Johnson said safety measures are in place, such as a shark cage, medics on a boat and a helicopter on standby.

He said, "In the small chance something does go wrong, we make sure we get them to safety as quickly as possible."

But the show's draw isn't just the sharks. Johnson said the show's approach is a bit different from other wildlife programming.

"The biggest thing about this show is that we are not getting some crusty old shark divers into the water," he said. "We are getting three very pretty girls who don't have that much experience with sharks, going out there and being guinea pigs and doing the test. We hope the girls do these experiments that they, themselves, believe that they can (swim) safely with sharks."

When asked how the women were persuaded to do the show, Johnson said they jumped at the chance to "contribute to changing people's perceptions of sharks."

Johnson said perceptions, created by such films as "Jaws," have endured.

"(Sharks) have been recognized or identified as man-eaters, that's what people see sharks as," Johnson said. "To take one small step to show what sharks are really about. There are things can you do in the water that is responsible and irresponsible, but we really believe that education is the key."

"Early Show" co-anchor Chris Wragge posed a scenario to the shark expert: "I'm swimming and I'm down in Florida. All of a sudden, this pack of sharks comes up on me. What should I do?"

"You know, if you see a shark in the water, I would say enjoy it," Johnson replied. "Ninety-nine percent of the time, the shark will circle around you and have a look at you and then swim off. Every now and then, if the shark does have an interest in you, the worst thing you can do is swim away. You want to face the shark and let them know that you're there and you see them, and then you're going to be pretty safe."

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