August 17, 2011
I know I’m a couple of weeks late, but I’m going to talk about Discovery Channel’s Shark Week. Because how can I not? I’m a diver. Sharks are awesome.
What makes me sad is how Shark Week is 90% “OMG shark attack blood everywhere gah!” and 10% cool nature shows about sharks. The shark attack stuff, while visceral and prurient, gets old real quick. Although I will admit, the “When Fish Attack,” segments were awesome. Because for the most part it was about stupid people getting what was coming, and watching marine biologists try not to laugh while explaining that if you feed a moray eel finger-shaped sausages, you’ll probably, eventually, lose an extremity or two. On video. Hey, I suppose you get your 15 minutes where you can.
I’ve swum with sharks, which some people find startling and shocking, but really isn’t a big deal. Seriously, not. I mean, it is a big deal because they’re really amazing animals and I was lucky to encounter them and get to see them up close. But I’ve never felt in danger. My very first open water dive was over a school of six or seven 6-foot nurse sharks. Nurse sharks are lazy bottom feeders. They weren’t going to eat me. I could have hovered there watching them all day, or until my air ran out.
In Australia, I had a really spooky encounter that was also awesome. It apparently freaked out the people who saw it, but I didn’t really have time to be freaked out. We were diving in a spur and groove area, where long fingers of reef are separated by sandy stretches. Four of us were single file in a narrow sandy canyon. I was second in line. I looked down, and there was a 6-foot grey reef shark directly under me. It was swimming from under one coral overhang to another, and just happened to do so the moment I was drifting over it. I could have reached out and petted it. But it was there and gone in a matter of seconds. I didn’t have time to let the person ahead of me know it was there — he never saw it. But the two women behind me told me later that they really thought I was in trouble, because it was so big, and so close to me.
Frankly, I don’t think the shark even knew I was there. It was on a mission, it had places to go. Apparently, they do occasionally attack people, but have never killed anyone. I wasn’t scared. I was just amazed that I got to have this encounter, and see a shark up close, just doing its thing.