|And we would circle and we would circle
||[Mar. 7th, 2011|12:37 am]
At 13:30 we kitted up and headed for the boat. The divemaster Charlie told us what to expect. "You're going to be diving to 80 feet in a fast current. You're going to dive with much too much weight. You will stick to the bottom and you will thank me for this. There will be a rope and I will point to the rope. Hold on to the rope. You will see sharks as you go down. Ignore the sharks, swim to the rope and lie down holding the rope. Do not attempt to pet or touch the sharks. You will want to pet the sharks and you will see me touching the sharks. I am wearing chainmail and you are not. After twenty five minutes you will need to surface. When you get to the surface inflate your buoyancy device and try not to move too much."
We descend fast in clear water over a sandy bottom. Charlie pointed to the rope and we held on. Below us we could see the unmistakable blunt noses of bull sharks, several bull sharks. They're wide, heavy-set but somehow graceful. The largest is about 3 metres, the smallest (just a baby) less than a metre. We grab the rope. Sure enough there's a ripping current blowing and if I even try to sit up I feel I'm going to be blown over. Caron has grabbed the rope next to me and we hauled ourselves along, a row of five divers and about nine or ten bull sharks.
Charlie in his chain mail is reaching into a metal cannister just opening it a little to get blood in the water. He's maybe five metres from us. The sharks know what to expect here, they start to circle. Because Charlie is close to us the sharks circle not just him but us as well. There are too many to watch all of them. Some come in fast, others more cautiously. The water is also full of remoras (shark suckers) who flock following the sharks and then following us, swimming up to our masks to see if we're suitable fish to follow. There's other fish too, jacks and smaller fish hoping to get in on the dangerous feast.
The sharks get close, very close and you know, like Charlie said, I did want to pet them. One of the divers actually did disobey instructions and pull a fin, fortunately with no ill effects. Charlie, on the other hand is used to the sharks. He feeds them by hand (with chain mail gloves) and they make that curious "wolfing" motion bulging their gills as they swallow. He pets them on the nose like dogs and pushes them back if they get too inquisitive. They nose about eating tuna and investigating things -- one takes a bite of the camera stick but spits it out again. Another decides to nudge the cannister with the food in it. A third, cheekily, takes a bite out of one of the jacks trying to muscle in, tearing off a bit of a fin as a warning.
For twenty five minutes we are completely surrounded by sharks, behind us, in front of us, swimming over us and to the side. You can look them straight in the eye, but you don't really know if they're looking back. It would be all too easy to reach out and touch them. One bumps my neighbour's camera and he jerks it back in alarm. Then, all too soon, time to surface, we let go of the rope and (a nervous moment for me at least) put air into our buoyancy devices to head back to the surface.
[Caron has some video and still footage of the whole thing but for now you'll have to make do with youtube from phantom divers the company we dived with -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9bJlwAIH0Y http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQNqiK9DC4g&feature=related]