Friday, August 15, 2014

Diving with sharks

I am afraid of sharks. Let me repeat: I am afraid of sharks. Always have been. I grew up in Great White country and was raised with a very healthy dose of fear when it comes to sharing water with sharks. I remember reading stories in the newspaper of surfers who'd been attacked by Great Whites. And seeing photos of said surfers and their mangled bodies. I watched Jaws as an impressionable kid. I am afraid of sharks.

I saw my first shark while diving in Puerto Rico in 2008. It had been a while since my last dive and I was nervous. So nervous that I was holding hands with the dive master, a older fellow who lacked any real fear of sharks. As we came around a coral head, he spotted a 6-foot Norse Shark resting on an incline of coral. I didn't see it until he tightened his grip on my hand and started swimming towards it. When I spotted the shark, I freaked out. Imagine me flailing wildly, kicking my legs in all directions and trying to swim in reverse like a mad woman. Only thing is, the dive master had me by the hand with a strong grip and kept pulling me towards the shark. Eventually my wild flailing won out and I got loose from the dive master and swam to safety. In the meantime, my crazy display of fear had scared the shark off. Phew, I let out a heavy sigh of relief and allowed my heart rate return to normal. Needless to say, my fear of sharks had only grown. Now I was especially terrified of seeing sharks while scuba diving.

Fast forward to last night. I am aboard a dive boat in the Great Barrier Reef getting ready for my first night dive. Yes, as if diving wasn't unnerving enough, we were slated to dive at night with the aid of a flash light and a glow stick. Wonderful. I get all my gear on and head to the back of the boat. As I'm waiting in the queue to dive in, the dive master spots a 8-foot grey shark less than 15 feet off the boat, swimming near the surface. I spot it too and think to myself, "I'm not going diving with that thing!" And then the dive master says it's my turn to jump in.

I think for a minute and then I step...


into the dark waters where there are sharks.

I try not to flail and attract the shark's attention. Instead I focus on getting my ears to clear, descending into the deep, dark ocean. I turn to face every direction in turn. No sharks to be seen. Although that's not saying much as I can only see about 10-20 feet in each direction. I take another deep breathe and leave my fear of sharks at the surface along with the bubbles from my exhale.


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