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Posted by Silverback on 16 October 2007 at 09:21 PM

Does your sport include you in the food-chain?

You lie on the surface and feel yourself relaxing as you listen to your rhythmic breathing. You almost feel as if you could go to sleep. You take a comfortable deep breath and duck-dive, leaving the surface and the comfort of air on tap. Your mind shifts to the reef. You can hear it crackling below you, only just coming into view. This feels great! Flaring before you reach the reef your body moves from the vertical to the horizontal as you prepare to touch down on the reef. And there it is….

Coming into view at the periphery of your vision is the wide square snout. Before you consciously identify it as a tiger shark, your subconscious is already assessing the situation. Is the shark showing undue interest in you? Has it even noticed you? You realise that the fear of being eaten has been replaced by an overwhelming urge to stay down and watch this majestic creature. Make no mistake, they have the potential to turn a great day’s diving into a nightmare but for the most part they remain shy elusive creatures that freedivers have the great priviledge of sharing the water with.

I specifically single out freedivers because in all the time I have been in the sea, scuba-diving or fishing, I have seen far more sharks while freediving than engaging in any other activity.

I have had a tiger come crashing into the side of my boat. It was chasing a very elusive turtle that used the boat as refuge. I have had a small grey reef shark come barreling out of nowhere at me and I felt very exposed. Yes the water was warm and I was not wearing a wetsuit and that accounted for my perception of vulnerability. On one occasion a ragged-tooth (grey nurse) “charged” me. The vizibility was quite poor and I was not looking up. When I did look up it seemed to be very close to me and moving quickly. A quick poke with my speargun stopped it in its tracks. Honestly I do not think it had any other intention than giving me the once over. I have had a copper shark buzz me in deep water. Again the vizibility was poor and I was hanging next to a flasher which had probably excited the shark.

The only nasty I have not seen is a White shark. I have been in the water with tigers on several occasions, including hanging next to an intense chumline with 3 tigers in the vicinity and several blackfin sharks. The largest tiger, a female, approximately 5metres long swam to within 2metres of me. That was impressive but she seemed to take little more than a fleeting interest in me.

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