ReefQuest Expeditions:

Shark Expeditions 

text and illustrations by Rick Martin   

 

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Eye-to-Eye with a Great White

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Eye to Eye with a Great White - a Photo Essay

   Awesome as watching White Sharks from the surface is, the experience cannot compare to 'meeting' these animals underwater.  Until you have been eye-to-eye with a Great White - if only from within the protective confines of a shark cage -  you cannot truly appreciate the mind behind the jaws. 
One may speak glibly of a White Shark that is 12 or 14 or even 16 feet (3.7 or 4.3 or even 5 metres) long, but until you are in the water next to one, the figures are meaningless and without implication. The bodily bulk of these animals is simply enormous.  It is difficult to think of what you are looking at as a fish -- it more closely resembles a city bus with fins.  Yet it moves with the supreme fluid grace of a creature unbound by gravity or drag.  It is a specter, a ghost -- yet undoubtedly solid and capable of affecting the living. 
Closer and closer the animal comes, resolving out of the greenish underwater haze like a magician from a cloud of smoke.  Sleek.  Muscular.  Powerful.  Yet strangely stand-offish ... even timid.  It seems ludicrous that an animal many times your size -- one with toothy jaws that could crush you to jelly about as easily as you might crush a blade of grass underfoot -- would be so skittish.  And yet this notorious 'monster' of myth and legend approaches very carefully, flicking away at the slightest of your movements.
The animal circles yet again, gliding in from another direction.  Although the water is cold, you try to be very still.  You try to avoid eye contact, to avoid making the shark any more skittish than it already is, but you cannot help yourself.  There is something intolerable about knowing one of the sea's the most amazing predators is very near yet being unable to see it.  So you sneak a peek -- and, in response, off it zooms again.  Frustration!  Agony!  Yet you are intensely excited.
Finally, at long last, the animal screws up its courage enough to investigate the baits.  There it is:  the Great White Shark of which you had seen and heard so much.  It's strange:  the animal looks exactly like the countless photos and films you've seen, but it doesn't 'feel' quite like you expected.  It carries a sort of calm, self-assured majesty.  Charisma.  It's almost as though this animal 'knows' it's a superstar.
As the animal moves in even closer, you can -- for the first time -- look directly into its eyes.  They are not the 'featureless, black portholes' they have been described to be.  You can clearly see structure there -- pale rim, dark iris and black, circular pupil.  As the shark swim past you, its eye rotates in the socket to keep you in view.  As you strain to maintain eye contact, an unexpected thought suddenly resolves into sharp focus:  there is a mind behind the most famous jaws in the world. This is not a mere 'stupid' fish, but a sentient being, as curious about you as you are of it.  With that, your  encounter is slapped shut as the crescent-shaped tail propels the shark back into the gloom from whence it came ...  
 

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Copyright Rick Martin.  -  All text and illustrations on these pages are proprietary.  If you would like to use any part of these pages' contents in any form, please ask first. Taking text or images from this website without asking is not merely a 'harmless' lifting from the Internet, it is theft directly from me, pure and simple. Please don't do it - I have worked long and hard to create this material. If your cause is noble and you give both me and ReefQuest Expeditions due credit, I will almost certainly grant any reasonable request. Please note that each of the photographs appearing on this site is the rightful property of the credited photographer; any request to use one of these images must be negotiated directly with him or her.