I’ve been quiet lately, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy – and that my mind isn’t overflowing with ideas, causes I’ve heard about, campaigns I’ve read about and challenges I’d like to take on.
Not that I haven’t taken on challenges lately.
Since my last post, I’ve been lucky enough (and hardworking enough, let it be said) to find myself working back at Discovery Education – a company I worked for on a temporary contract last year – on a permanent basis. I couldn’t be happier.
Having the opportunity to work on educational resources that will not only educate the next generation, but also interest and inspire, is an incredibly exciting responsibility. Albeit a somewhat daunting one at the present time.
It was during my research for engaging and curriculum-relevant news content that I came across the following article about cage diving with sharks.
Image courtesy of Amanda Brewer, via National Geographic.
As someone who has been diving with great white sharks at the same location that’s mentioned and photographed in the article (Mossell Bay, South Africa), I was surprised to learn of the harm this could cause the animals. I admit that, again, I was ignorant (though if it helps, I’m beginning to understand the gravity of the harm that most wildlife-based visitors attractions cause to the animals in question).
My own experience of caged diving, speaking truthfully, was not one that I would care to repeat anyhow.
I can’t remember the name of the company I dived with, but I can remember the experienced vividly.
After a long, cold few hours of trying to bait a shark (I was visiting the country during their winter time), rocking forwards and backwards in the salt-laced air (I suffer seasickness quite badly, so was tempering the taste of salt on my lips with the hot taste of ginger on my tongue as I chewed my way through another ginger tablet I’d bought from a ‘herbal health’-type chemist), we finally had a sighting.
Having booked the experience alone (I tend to travel alone often, as my interests are considered somewhat ‘niche’), I was able to join a couple who had excitedly requested to be the first of the group of 12 to enter the water. The cage held three ‘divers’ at a time. I use the term ‘divers’ loosely, as all we did was tread water whilst wearing goggles and a snorkel, submerging ourselves under water for just a few moments at a time each time a shark neared.
Once we had descended into the cold water, suited and flippered appropriately, the shark which had taken hours to appear, had suddenly disappeared once more. Leaving us exhaustingly treading water against the rhythmic yet strong lifting and dropping of the current while the trip organisers tried to entice the creature back.
As all kinds of grisly fish blood and guts began to fill the water around us – one bucket full even thrown out over our heads, showering us with rotten marine carcasses, I heard another diver, still aboard the boat yell: “There! There’s two over there!”.
Suddenly the game had changed. We’d gone from no sharks to six! Six giant great whites, two estimated to be 9 foot or more were circling us. And I hated it.
I’d paid enough for a day trip, which equated to three sessions in the cage on rotation with the other three groups of three. Needless to say, I gave my other two turns up.
In the dark, blood riddled water, exhausted from fighting the motion of the sea during all that time bobbing just above the surface, I had barely any energy by the time the six beautiful animals had arrived. The salt air, sea sickness and mountains of ginger I’d consumed in an effort to stop myself feeling ill were all suddenly counting against me – I was weak, and to top it off, I was freezing.
Perhaps it was the respect I had for the majestic and awesome creatures, or the understanding of their power, but I seemed to be the only person that feared the sharks. Each time their giant set of jaws approached, with up to four rows of teeth barely concealed inside, I inhaled sharply.
As an 18 year old, I didn’t quite fill out my frame in the same way I do as an adult, off the back of two very sickly years involving crippling headaches, brain scans, countless blood tests and all kinds of hospital appointments, my legs were a little scrawnier then, and as time went by in that cage and treading the water took its toll, I felt my body had moved forward to the front of the metal enclosure and suddenly my legs were slipping between the bars – totally exposed to the sea ahead. I tried to edge myself backwards, eventually having to hold onto the bars as a stagnant force to push my weight backwards from in the moving water.
As I summoned my upper body strength to push myself back to the centre of the cage, I felt the warm body of a 5 foot something shark through my wetsuit, brush against my knee cap.
Clambering out of the cage and back onto the deck of the boat, I turned round in time to snap this image of the 9 footer, lunging at the cage as the second lot of ‘divers’ excitedly descended down into the water for their turn. I decided then that his practice probably shouldn’t be happening.
All images my own, unless otherwise stated.