Updated: Jan 29
Checking off another bucket list item.
Ever since Jaws hit the movie theatres, I’ve been fascinated with sharks and the great white is the pinnacle species. I do have to admit I had some second thoughts entering the water. But my fascination with sharks just kept growing and I went on to become a Professional SCUBA instructor and make over 3000 dives, however, in all that time I was never able to encounter the Great White Shark. Then I saw an ad for a shark diving expedition leaving from San Diego, CA, and I had to be on that trip.
Late September when San Diego weather is its warmest, a small storm was forecast off the coast at the same time we were to leave. Now, I’m used to boats but spending an evening in 10-12 foot waves motoring 200 miles off shore was not conducive to sleeping. But finally, after a long and toss-ful evening, dawn broke to a eerie headland shrouded in fog. It was like the opening act of Jurassic Park and the sense of foreboding and anticipation was just as heavy.
We approach the island and the fog breaks and the captain finds an anchorage and the crew prepares the cages for immediate use. No more than 10 minutes after our arrival and it seemed you could hear that low organ sound… Da Dum… Da Dumm... DA DUMM! Then someone shouts SHARK! Everyone runs to see this dark shadow swimming in the water. The chum and bait hadn’t even been thrown overboard yet. The anticipation grew as we all had to listen to the divemaster explains the procedure and then we all dawn on wetsuits and prepared to enter the cages.
The water was a cool 67 degrees but you hardly noticed as you submerged and begin to swivel you head, not knowing where that shadow came from. At first, all you see is blue water and hundreds of mackerel feeding on the chum bits. You can see the bait being thrown into the water and look down as the deep slowly gobbles up the blue. Then a large shadow is moving cautiously just out of sight, the mackerel part and you get your first glimpse of this huge oval swimming up below your feet. The outline of fins appear and then that unmistakable silhouette of a great white is swimming below. You heart is pounding and then you finally catch your breath and realize you are in the same water as a Great White shark.
The excitement built as I try to get photographs and video of the local inhabitant. It is strange as from head on the great white seems to have this half smile grin, yet its full of teeth. But suddenly there are two more! Holy cow! (might not have been the actual words I muttered into my regulator). Slowly they come closer, circling, ever getting closer with each pass, and then the bait splashes above and one shark shoots to the surface. Chomp! And half a fish is all that is left.
I’m filled with awe at this powerful animal, so majestic, and seemingly serene, until that move for food is made. They swim within just a few feet of the cage and our cameras. Their skin which looks so smooth from a distance is actually a kaleidoscope of small almost pixel like variety of colors, that blend into shades of gray. Then that eye. Like a black hole the dark black eye just seems to absorb all it surveys. Looking into it you know this is an apex predator. Watch the video below!
After an hour, the grin on your face resembles the shark’s. You realize you are exhausted, as the adrenaline, while still in good supply, has eased from the peaks in the early moments of the dive. Its time to switch places with the divers on board. Its now their hour to experience the thrill. But you know, in 60 more minutes you get to do this all over again.
Sitting on the boat warming up in the sun is actually a pleasure as you here the surf at a distance and see the birds circling the nearby cliffs, but soon “Breech!” is heard and we all head for our cameras once again. The sharks are ramping things up and literally jumping out of the water to get the bait. All of this just feet away. This continues until sunset, when our chef announces a wonderfully cooked meal is ready. We all share our stories and sighting with each other and a few have processed some photos. Slowly we all head to our bunks, to wake up early the next day and do it all again.
After 3 days of diving we make our trip back to San Diego, with a lifetime of memories and some unbelievable photos.