Close Encounter with a Great White Shark

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I am often told how adventurous, crazy or “brave” I am. Well, that’s flattering, but I have to tell you that it is really not the case.  I do take calculated risks, and participate in activities that may seem risky, but I make sure all precautions are taken.  More people are killed in car accidents than in “adventure sports” accidents.  I love nature, I love diving, but I am not reckless, far from it. My husband, Randy, and I took our young adult children, Wes and Ally, on our dream trip to Guadalupe Island to cage dive with Great White Sharks, and we could not wait to get on the boat and into the water! Precautions were taken. (Besides, this kind of stuff only happens to me. Out of 16 divers?  Only me.)
Before you begin to think I am the world’s most irresponsible mom, you should know that Great White Sharks do not “prey” on humans.  We are not on “the menu”.  Seriously! Of the 33 or so Great White bites a year, most of them are “sample” bites, they are curious, and most bites are not fatal.  Besides, sharks are necessary to OUR survival.  Why?  Sharks keep our most important ecosystem healthy. 1/3 of the world’s food comes from the ocean, the ocean produces more oxygen than all of the rain forests put together, and it removes half of the greenhouse gases, helping protect our climate and weather.  As the apex predators of the oceans, the role of sharks is to keep other marine life in healthy balance and to regulate the oceans. Remove sharks and that balance is seriously upset.  Sharks are important to us!  Also, more jobs are created by keeping these animals IN the ocean and out of stupid chicken soup bowls. I do my homework, and the odds were overwhelming that nothing would happen to us by doing the cage dive.

So, off my soapbox and back to my Great White Cage Diving Encounter.  On the last dive of the last day of our 6 day trip, I was in one of the cages with Randy and two others.  The water is pretty cold, so Randy got out and went to the 2nd deck to watch with Ally, our daughter, who was taking photos.  I was photographing the sharks from below, I saw that the bait was pretty close to the cage and I prepared to take an awesome closeup!

The shark who went for the bait did not have room to turn and ended up slamming into the opening of the cage.  These cages have an 18 inch opening for photographers (I mean, we have to be able to get our strobes through the bars!) and it was just big enough for the Great White to come for a visit…all the way to his pectoral fins.  He got stuck, and it felt like a truck had slammed into the cage. I was right at the opening where he jammed himself in.

When the shark hit the cage, the young man who was in the middle pulled me back…which was a good thing since I was right in front of his snout (ie, teeth).  The poor shark was panicked and was thrashing violently…it felt like being in a big washing machine.  I kept trying to hold on to the bottom of the cage, but just could not keep my grip, so I kept floating up.  The shark actually did a 360 degree turn in the opening, which caused his gills to bleed.  My husband and daughter, watching from above, thought it was my blood, so you can imagine how upset they were, but I have to say, my daughter kept her finger on the camera and caught the entire event from above! (She’s a professional photographer.)

Knocked on the head

After what seemed like an eon (but was actually very, very fast) the shark managed to free himself and took off, scared to death!  While the shark was upside down I received a bump on the head from his snout, and he somehow ended up with my air hose in his mouth, so my air felt a bit wet and salty going into my lungs.  What an experience!  I wouldn’t want to go through it again, but it sure makes a good story!  My grandchildren will think I am totally cool (when and if I ever have them).  Our trip was fantastic, and we loved every minute of it.

You know, I guess I could tell a harrowing tale of a Great White Shark “attack”, but it just isn’t true, the poor thing did not want to come into the cage, and no shark at any time on the trip showed any aggression whatsoever.  Hey, getting in a cage with Great White Sharks swimming around has inherent risk, no matter how many precautions are taken.  No shark at Guadalupe has ever attacked a human being, and I know people who have been with them outside of the cages, free diving.  They are actually quite shy. Click to Tweet.

Would I go cage diving again?  Yes, I would! It was a breathtaking experience. This was a one in a million type of accident, though it is not surprising that if it was going to happen, it would happen to me.  I wasn’t hurt, no harm done (except to the poor shark’s gills) and I take full responsibility for being in the cage. I do plan to go again., absolutely.  Lightening doesn’t strike twice, right?

The photo I took!

Did you know that kids love sharks? Here are some awesome products to help them learn and have fun at the same time!

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Tam Warner

Award Winning Travel Journalist and Blogger, writing about Eclectic Travels in the Empty Nest! From scuba to luxury cruises to kayaking to expeditions, Tam is ready to go! Contact me at travelswithtam@gmail.com

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