A Shark in the Dark

The day started as good as any; with a dive through a gorgeous channel in the south of the Fakarava atoll in the Tuamotus. We took the boat out to a float at the entrance of the channel and descended into the glamour of the underwater world holding onto a very unglamorous line to assure we wouldn’t be swept away by the current. We floated through the channel with minimal swimming because all we had to do was release our hand hold and away we went. We drifted amongst throngs of reef sharks and coral beds teeming with life. Schools of snappers surrounded us and trigger fish with unusual markings nibbled at the flora. After what seem like hours but was only 43 minutes our heads surfaced, and we had to return to reality. Where the crunching of fish feeding on the coral is replaced by casual banter and the quiet tranquility that is only marred by spacious breathing is none existent with air surrounding our heads allowing us to fill it with every sound and interruption imaginable. So, with all the sounds of civilization we undid our gear and retreated to the dining dock to fill out our logs before we returned to boat for lunch. As I was talking to a lady staying in one of the small bungalows for vacation I over heard Papa asking Mark about a night dive. We had previously been conversing with a man who lives in Miami and was here as a researcher with a team of cameramen working on attaining footage for a documentary. He was the one who had originally informed us about the sharks’ behavior at night. A copious number of top predators in the vicinity would congregate in the channel to feed on the reef fish throughout the night. Upon hearing that Papa was signing up for that evenings night dive I dropped my conversation and quickly informed him that I wanted to go to! Mark then proceeded on adding our name to a list on a white board then telling us to arrive at 5 p.m. to get gear ready and wait for the opportune moment to get in the water. So, with me practically bouncing with excitement we loaded the family into the dingy and sped back to the boat because all of us were extremely hungry after our exhausting dive. I worked on math but even with most of my focus on solving quadratic equations I was dwelling on the upcoming dive. Papa and I made chocolate cookies for no reason other that a good chocolate chip cookie makes us happy! Finally, the time came, and we loaded the dive gear into the dingy and zoomed to shore with the sun setting off to our starboard side. Papa and I got our tanks geared up and then returned to the dining dock to await the sunset. As soon as the sun dipped behind the horizon we donned our tanks, BCDs, flippers and masks then jumped in. Almost immediately we were swept away by the outgoing current and when Mark told us all to descend, I let all the air out of BCD and still I remained floating on the top. I didn’t have enough weight. I flashed the light at Papa and he came back up. I told him the problem but there was nothing we could do as the current had already torn us away from the dock. Papa grabbed my hand and pulled me under and by the time we got to 10 meters I was able to not float up… too drastically. The only light came from our flashlights and the dim glow of the glistening moon shining through the clear water. As we drifted farther out of the channel more and more sharks began to appear. When you initially shine the light on the grey sharks you can only see their eyes and fins, so you basically only see one glowing eye and fin. All the reef fish were hidden in crevasses of coral in hopes that the hungry sharks won’t find them. Most of the fish wouldn’t even risk moving for fear of becoming a meal for the next hunter in the food chain. I shone a light on a beautiful blue parrot fish. It twitched just a little bit and a shark zoomed in after it with such agility I barley saw it strike the fish. It bolted and hit a head of coral so hard it broke. Slightly dazed from its coral encounter it swam off slightly slower than before, but now that it was in the open without and shelter from the reef, at least 80 sharks zoomed towards it, fighting for the opportunity to get a bite of the big fish. Throughout the dive you could observe the prodigious amounts of sharks scouring the coral heads to find an unfortunate fish that hadn’t hidden itself well enough. They would stick their noses into and under the coral looking in vain for the fish that had buried themselves in every available crevasse. Finally, it was time to ascend and during the three-minute safety stop it was all I could do not to float up to the surface. Eventually the three minutes was up and we all loaded onto the boat to return us to the dock. After taking apart the gear we loaded ourselves into the dingy and headed back to the boat for dinner.


One Reply to “A Shark in the Dark”

  1. Camille!! It’s so fun to read your writing! You are a great storyteller and give the reader a taste for these big experiences. Keep writing!! Love, Greta

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