Thursday, July 28, 2011

Diving with Sharks in Palau

On my first trip to Palau I was installing a low pressure compressed air system to drive the Nitrox SCUBA tank filling system on the Palau Aggressor live aboard dive boat. One morning I listened to Captain Buck Beasley give the dive briefing for Blue Corner; one of the most famous dive spots in the world. Buck was telling the divers that they would hook off on a ledge and "fly" in the current and those who wanted close up pictures of sharks should breathe slowly because the sharks do not like bubbles. Everyone left in the dive skiff and I was alone on the live aboard ready to install the electric power in the starboard generator room with live power because the port generator had a problem.

I had wires and a screwdriver in my hands and was barefoot in a pair of shorts and no shirt when I looked down and realized I was standing in a pool of sweat on the aluminum deck. I decided that, since I was at risk of electrocution in the diving mecca of the world and had not been in the water yet, that I should cool off my body temperature and go diving. We were anchored in Turtle Cove so I rounded up some gear to go snorkeling and jumped in. I swam toward shore and was in about 50 to 60 feet of water with beautiful columns of coral covered in growth. After about 30 minutes of swimming down and enjoying the sites, what looked like about a 5 or 6 foot Black Tip shark got right in front of me. I remembered what Buck said so I blew bubbles as hard as I could out of my snorkel. The shark took off and I thought "this is great - I can scare off sharks".

After another 30 minutes or so the same shark got right in front of me again but this time, when I blew bubbles, he just quivered. I slowly turned to swim away but about 2 feet behind my head was an open mouth big enough to swim into. The 5 or 6 footer went to get mommy! I tried not to move and did not make eye contact. I "willed" myself to the surface and "willed" myself to the boat. I was very relieved to get back to work in the generator room.

Two weeks later I was back home and went to lunch with Tom Mount from IANTD in Miami Shores. I was telling him about my swim with sharks and he was listening intently. Tom is a very experienced diver and I was a bit embarrassed but when I finished I said "you may think I am a chicken but that scared me". Tom said "No, no you don't understand. Juvenile Bull sharks look like Black Tips. You were swimming with Bull sharks and I can't believe you lived to tell about it."

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