Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tiger Shark in German Lagoon

The Palau Aggressor live aboard dive boat is a 110" catamaran. I had shipped equipment to install a low pressure drive low pressure compressed air system to drive the Nitrox SCUBA tank filling system but no one told me the hatches to the generator rooms are only 24" square. The air receiver tank would not fit so we had to place it on the transom and get hoses to connect it. One day we were anchored in German Lagoon (a body of water miles across and about 10 feet deep with a white sand bottom) and the Captain, Engineer and I were installing the hose under the hull of the ship when the dive skiff returned and we all stopped for lunch.

We had hamburgers and hot dogs and the leftovers were tossed in a sink with an open pipe that dumps the food in the water to feed the fish. We spotted a Tiger shark about 12 to 14 feet long eating the hamburgers as they were sinking to the bottom. Tiger sharks usually stay 600 to 900 feet deep and feed at night so this guy had to be really hungry to be in a 10 foot deep lagoon at noon. After he finished all the hamburgers he started going after the buns that were floating on the surface but the buns kept floating out of reach on the waves from the wake that his huge wedge shaped head was making. It was fun to watch this monstrous shark chase hamburger buns all around the lagoon as his huge mouth kept opening above the surface but he was not able to catch them. Eventually the buns got wet enough to sink and he was able to get them so, when he finished and started to wander away, someone got a frozen chicken out of the freezer, tied a heavy fishing line to it, and tossed it in to tease the shark back.

The Palau Aggressor has a cradle that lifts the dive skiff out of the water with hydraulic rams so you can just step in or out from the second deck. Captain Buck Beasley and I went down to the dive deck and crouched under the skiff to take pictures. The Captain said to hang on to him when put his underwater video camera into the water because it was bound to put off some kind of electro-magnetic signals. I held onto the back of his belt with my right hand while I held my polarized sunglasses sideways over the lens of my cheap Instamatic camera and tried to take pictures of the shark in the water. The dive deck was only about 6 inches out of the water so when the shark swam underneath he was less than a foot away from us. He was massive and it looked like his back was about 2 feet across! At one point he was maybe 10 feet away when the person up top pulled the line to keep the chicken out of his reach but the shark kicked his tail and the chicken disappeared right in front of us. I instinctively snatched Buck so hard that he hit his head on the skiff above us. He turned around with big wide eyes and said "Wow. We need a bigger chicken." I laughed and said "Yeah. We need a turkey! Let's pick one of those guys leaning over the railing upstairs and throw him in."

Later that day the skiff was out for another dive and we were back to installing the hose under the deck when the tiny little dingy we were using floated away. No one said a word - Captain Buck ran up the ladder to the wheel house and the Engineer and I ran through the cabin hallway to pull anchor so we could drive a 110 foot boat a few feet to get it. I started laughing and said "We have not seen that shark in hours but nobody even thought about jumping in to swim a couple feet and get the dingy."

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