Trip Start Feb 21, 2011
100Trip End Jun 05, 2012
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4am came so slowly, I tossed and turned and didn't sleep two winks. First flight departed at 630am and by 830am I was in Adelaide. Unfortunately then I had 4 hours to wait but with free Internet it passed quick enough. Then a prop plane for an hour to Port Lincoln. A small town of 48,000 it livelihood is based on tuna and kingfish fishing. Also here are several boats taking people out to see great white sharks. Most people go on day trips and spend maybe an hour in the cage. I elected for a 2 nights onboard and two full days of cage time. I was hoping to get at least 10 hours in the cage. Also was praying for calm seas and bright sun the better to see the world's deadliest predator.
Unfortunately before the search of Jaws commenced I had to wait at a restaurant in the marina for 5 hours
On the way in I shared a taxi with a couple Aussie guys surprising one of his sons with a shark dive for his birthday. He kept asking the taxi driver about the white pointers. White pointer this and white pointer that, his uninformed self thought this was the only place in the world to see "white pointers". The taxi driver said I think somewhere in Mexico they do it too. Well to set matters straight they do it in Mexico, in northern California and of course in South Africa to name a few.
The weather was gorgeous and the water sparkled as the daytrippers came back in. They headed to the bar to have a brew and retell their great adventures on the high sea. Me I was tired and so bored if this place turned into a Cinnabon staffed entirely by Brazilian topless and bottomless models I would still count down the minutes until I could board and sleep.
Finally it's 8pm and time to board the Princess II
Upon the galley I had some juice and team with some cereal. I've learned through a lifetime of severe motion sickness that it will come and you can't avoid it soooo better to have lots of fluid in your belly because it much better to have large amount of watery vomit than retching dry heaves. We all headed topside to dawn our wetsuits and booties and find goggles that fit.
Meanwhile the cages were dropped and the water was chummed. The crew began to drop our oxygen lines through an opening in the cage and get that ready. In South Africa they didn't use air so you just watched from surface and when a shark was spotted everyone took a deep breath and descended as long as you could. The thought being the sharks didn't like the bubbles. Well maybe they don't but spending seconds under water for each pass was not good at all. So I was excited about staying under. Believe it or not I have never taken a scuba course and breathing through a regulator is not as easy far from it. The first set of 4 divers went in the cage and the door slammed down. During their session a shark arrived on the scene to investigate the bloody mess in the water. He was about 4 meters and made more than a half dozen passes. After a bit more than an hour it was time for new divers. The first set emerged with big grins hidden by their chattering teeth. The cook arrived quickly with hot coffee, tea or cocoa to warm them. In the meantime I readied myself for the deep blue of the ocean. Donning my hood and adjusting my goggles I waited on the ledge just off the water line for a weight belt to be put on me. One big wave and a slip and oopsy daisy you could be face to face with the world's deadliest predators so I steadied myself and swayed with each wave. Weight belt donned I sat on edge of cage and was handed my regulator and practiced breathing above water. Not too bad, seems natural enough. My task now as to jump into the frigid Southern Ocean, this wasn't tropical barrier reef down here, we are closer to Antarctica than we are to barrier reef and the bevy of snorkelers and scuba aficionados. I've found there is no use waiting and getting your nerve up. When standing in the door of a plane it is best to jump straight away. If your chute is going to fail it will fail whether you jump immediately or if you hesitate 15 seconds or you flat out chicken out for 20 minutes. So with an ungraceful push I crashed into the water and spun around almost losing my regulator. Now holding the top of the cage in one hand and finding a handrail to stand on I began to progress in my breathing protocol. I was to stay half submerged and practice breathing underwater and exhaling the bubbles. Wow that's a lot of bubbles. After a few minutes of this it was time to submerge completely and stay longer and longer on bottom of the cage. Lucky for me Chompi and his relatives weren't around so I had plenty of time to accustom myself to this new method of breathing. Finally after at least 10 minutes of staying longer at bottom before freaking out and clamoring for fresh air I was able to stay under the whole next hour. Now it came time to scan the ocean for our prey. The ocean was so blue and yes so cold even with the wetsuit, hood and bootees on. In South Africa the ocean was more of a dark grey blue chalkboard.
Being about ten feet down I couldn't understand the voices coming from the boat but I knew of Great White was sharing the immediate ocean with me. To further alert us we weren't alone a crew member rattled the trapdoor a few times. When you are scanning in all directions for the man-eater you seriously don't need a trap door being rattled behind you because your cage is floating in the middle of the ocean and is not attached to the boat directly, it's just hanging from a cable and Mr. Sharky can and will arrive from any angle. Hearing the noise I instinctively turned to see if we had a visitor and prepared myself to grab the little girl next to me and thrust her towards Chompi as my offering the Gods of the sea. We hadn't been breached and if you think this doesn't happen go look for a video where off the coast of Mexico a Great White had bit THROUGH a steel cage and paid the two divers a personal visit. I turned back around and saw majesty in mouth a 5 meter Great White passed us by with barely a wiggle of his mighty tale. He turned towards our second cage on the port side of the boat before banking to the left he angled down and with a quick and powerful swish swish of his tail he accelerated into the deep. The power and grace cant be described or appreciated in even the best DVD. At one moment just cruising by just a few flicks of that tail and he was 50 meters away in a blink of the eye, which we certainly didn't do. Freckles as this guy was named was a tagged shark well known by the crew and he graced us with about 8 passes. He finally moved on undoubtedly perturbed with us since we only offered blood and severed fish heads instead of a true lunch. Twenty minutes of no action started to make me a bit cold now when the unnerving bang bang of the cage door again. I again turned to make sure we hadn't been breeched before I turned to scan again. Our newest visitor wasn't as smooth and graceful as Freckles this one I saw hurtling from the depths upwards at our severed fish head trailing blood. He was moving so fast there was no way to photograph him the only would have been to keep your video on constantly. His mouth was open and he went strait to our bait when a crew member yanked it out of his way and his jaws snapped together without a tasty morsel. He immediately turned and fled to the depths to reorganize and regroup for his next pass which he made 5 minutes later just when we thought he'd moved on. Not as dramatic this time he passed by a few times more. Once he was gone for good it was time to take my shivering bones back to the boat. Once helped on board a threw my mask and camera into the fresh water bucket and shrugged out of my top half of the wet suit. Moments later I was at the railing donating some of my breakfast to the chum line. The cage really moves under the water since it isn't anchored to the bottom and is much smaller than the ship so once up I was immediately sick. Once through yacking up I went to the galley and had so-so lunch of chicken and potatoes and sought refuge in my cabin for an hour.
Emerging later I waited for a spot to open in the cage. I again climbed into the cage and struggled for 10 minutes to figure out this underwater breathing thing. Once I was able to control my breathing without panicking I descended and spent hour and half in cage. Again two sharks graced us with their presence. My throat was achingly dry from the pumped in air and the fact that I had two types of motion sickness medicine with the side effect of reduced secretions, so my eyes, mouth and nose were dry and painful. So I figured my turn was up and I swam up to the cage door and escaped. It was about 330pm by this time and I could see the daytrippers were packing up and heading back in. I had already logged 3 hours of cage time today and had one more turn later and those suckers only got 45 minutes. Being summertime down here we would have light until almost 9pm so there was plenty of time for me to take a third dive. The cold water only permitted me an hour in the cage this before I emerged and headed to my cabin for a great hot shower, I then crawled into bed to calm down the motion sickness before dinner. I emerged only for a dinner of Thai style chicken and rice that was not bad. After the op order for tomorrow's schedule I headed back down to the safe haven of my room. I again slept quite fitfully with the hum of the generator in the background.
Day 5- South Ocean somewhere
Overnight the boat was repositioned and after a full breakfast of bacon, eggs and cereal the cages were dropped and divers down. I waited for the sun to rise more as the ocean was a very dark navy blue and drastically cutting down visibility. Only one brief shark encounter for the first group I again went into the cage about 10am when the sun had illuminated the depths more. An hour of nothing but breathing practice and staring at little fish thankful for the meal we were providing. I guess maybe the Great whites attended some kind of Sharky church on Sunday mornings? Who knows? Hungry and cold I headed back topside for lunch. Again chicken? Wtf? I guess that's much better than seafood but geez.
After lunch the crew along with two experienced divers dropped a cage to the ocean floor. They took a lot of chum with them. I figured whatever visitors they attracted would certainly stop by our offering as well so I got suited up again and back into cage. They got 2-3 sharks but unfortunately none stopped bu us surface divers. So after 5 dives and 7 hours in the cage I headed up and back to the warm shower. I then just rested in my cabin for the 5 hour ride back to town. Once back on land handshakes and emails were exchanged and it was a taxi and then flight to Adelaide where I would remain overnight until my morning flight to Bali.