“Maybe this blog should be written on the boat so your pre and post dive emotions comes across…”
emails my friend, my blues brother, my old mate Jeremy, a couple of days before we leave for our adventure.
Jer and I go back a long way. For about 30 + years we have been friends and neighbours. Both in Glasgow and here in Oz. We have been through a lot together but this will be a first.
Cage diving with great white sharks.
Jer is no stranger to danger. He jumped out a plane. He has had close encounters with animals. In 1992 he combined the two. He jumped out a plane and landed on a sheep. The moment was captured on camera….. it is a legendary tale.
I email him back. The banter in full swing. Back and forth we send increasingly intimidating and awe inspiring clips of sharks and shark attacks. Each of us trying to outdo the other. I tell him I am more worried about how cold the water is going to be. He points out that will be “the last thing on his mind while he is surrounded by Great White Sharks”.
We leave on Friday and fly to Adelaide. Both giggling like little schoolgirls all the way. Humming the Jaws theme tune to each other.
A quick flight over to Port Lincoln and a journey with a suicidal taxi driver finds us arriving in our hotel.
We are collected at 6am the next morning and taken to the boat.
I immediately picture Robert Shaw being eaten from the waist down as his fishing boat is dragged into the sea by Jaws in the first movie. It’s game on. The adrenalin is pumping.
We are taken 3 hours to the Neptune Islands off the coast of South Australia. Ironically in a body of water known as The Great Australian Bite.
32 people were diving. 6 to a cage. Jer in a moment of genius calculated that we could put ourselves as the last 2 and get the cage to ourselves for the last dive.
Within 10 minutes of dropping anchor the first great white appeared from nowhere. My mouth dropped. This thing was fucking huge. Right next to the boat. Fin out the water. Then with a quick flick of its tail, it was gone.
We go through the usual safety briefing and sign a disclaimer as long as my still intact arm.
We watch the first 5 groups with increasing anticipation. We can see the sharks swimming past the cage. We watch the action on TV through the underwater camera in the cage. We listen to each group talk about how amazing it was.
They chum the water, throw in fish guts. The sharks breach the water, attack the bait.
Nearly 4 hours after dropping anchor it was our turn. We suited up in our seal outfit.
Great whites are the largest predatory fish on Earth. They grow to an average of 4.6 meters in length. They can weigh up to 2,500 kilograms. They swim at up to 24km/hr. Their mouths are lined with up to 300 serrated, triangular teeth arranged in several rows. They are waiting for us below.
With Hitchcockian like suspense I lower myself into the cage. I am absolutely bricking it. As the cold water washes over me, my balls wave the white flag of defeat and retreat in haste to the warmth of my chest.
I turn in slow underwater motion and watch Jer descend the stairs into the cage, his eyes wide.
It didn’t take long. Within minutes a 5m shark glides past me. Slowly and majestically. Those black dead eyes checking me out. I am mesmerised. In total awe at the size of this thing. It was intense.
The shark cage normally has 6 people in it – we are just 2. We have the cage to ourselves and we can move around freely. There is so much ocean to watch we are told to “let each other know when you spot one”. Visibility is about 10m. We slap and kick each other every time we see a shark. I can’t count the number of times we just looked at each other with wide eyed amazement. We could not get enough of it.
What stuck in my mind was the predatory nature. It is one thing to watch a shark doco – it is another to see it in front of you. The stalking of our cage. The circling of the boat and the bait. The acceleration as it rushes in for the ‘kill’. It was incredible. It was not this mindless killing machine. It was considered. Poised even.
What also struck me was how defined the streamlined, torpedo-shaped body was. It was a slow and graceful swimmer when it needed to be. And in an instant the ultimate killing machine .
We exit the cage exhausted. 45 mins have raced by. It’s all over and we head back home.
We discuss our next adventure over a few whiskies and tick this one off our bucket list.
We dived and survived and we are eager for more.