Into the Deep

I have had a lifelong fascination with Great White Sharks. It began when I was a boy of eight, just after the release of Steven Spielberg’s classic movie Jaws.

The movie sparked a lifetime interest in the oceans and the creatures that inhabit them. As a boy, I studied books by diving pioneers Jacques Cousteau and Hans Hass and was spellbound as I read of Rodney Fox’s survival from a Great White attack off Aldinga Beach in South Australia.

It was always a dream to get in the water and swim with these magnificent creatures. A couple of weeks ago, thanks to my wife, I had that opportunity.

Some husbands might question their wife’s motives in sending them diving with Great Whites as a birthday present but my only concerns were when I would be able to find time to do the day trip in Port Lincoln and would there be any sharks to see?

After almost eleven months of expectant waiting, I was scheduled to go to Port Lincoln for a couple of meetings so I booked a time for my dive.

Amidst the cold winter rain and wind, a break in the weather provided a perfect day for a trip to Neptune Island, approximately 25 nautical miles south east of Port Lincoln. After a two hour voyage aboard the 65 foot Calypso Star, we arrived in the cool clear waters, which were home to a fur seal colony and a number of predatory Great Whites.

It wasn’t long until the first specimen arrived to inspect the boat. A ‘small’ three metre Great White appeared as the first divers hit the water. I was spellbound simply seeing one of these majestic fish in the flesh and couldn’t wait for my turn in the cage.

Over the course of the day, we saw five individual sharks ranging in size from three to over five metres. Many of them were tagged to aid in scientific study and to help with positively identifying individual specimens.

When it was my turn to dive, there was no fear or apprehension, just an overwhelming desire to swim with these ancient creatures.

On entering the water, it wasn’t long before the hungry beasts came to examine the trespassers in their domain. Appearing silently from the blue depths, mouths agape with rows of serrated triangular teeth, the sheer proximity of such a predator takes one’s breath away.

I was busy snapping photos of one shark, oblivious of the interest in our cage by a much larger specimen. The massive fish soon commanded my focus by thrashing against our metal protection, making it shake and my heartbeat race.

Despite the best advice not to do so, when a shark’s pectoral fin is only an inch in front of your face, and its massive barrel body within reach, you simply have to try and touch it. I’ll never forget the thrill (and fear) of actually coming into physical contact with a Great White Shark.

It capped off a magnificent day, in which I not only fulfilled a dream but learned a great deal about one of the world’s highest order predators.

Despite their fearsome reputation, Great White Sharks are beautiful and awe inspiring to see. If you get the opportunity to dive with them, I recommend it most highly.

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