Part II of the Elf’s Swimming With Sharks adventure. Click HERE to first read Part I… 

Above image courtesy of Bill Fisher

…The water was clear. Mackerel swam around us, but my mind was on bigger fish, obviously. Where were they? When would they show up? Would there be a sound? For about a minute my eyeballs kept doing the meth addict routine as I wimpily clung to the back side of the cage — even though technically there is no “back” since it’s all pretty much the same. I looked left. More mackerel. Adrenaline pumped through me. I could pretty easily fit through the spaces between the cage bars and could easily swim out the opening along the top of the cage, but you can’t think about things like that. I looked down. I started adjusting to the strange surroundings. I turned to my right to survey the scene and my darting eyes completely, finally froze. There it was, moving through the blue water: a Great White Shark, swimming right past the cage, right next to me, right there, real but unreal, no sound, no Discovery channel music cues, no one to explain what was happening. It was real. It was right there. I was face to face with a Great White. It was… magnificent.

I squealed, the first of many squeals I would let out in the next three days. Then I remembered to breathe. Eventually I got braver and moved from the “back” of the cage to the front. Sometimes there were four or five sharks swimming around so everywhere you looked you got an eye full. You see their muscles and their power in action as they open their jaws and go for a hunk of tuna. Sometimes it does get scary; they accidentally hit the cage, they look like they’re charging right at you, or there’s so much action going on in the moment you really just have to hang on for the ride and breathe and hope for the best. After all, they are wild animals and you are in their house and they’re a hell of a lot more powerful than you. And yes, they have razor sharp teeth.

Hit the Jump to continue reading the Elf’s encounter with Megalodon…

“I bit the regulator so hard I tasted blood and imagined a giant cloud of red spreading out of my mouth into the water around me…”

The sharks never once attacked us like the bloodthirsty monsters they’re made out to be by Hollywood or Shark Men or the news. They swam around with seals. Their eyes aren’t soulless and black and evil like I thought. They’re curious and actually have depth and color. Laugh if you want. It’s not like I want to cuddle with a shark or throw a saddle on one and keep it for a pet, but all my fear and paranoia started to seem really silly. I started to seem really silly, and then I realized my Beetlejuice waiting room of a psyche felt calm. And clear.

Climbing in to meet Megalodon... image courtesy of Bill Fisher

It did eventually get to the point that I could hang out in the cage alone and not feel vulnerable. Well, I felt vulnerable but you kind of get to the point that seeing these creatures up close is worth the price of admission, and that price IS feeling vulnerable and like something insane could happen at any moment. I loved being down there and the only thing making me climb out was the fact that I suddenly realized I was shivering with cold and needed to warm up. But I won’t pretend the experience turned me into Bodhi or Johnny Utah.

On the third day of diving when I was feeling really brave and like hot shit I accidentally bit the regulator so hard I tasted blood and imagined a giant cloud of red spreading out of my mouth into the water around me, luring the sharks, causing them to eat me and anyone else in the cage. Not because they’re like Hannibal Lecter, they’re just apex predator Megalodon thingies, they can’t help it. Still I panicked — there were four big-ass sharks swimming around in all directions. I made the signal for “I’d like out of the cage please.” The cage didn’t open. I made the signal again, starting to panic. I waited, focusing on keeping my breathing calm and steady. Then finally, thankfully I saw the top of the cage being lifted open, and scrambled out as fast as I could. Once I was back on the boat I pulled out the regulator. There was no plume of blood. I hadn’t even cut myself. I’d just reverted back to wimpy baby blow-up doll mode. All for nothing. Eventually I got back in again. Looking back, I should have stayed in the cages much, much longer.

The twenty-hour ride back to land was no picnic. I didn’t sleep and the ride was so choppy I temporarily convinced myself the boat would break. Scenes from that Russell Crowe flick Master and Commander haunted me. I tried everything. I’d been told, “just wedge yourself in,” by smooshing yourself into a corner of the bunk with rolled up blankets, pillows, and whatever else I could find to keep from rolling around. Didn’t work. But it didn’t really matter.

Leaving was bittersweet. I missed the sharks. Missed the people. Mostly I missed that moment — the very first moment that my once fearful eyes set their sights on that one Great White shark that was gliding by right next to me. That apex predator probably descended from Megalodon. That one moment in centuries of moments was what all of this turned out to be about. Unemployment, student loans, conquering fears, Snooki, Paris Hilton, Great White sharks, bureaucracy — it’s all just life. Just the stuff that’s swirling around us. And we’re moving through it. I don’t know what it all means — for those types of answers go hit up Oprah or your local cable access preacher. I won’t wrap it in a neat bow for you. I’m just here to spin a yarn, share a story, tell a tale. What I do know, though, after stepping into a cage and facing what I thought was the scariest living thing on the planet, is that to play it safe is not to play. Robert Altman said that about movies. It’s true about life too, whether that’s swimming with sharks or asking someone on a date or trying to hit a high note in a karaoke bar. Just move toward what you have to do and it’ll all be cool in the end.

Follow The Elf on Twitter @TheElf26 and BAN SHARK FINNING !

All photos taken at Guadelupe Island August 2011 by  Bill Fisher & Nikki Brant Sevy

No Responses to “Bureaucracy for Breakfast vol. XX: How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Jump Into the Water with Great White Sharks, pt. II”

  1. Robyn VanTol says:

    congrats Dina!! Glad you made it back alive. My hands were sweating when I read this post.

  2. cindy horton says:

    I have goose bumps! You have always amazed us!!

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