Jaws

Dana in Fakarava with a whole lot of her new friends

(Dana) I have always hated sharks. Watching Jaws in Junior High School probably had a lot to do with that. (thanks Steven Spielberg.) If you have never seen the movie, please don’t; it will damage your love of the ocean forever. That is, unless you are fortunate, like I have been, to dive in French Polynesia surrounded by sharks. After 2 weeks here, I admit that I have grown to love seeing them.

During our dive today, we descended into the bluest water I have ever seen. Sapphire; cobalt; indigo; pick your favorite blue. With visibility of about 40 Meters, we can see 120 feet in every direction. The ocean floor is so far below us that it seems bottomless. As we drop, the sharks start materializing out of the blue. As they come into focus, we recognize that they are Gray Sharks – not dangerous to humans unless we mess with them (which I have no intention of doing). A dozen of them lazily ascend in a circular pattern. They are so graceful and efficient; just a small swish of their powerful tails propel them forward. They glow a beautiful silvery-white – the best Crayola silver contrasted against the intense blue. With only the sound of scuba breathing in my ears and blue for a background, I am mesmerized.

They eventually reach our level and one glides by me, around 10 feet away. I can look him directly in the eye. I’ve always thought of their mouths as ferocious; now I almost think he is smiling. He slides directly between Alex and Emma and me. Once again, I am proud of the girls and yet questioning of my parental guidance! The sharks finally tire of us and we move off toward the coral wall where we later see a bigger, more dangerous Tiger Shark swim by (from a safer distance thankfully).

Dana watching the boys' diving lesson

In fact, every dive this week has featured sharks. On one, we suddenly realized that we were looking at over 100 black-tipped and white-tipped reef sharks. Knowing that these guys are like “the dogs of the ocean,” we weren’t scared. The next day, we enjoyed 360-degree views of silver tipped sharks; they were literally everywhere we looked. We went snorkeling with Andrew and Reis and swam through a few dozen black-tipped. Emma chased one for fun. And our last dive, 10 black-tipped reef sharks followed us around for our entire 45 minutes underwater, some getting within 1-2 feet of us.

I guess I had never thought of them as “just another fish,” and in their abundance here, I have started to appreciate them. They give birth to live young, yet the babies are on their own for swimming and hunting right away. They are beautiful, majestic, muscular, powerful animals and I hope to see them on every dive here. Maybe this place will have changed my attitude about sharks completely… well maybe all but the Great Whites.

 

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