Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Swimming With the Rest of the Bait.

There's nothing so humbling as thinking that you could soon be nothing more than something to be eaten by another creature. A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be able to go snorkeling in the Dry Tortugas National Park in the Florida Keys. After having explored the area adjacent to the walls of Fort Jefferson, I asked a park ranger where the best examples of coral reef were located. She informed me that if I swam out to the area between buoys three and five, I would be well rewarded for the trip out.

The distance to these buoys seemed to be about 1/3 mile,so I set out. My wife had bought a cheap underwater film camera for our day in the park and I took this with me, pausing from time to time to snap a shot. Along the way I encountered quite a lot of fish and some nice coral formations. Pretty soon I was approaching the first of the buoys indicated by the ranger. However, looking down, I realized that I was swimming just above a shark that was longer than I was tall.

I'm marginally familiar with shark species, and I seemed to recall that this individual was a member of a rather innocuous breed of shark. However, because he was so large and because I was swimming so far from shore and alone (no other swimmers had ventured out so far), I began to feel like not so much more than something to be eaten by a big fish.

Stopping just long enough to take a couple of photos of this shark (a nurse shark, I've been told), I decided to head back to shallower waters closer to the foundation of Fort Jefferson, where I was only too happy to continue my snorkeling adventure. The better part of valor and all that.


spacedlaw said...

Have you tried to have that shark identified ?

HemlockMan said...

It was, I have been told, a nurse shark. A species that you practically have to rape to get it to bite you.

Even at the time I figured it for a relatively benign critter. It was just the idea of swimming around with animals so large, and in their own environment that got to me. So I headed for the shallows. (I was somewhere between a third and a half mile out at that point.)