Friday, July 30, 2010

Swimming the Shark

A while back, Carole and Andy and I took a long vacation to the Florida Keys. We had a blast. One of our best vacations. One of the side trips we took while in Key West was a day-long excursion to the Dry Tortugas National Park. I had heard that some of the best coral in the continental USA was just offshore of the main island, and I was keen to see that particular reef.

Once we got there and we'd been swimming around the fort for a while, I found a ranger and asked her where the best reefs were located. So she pointed out into the ocean and said, "See those buoys out there? Between buoy #4 and #5...that's where the most impressive parts of the coral reef are found."

Shit. It was about a third of a mile out. Maybe farther. But the water was clear and calm and I'm a decent swimming so I figured, "Fuck it. I've got nothin' better to do."

I told Carole where I was headed and neither she nor Andy wanted any part of it.

That meant I was swimming out on my own. No one else seemed inclined to head out there, either, with all of the action going on at the fort and the beach around it. I have to admit I was a little queasy as I waded out and began swimming out toward Buoy #4 and Buoy #5.

The farther out I swam the more fish I began to see. Not that there was any shortage of colorful fish in closer to the fort, but suddenly the water was packed with colorful fish of many types and sizes. I continued out. Faster than I would have supposed I was more than halfway to my destination. And then I looked down directly below me.

I found myself looking right at a shark that was easily six feet in length. Right away I recognized it as a harmless species, but was longer than I am tall. I hovered there for a moment looking at the shark. The shark was nervous and kept trying to hide its head under a small chunk of coral. It was, apparently, more frightened of me than I was of him. Still...

I looked around. That fort and the main island suddenly looked a very long way off. The ocean around me was packed with fish. Right under me was a six-foot shark. I began to wonder what else was in the water waiting for my ass to come closer.

I snapped a couple of shots of the shark:

And then I turned around and swam back to the fort.

Fuck it. Better safe than sorry.


Jack said...

That will get your adrenaline flowing!

HemlockMan said...

Yeah. It didn't scare me...but it made me really nervous. I recognized it almost immediately as a harmless species of shark...but what the heck else was out there with me? Also, if there had been other snorkelers that far out I think I would have felt better about the enterprise of swimming so far out into the ocean.