Monday, May 14, 2012

I Think I'll Turn Around...

Sometimes I'll just do stuff because I feel that I can stand up to the physical challenge. I don't consider myself a daredevil by any means. But sometimes I'll take a calculated chance to see something out of the ordinary.

On one of our best family trips we found ourselves at the Dry Tortugas National Park near the Florida Keys. The swimming and snorkeling was great. But I knew that there were supposed to be some top-notch coral reefs around the main island but I wasn't sure exactly where they were located. I asked one of the rangers and she pointed out some buoys offshore and indicated that the finest corals were to be found between two of them.

I looked out at sea. It was quite a distance but I figured it would be a relatively easy swim, so I decided to go.

Me and Andy on the beach. You can see the buoys where I needed to go out in the distance.

The only problem for me was that no one else was out there. Now, generally, I like solitude. But for something like this I'd rather have company. But as I didn't foresee getting back to the Dry Tortugas for many years (if ever), I decided again to bite the bullet and swim out.

So I set out. The water all around the main island is relatively shallow. The deepest points I saw were maybe twenty feet deep. The farther out I swam the more fish I saw. The more distance I put between myself and the island the more coral I encountered. I was really looking forward to getting out to the buoys.

Corals growing on parts of collapsed brick walls of the old fort.

And then I paused to look below me to see what new critters there were to spy. And right under me was a shark. Now, I immediately recognized it as a harmless Nurse shark. But it was big. Well, to me it was big. About six feet long. I was hovering over it and it was as long as I am tall. And it seemed to be frightened of me, trying to push its head under a bit of coral.

I looked down at the great big fish. The great big fish looked up at me.

I looked at the shark. The shark looked at me.

And then I looked back toward shore, at the fort, at the tiny dots that were the people I'd left behind. I suddenly felt very far away from safety. I began to wonder what other great big fish were out there with me. Maybe stuff even bigger than the Nurse shark and not quite so timid.

I could see that the buoys that were my goal were still some distance out in the Gulf and I decided to turn back. I have no regrets.


Mark Rainey said...

Pretty danged cool effort. I love having goals that involve physical many of the caches I've done can attest. Sharks...even harmless ones...are not high on my list of challenges to face. ;)

HemlockMan said...

Yeah, it was a bit of a shock to look down and see that enormous fish right below me. And then look around see

1: how far from shore I was, and

2: how far I still had to go.

Time to turn around.