by Lucas Barrow-Townsend
I have been lucky enough to be a dive master for over 10 years. During that time I have seen the wonders of the ocean, all except the Whale Shark, that keeps eluding me. I have swam with curious Dolphins, fended off fierce Trigger fish, glided with Manta Rays, watched Sea Turtles float through the ocean with elegant grace. One thing is abundantly clear...I'm a visitor in their environment, only able to venture below the waves for an hour or so, thanks to human technology. I love being a dive master, however, it will always be bittersweet. The same technology that takes me to the submerged tranquility is the same technology that I have personally witnessed destroying the ocean that i love!
On a routine advnaced diving corse, 5 years ago, off the coast of Thailand, I witnessed the tragic impact we are having on the ocean, first hand, in a way that will both haunt me, and give me hope for the rest of my life.
A huge shark, maybe 3.5-4m in length floated there, perfectly still, as if suspended in motion. Everyone froze, including myself, we were froze with a mixture of fear, and curiosity. Seeing a shark this close and this still was unusual, i have swam with many sharks, they are often curious creatures, and will either come to you, or swim away. This shark did neither. I could feel something was wrong, the shark was clearly in distress.
Then i saw it, a metallic flash, as the beast turned to the side. A harpoon was embedded just above the sharks gills. After waiting, for what felt like an hour, the shark turned again. It was then that I saw the harpoon had penetrated its body and pierced through the other side. The harpoon had gone completely through his body...
The shark though didn't move. It didn't swim away and It didn't approach us. It needed help. If this shark was to survive I had to do something. I had to help this innocent creature survive, and thrive.
After signalling the students to stay put, I slowly and carefully started to approach the shark. 40m became 30...20...10...5...The shark continued to float, motionlessly, with its curious eyes fixed on mine. At 5m I stopped, sipped at my regulator and floated, with the shark, our eyes still locked in stare. After a minute or so went by, I found the courage to move closer to the shark, and finally touch it. The shark let out a small shudder, much like a scared kitten, then flouted still once more, and to my amazement, slowly leaned the harpoon side towards me.
Carefully I reached my hand towards the metallic made made killing machine...it was wedged through the shark very tightly...this was going to be difficult.
The shark trusted me, I could tell, why else would it let me get so intimate with it. So I had to trust the shark! I searched for all of my courage and strength, and pulled on the harpoon. The shark winced and writhed, but the harpoon stayed put...so did the shark. Its clearly needed and wanted my help, I couldnt give up. So I tried again. This time placing my free and onto its rough skin for leveage. I pulled with all my might. With one huge pull the harpoon slid out of the sharks body. A cloudy mist of green blood filled the ocean around me. The shark bolted, it swam maybe 50m away in less than a second. Then it stopped, turned around, and slowly swam towards me. It came right up to me, swam softly around me, rubbing its skin against my suit, swam around my whole body, then swap slowly away, never to be seen by me again.
That shark was thanking me, I know it, the students who witnessed it know it too. I saved the shark that day, and i hope it is still alive today, and has managed to avoid the endless destruction we are inflicting on our ocean. Please, we need to protect this environment, the animals in it have feelings, i know this all too well.
Comments will be approved before showing up.
by Lucas Barrow-Townsend