Monday, April 2, 2012

How Sharks Clean Their Teeth

It took everything I was made of to let go of the side of the boat and drop down into the blue water of the Indian Ocean.  Rick was following close behind our carefree guide, swimming with our youngest Katie on his back.  In spite of my nerves, I smiled at their resemblance to the stacked frogs we chased in Thailand.  Travis and Jaclyn were paired together, with our oldest son acting very brotherly as they headed out toward the "shark zone".  That left the two most reluctant swimmers at the rear; our cautious Derek, and me.

Derek has a right to be cautious.  When he was about five, he had a negative experience while we visited my brother and his family in Grand Cayman in the Caribbean.  Aaron had treated us to a day trip to Stingray City, a large lagoon in the center of the island where the rays congregate in shallow waters.  Unfortunately, the water was rough and Derek had been swarmed by stingrays anxious for the squid lunch most visitors offered.  In his panic, he ended up perched on Rick's shoulders, balancing on his head in an effort to be as far out of the water as was possible.  Ever since, he is not a big fan of the creatures in the sea.

"Are you sure this is safe, Mom?" he asked me as we swam towards Asher's Gap.

"Well, the guide said the sharks are sleeping," I answered.  I'm not entirely buying the line myself, but I wanted to put him at ease.  I mean, if this was dangerous, I would think that the tour guide would not be leading us in this direction, right?

Derek looked at me with all the skepticism I was feeling reflected in his eyes.  I know, son, I am nervous too.

"I see a shark!" Katie yelled from her position on her dad's back.

"Look!" Travis lifted his head out of the water. "Derek, you gotta see this!"

Derek and I continued our swim.  We admired the beauty of the corals beneath us, and the water was still shallow in the bay.  All of a sudden, the sea floor dropped away,the water dropped a few degrees in warmth, and the blue color deepened.  This was Asher's Gap.

A large cabbage coral was the main feature, looking, well, just like a gigantic cabbage, with its "leaves" gently opening to provide shelter for scores of small fish.  And, as promised, there were the sharks.

I raised my head in alarm, trying not to swallow the large mouthful of water I involuntarily inhaled in my panic.  Don't choke.  Don't splash.  Don't wake the fish.  Oh, god, how far to the boat?

Swimmingly docile, they circled, round and around.  Eyes open, mouths relaxed, they did have the appearance of sleeping.  I stilled as best as I could, using my arms and hands to scull backwards, away from the Gap.  I looked across at Derek, and signaled him "Okay?" under the sea.  He nodded.

We stayed there, on the edge of the Gap, watching the sharks circle around the cabbage coral below.  How many are there?  At least ten, no, more.  Twelve, sixteen?  They were swimming in a pattern, all the same direction, from small two foot versions, to larger than Rick times two.  Maybe 12 feet long?
And sure enough, the little fish swarmed around their mouths.  Little fish were actually swimming inside their partially open jaws, picking off the bits in between the sharp, jagged teeth of the large predators.  The longer we watched, the more we watched this bizarre fish behaviour.  

"It was like a shark visit to the dentist."

"A shark spa."

 "How sharks clean their teeth."  The kids all joked about today's highlight.

"That was amazing!" Travis gushed when he returned to the boat.  "Now let's find the Rays!"

Thank goodness for kids.  Their spirit is what keeps us encouraged, to push the limits on what is my "comfort zone".  There was nothing scary about this experience, except for my own preconceived notions of "Swimming with Sharks".  No cage, no vicious attacks.  Just a calm, peaceful swim.

Do something that scares you every day.  After this day, I think I was covered for a year.

No comments:

Post a Comment