Saturday, August 9, 2008

"The fastest I ever swam" or "How not to become lunch"

It was a bad plan from the start.  We were too casual.  We didn't have a buddy system. Looking back it was just a badly executed dive.

We went snorkeling today.  Correction, I went snorkeling, John, Cortney and Dick went scuba diving. There is a big difference. Scuba divers sink to the  bottom of the basin to check out the the intricacies of the underwater netherworld. Snorklers flail about on the water's surface looking like bait.

We went as a foursome, and we ended up as a twosome and two loners.  I was one of those loners.  We went to a place called "Toilet Bowl" which you have to hike in to on really sharp coral. It is very deep and wide, and so deep that when the scuba divers drift down to the bottom, you can't even see them.  Once I couldn't see John, Cortney and Dick anymore, I just shrugged my shoulders and started swimming.  The water was beautiful.

There were some fish to see.  There were Emperor Anglefish

Clown Fish

There were long skinny baracuda-looking fish that hung out on the surface.  I swam through massive schools of tiny fish, thousands and thousands of them moving in incredible synchronicity. As long as I stayed on the reef, I could see clearly to the bottom (about 3-10 feet).  

Then, about 45 minutes into it, I found myself hovering over some very deep water.  The fish coming up from the bottom were huge - 2.5 feet long and fat. The face of the wall of coral went down over 90 feet, as I would later find out, that's how far down John and Cortney were.  Big fish and cool fresh water just kept streaming up from the dark below.  

I find myself mezmerised, and at this point I'm just kind of floating and staring down.  I started to get kind of irritated that I was floating there alone.  I'm a pretty good swimmer, but this is the ocean.  I am no match for nature.  I have fins on, and I know that if this tide gets too strong, to swim parallel to the shore till I'm out of it's grip, then in to shore.   These life guarding lessons are going through my head when I look straight ahead of me and see this.

He was about 6 feet long, about 200 lbs.  he did not have a white underbelly like this one in the picture - just solid gray.  He was staring right at me, with his tail waving behind him. I'm pretty sure I saw him lick his lips.

Here's what was going through my head.  My brothers and sisters and I were raised on terrifying shark tales.  It was like my stepdad mentally filed away every terrifying shark tale in history and would tell the stories to us at night while we were vacationing on the beach in Del Mar. To be fair there were stories of deadly snake attacks and mountain lion attacks as well. The thing about those land animals is that you could reason with them. There were strategies to avoid becoming lunch. Play dead.  Never run. Stay quiet.  Show no fear.  Appeal to their maternal instincts. Somehow you know that you and that mountain lion could lock eyes and possibly come to some arrangement. She lets you go, you promise to return tomorrow with some filets for her cubs.  Trust can be established.

Not with a shark.  A shark is a perfect eating machine.  There is no reasoning with a shark.

So at this point, I'm thinking - holy irony batman - I am actually going die in a shark attack.  I should have played the lottery with those kind of odds.

You understand of course that these thoughts are flashing through my brain in nano-seconds and I am actually swimming as fast as I can to a piece of jutting coral that has formed an island about 20 feet from me - about the same distance from the shark but in the opposite direction.  The islands is about 5 feet wide and completely covered in very sharp mollusk shells which then cuts the crap out of my hands and legs.  So I'm hanging on this rock, bleeding and completely losing my mind, muttering "no, no, no" in a  whimpery voice.

I have no idea where John, Cortney & Dick are, and I have no way of finding them.  Minutes later, John and Cortney surface right in the area where the shark had been.  Thankfully they were able to keep calm, and after a few minutes they talk me off the rock.  We booked it back to the cove as fast as we could.  I was basically hugging the coral wall the whole time.  Meanwhile, there are fishermen overhead with lines of bait hanging right by us - footlong, bloody fish bait.  I don't think I've ever swam faster in my life.

Once we get back to the cove, we become worried about Dick, the other loner, who they have not seen in a while, even though their air is pretty much at the end. They take off their gear and reluctantly get back in the water to go look for him.  

Meanwhile, I'm on the shore and a woman diver surfaced, and she had apparently seen the shark too.  She seemed to have handled it better than I, although she was in a pack of divers, and crawling on the floor of the sea.  Apparently the sharks go for floating food, snorkeling food, like yours truly.  The ram you and then the eat you, she tells me with a grin.  I don't think I am ever going in the ocean again.

Thankfully Dick was already on land, by the car.  John and Cortney return and we all get in the car in the pouring rain to head home. 

So there you have it.  We returned home, John was nauseous with dive sickness, from going too deep. I am pretty banged up from scaling the mollusk-cover rock in 2.5 seconds.  The adrenaline has sapped me.  I'm sticking to land sports for the time being.


Lewellen Family said...

OK, I have been stalking your blog via Avivas blog....let's go ahead and get that admission out of the way. ;)

But seriously, please tell me you are kidding?! There are sharks in these waters? What type of shark was it?
You did better than I. I most likely woudl have started talking to the shark trying to reason with it until it ate me just to shut me up.
I am so glad you are still alive.
Thanks for warning us all.

Sumeba Miyako said...

You know, I had been told that there had been sharks at Toilet Bowl recently, but for some reason, I pushed it into my subconscious because it would have kept me out of the water. The thing is, I don't think they come up on the coral reef, like in Kadena steps or Sunabe. It was very deep and open, where I had drifted. And when you're snorkeling, you want shallow anyway, so just stay shallow. The scariest thing was that I was all alone, and he was lookin at me. And again, I emphasize that the other scuba divers were okay with the sharks being there. I am just the type that loses my mind in (perceived) life and death situations, I found out. Don't let it keep you out of the shallow water!
Thanks for blog stalking!

Neatherys' said...

Aviva forwarded me this. We had plans to dive Toilet Bowl this past weekend with a group of other divers. One of our friends has befriended a local diver enthusiast. It was recommended that very morning that we avoid Toilet Bowl due to large sharks seen in the area.
Sorry for your encounter.
Hope you are back in the water again soon.

Tracey said...

WHOAH. I am glad to know you're alive!

mae said...

What kind of shark was it? I would have lost my lunch, immediately drowned and then gotten eaten... I'm not afraid of much, but sharks definitely top that short list. Seriously, simply reading your blog made me feel a little anxious.

Sumeba Miyako said...

I'm not sure what kind of shark, it was solid color. Looking back, we had had the same warning as the Neatherys', but stupidly decided to go in anyway.

Andre said...

Dying by a shark attack is my number one way to go. Anybody who you've ever wronged may say, "wow, she was a bitch, but she got eaten by a shark, kick ass." If you end up getting eaten, I will be the first to eulogize.