Eye to Eye with a Great White - a Photo Essay
Awesome as watching White Sharks from the surface
is, the experience cannot compare to 'meeting' these animals underwater. Until
you have been eye-to-eye with a Great White - if only from within
the protective confines of a shark cage - you cannot truly appreciate
the mind behind the jaws.
One may speak glibly of a White Shark that is 12 or 14 or even 16
feet (3.7 or 4.3 or even 5 metres) long, but until you are in the
water next to one, the figures are meaningless and without implication.
The bodily bulk of these animals is simply enormous. It is difficult
to think of what you are looking at as a fish -- it more closely resembles
a city bus with fins. Yet it moves with the supreme fluid grace
of a creature unbound by gravity or drag. It is a specter, a
ghost -- yet undoubtedly solid and capable of affecting the living.
Closer and closer the animal comes, resolving out of the greenish
underwater haze like a magician from a cloud of smoke. Sleek. Muscular. Powerful. Yet
strangely stand-offish ... even timid. It seems ludicrous that
an animal many times your size -- one with toothy jaws that could
crush you to jelly about as easily as you might crush a blade of grass
underfoot -- would be so skittish. And yet this notorious 'monster'
of myth and legend approaches very carefully, flicking away at the
slightest of your movements.
The animal circles yet again, gliding in from another direction. Although
the water is cold, you try to be very still. You try to avoid
eye contact, to avoid making the shark any more skittish than it already
is, but you cannot help yourself. There is something intolerable
about knowing one of the sea's the most amazing predators is very
near yet being unable to see it. So you sneak a peek -- and,
in response, off it zooms again. Frustration! Agony! Yet
you are intensely excited.
Finally, at long last, the animal screws up its courage enough to
investigate the baits. There it is: the Great White Shark
of which you had seen and heard so much. It's strange: the
animal looks exactly like the countless photos and films you've seen,
but it doesn't 'feel' quite like you expected. It carries a
sort of calm, self-assured majesty. Charisma. It's almost
as though this animal 'knows' it's a superstar.
As the animal moves in even closer, you can -- for the first time
-- look directly into its eyes. They are not the 'featureless,
black portholes' they have been described to be. You can clearly
see structure there -- pale rim, dark iris and black, circular pupil. As
the shark swim past you, its eye rotates in the socket to keep you
in view. As you strain to maintain eye contact, an unexpected
thought suddenly resolves into sharp focus: there is a mind
behind the most famous jaws in the world. This is not a mere 'stupid'
fish, but a sentient being, as curious about you as you are of it. With
that, your encounter is slapped shut as the crescent-shaped
tail propels the shark back into the gloom from whence it came ...