Baby’s First Sharks: Excitement with a Frisson of Fear

When Andrew and Jill were aboard Galapagos Jill had her first overnight passage on our boat. She wrote an excellent post called Baby’s First Passage (which maybe she can link to in a comment below?). Now that name has stuck for any and all life changing experiences. We chose to wait to write about this until we were well away from the Revillagedados islands so as not to cause people worry. Here’s my narrative from my journal.

“Now let’s go over the rules. We have to stick together. None of this wandering off hither and yon where I don’t know where you are. Stay together until we know what’s down there. ”

I was talking to Michael as we sat in the Pudgy gearing up for our first snorkel at Isla San Benedicto.

He sputtered into his mask. I’d like to think it was with laughter but possibly it was with derision. We will never know.

“OH RIGHT! I’M THE ONE WHO WON’T SWIM AWAY where you can’t find me. It’s ME who won’t get so engrossed with what I am seeing that I forget where I am. Sure. I’M known for that….blah blah blah blah” (well he is! )

“OK OK. I’M going in so please hold the boat steady. Also I want to be sure I can get back in the dinghy quickly in case I am fleeing danger. ”

He says, “Oh don’t worry. If I am feeling danger I can get in the dinghy mighty quick.”

“Well you aren’t the one I’m worried about. Ok here I go .”
And over I went, gently so as not to create a disturbance, thinking ” oh please don’t let a shark be the first thing I see” . My plea was grossly misunderstood.

Exactly the first thing I see is a silky shark about 30 feet away just hanging in the water looking directly at us with disturbing sentience and curiosity.

I sputtered into my snorkel gesturing wildly at Michael as he glided in next to me. Hanging onto the ladder, snorkel askew, all I could do was point and start taking photos.

We hung onto the boat, wary of his next move. He swam slowly in our direction as the fear based tapes in my brain argued vociferously with my prefrontal cortex. This shark was only curious. He was not exhibiting aggressive behavior. Yet. Wait. Wait. He approached to about 20 feet and then stopped. We watched each other warily. I tried not to act like prey.

Then his friend showed up. How did he even know there was something to see? Silently Michael and I, as one being, both held up two fingers and looked at each other. We agreed that if a third friend came we would remove ourselves. And that thought, while comforting in our agreement, really pissed me off. I had waited a very long time to snorkel here. We had special permission. The idea that two puny 4 foot sharks would ruin it was untoward. We were surrounded by a stunning array of friendly and colorful fish and I would be damned if I was giving that up easily.

We waited. They slowly swam toward us. Then, using the words and attitude that strike fear into the hearts of wildlife and dogs everywhere I shouted the vanishing incantation loudly in their general direction, complete with hand gestures, which may not have been wise but seemed effective at the time. ” Shoo! SHOO! Get along with you! Go on now!” Even sharks understand when they aren’t wanted. They glided by just out of reach and carried on patrolling their area without bothering us again.

The next three hours were the best snorkeling we have ever had. We saw our sharky friends several times but they were minding their own businesses. We also saw a nice white tipped reef shark gliding around. He didn’t give us the time of day.

It was magnificent. We wish there had been more snorkeling but after that day huge swells, measured 12 feet in the Anchorage on our depth meter, made the water very rough and uninviting, even dangerous. But that day is imprinted on us forever and we are grateful. Oh, and we stayed right together in the water for the full three hours.

Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.

5 thoughts on “Baby’s First Sharks: Excitement with a Frisson of Fear

  1. Ooh! That was scary. You were very brave to still snorkel. I think sharks like the younger ones better.

    • I think we were pretty brave, too. But we also know that there has never been a shark attack in those islands and the sharks are not aggressive. Still, had they been much bigger, or had they been overly curious about us, we would have been up and out mighty quick. It was a real gift to be able to see how gloriously beautiful they are under water.

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