The day arrived, slightly bedraggled and somewhat cold we stood at the meeting point, where we awaited our charter to the Neptune Islands at 6:30 in the morning…..I forgot there were two in the day up to that point, we boarded our vessel, the Calypso Star, a beautiful boat, with what looked like a torture device, clinging to the back….yes the cage, dented and grey….. yes dented…well now my apprehension grew that little bit more, sharks actually got that close to the cage, I naively thought!! obviously sensibleness leaving me for a few seconds…”of course they get close your going under the water with them, you muppet” I thought to myself.
We left the port, cup of tea in hand and wrapped up warmly, to be welcome by the most amazing sunset I have seen, as we bounced of the waves, propellers, momentarily leaving the waters, to hit them again, spray leaping towards all in its wake…well there was a few people sick…and the journey was only gonna get worse as we hit open water….me of course I was fine….just! but I was gonna see the sharks so I could concentrate on that and I have wanted to do this since, well further back then I can remember, that will be old age….start losing you memory as well as any colour in your hair…yes the deadly greys have decided they will be subdued no more!
South Neptune island leaped out of the water, on the horizon…..just as aside, this is were all the documentaries for the discovery channel are done, we lay anchor, green and sickly, and the crew started deploying the tuna oil and chum, the bets were on the table, ranging from seeing the first shark after 20mins up to 40mins…..there was no definitive chance we were gonna see them, they are illusive creatures.
5 mins passed, 20 mins passed, sipping on my tea, when the shout came “shark in the water”, everyone ran to the starboard of the boat, out of the water this gray silhouette of a giant 2.5m fish could be seen, slowly gliding in the water towards the tuna and chum, fin piecing the water, like in the jaws film.
The cage was lowered, the first people, including Lenny entered the cage, from up on the top deck you could really see the size of them, you just stand there in amazement, thinking what the hell are you doing, these things could kill you and your going in a dented cage to get down to their teeth and eye level?? Another appeared, 3 metres of pure power.
The tuna chunks, were chucked out, the sharks would look at them curiously as if they were the trojan horse, then they would turn around, swim off and then with a flick or two of their tail fin, charge at the tuna, I can understand why these great whites are feared, the acceleration off them is incredible, when you see then initially they look so dosile and slow and then, bang they can accelerate rapidly!! As the shark gets closer the crew would drag the tuna towards the cage, the people under the water must have had a few face to face discussions with them!!
My turn came, on with my rather fetching wetsuit, and in to the cage I lowered myself, breathing in the oxygen rapidly at first…it was the water honestly, it was just cold…..okay maybe a twindge of fear…just a little bit! Searching neverously like a spot light in a prison I looked into the blue, a splash made me spin around quick, it was only the tuna bait being thrown in, they had to be close….all of a sudden this huge shark appeared from, it seemed, no where, it swam within touching distance of the cage, souless eyes and razor sharp teethy smile, the camoflauge of the grey and the white underbelly could be clearly seen, I watched as it glided passed and notice my breathing was actually pretty calm and relaxed, that was until the tail fin hit the cage, the cage jolted as did I and the rest of the people in it, I watched and it appeared to just disappear…..literally the colours of the great white pointer where amazingly great at hiding this giant apex predator.
Another shark lunged towards the bait, a massive one, with its jaw dislocated, to take in all the tuna bait, below me a shark was swimming, three sharks in the water with me and my well pretty useless protection of a dented cage, swayed in the power shock waves of the sharks, 50mins I was in the cage for and for about 45mins of it there where sharks in the water right near me.
I climbed, carefully, out of the cage, to be told that the one that got the bait was a 4.5m shark, and hadn’t been tagged, 4.5m is about 14/15ft I think! thats 2 and a bit of me!!!
As part of these charters, if they stumble across a shark with no tag, they have to tag them, to help with the research, so the toying with the tuna began once more, this was off the back of the boat, whilst the next group were getting ready to go in the cage, the crew were stumbling and almost falling in the water, to have a real close encounter with the great whites, whilst one of them was armed with the spear with the radio tracker attached, the shark broke the surface of the water, not a breach, but did come out of the water, teeth and all to grab the bait, it missed and the tracker was stabbed into its dorsal fin. Rodney fox and his boat had joined us at our viewing ground, the only two boats that do the cage dive in Australia, one of only three places in the world, Australia, South Africa and San Dieago that do the Great white shark cage dives.
The day closed to an end, elated and tired, we lifted anchor and made our way back to the shore, being escorted by dolphins as we left the island, thankfully as well the sea was a lot more placid, not that I knew as I had fallen asleep on the top deck….. A great day, and to see an apex predator in its habitat was awe inspiring, your dead right I paid extra for underwater footage and underwater pictures, back to port lincoln, the motel and some sea food, a beer to say cheers to the day and then off to the land of nod.