Monday, August 13, 2012

Hey! There are sharks out there!


It’s “Shark Week” on the Discovery Channel, as if you don’t know that. It seems they are hyping that about every ten minutes on TV.

I missed last night’s episode, and all the ones from last year, so I’m not exactly all that excited. Maybe I’ll catch tonight if the baseball game gets out of hand, as many Marlins games do these days.

But I did think it might be appropriate to tell a couple of shark-related tales, even though one makes me look kind of, well, stupid. (Not an historical first.)

The first was a few years ago down in the Florida Keys. My wife an I were kayaking from an island on the Gulf side of U.S. 1 to one on the Atlantic side after getting run off by a state park ranger who informed us the first island was “closed.”

We weren’t sure how you actually close an island, but since he was a ranger we took his word for it.

Anyway, there we were paddling over when we saw something pass in the fairly shallow water beneath us.

It was a nurse shark, very common in the area, but to hear my wife tell the tale, it had all the earmarks of a huge Great White. Move over, Jaws. Far as I remember, it is really the first time I have actually seen a shark swimming around that wasn’t in captivity.

The other incident was several years ago, too many really, when I was at my first duty station. It was on Guam, out in the Pacific.

You may have heard of the island but what you may not know is that much of it is surrounded by a coral reef, and it is inside that reef that you do a lot of your swimming.

Well, actually, floating and paddling, really, because the water is very shallow. But you can snorkel and see lots of pretty fish.

We used to go on a lot of the outings on the beach on station property, and there always was a lot of beer along with us.

That’s what I am using for an excuse for what I did on one excursion.

It was getting on later in the afternoon, which meant there had been some serious drinking going on, enough that made me look for something more adventuresome than the usual snorkeling.

I decided I wanted to take my mask and go out beyond the reef and into deeper water.

What was I going to do?

Look for sharks.

Yes, you read that right. I was going to look for sharks. Or maybe just a shark. Either one was fine.

I am probably alive today because I did not succeed in my quest.

Exactly what I might have done had I actually run across a real live shark swimming in front of me, I don’t know. Probably, uh, crapped my swimsuit. All I had with me was the mask. A lot of good that would have done.

Hello, shark! Look how big this makes my eyes look!

I guess I am fortunate that I didn’t cut myself on the reef and start to bleed. That might have made things really interesting.

I did some other crazy things on that island in the 19 months and 20 days  I was on it (but who’s counting?), but that probably is near the top of the list.

At least I didn’t go lion or tiger hunting with a Swiss Army knife. But probably only because there aren’t any lions or tigers on the island, unless they have build a zoo since I left.

Did I mention a lot of beer was involved in my time there?

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