Diving with Oceanic White Tip Sharks
Diving with Oceanic White Tip Sharks by Jeffrey "Hammerhead" Philips
Between the islands of Conception and Cat in the southern Bahamas is a fishing area called the Tartar Banks. An underwater mountain. Its peak comes to within seventy feet of the surface, the base sitting in over a thousand feet of ocean. And from those depths, come the big game fish and their predators.
The Oceanic White Tip shark is considered the fourth most dangerous shark in the world. I won’t argue with that. A lot of people are so terrified of sharks; they will not even put their tippy toes into the surf or dive off a boat and enjoy the sea. Many think sharks lurk near swimmers, waiting, waiting to chomp down on them. That’s not true. What is true? More residents of New York City are bitten by their fellow inhabitants in a single year than all of the recorded shark bites in history. It’s not sharks I’m worried about, its people from New York.
These magnificent creatures of the ocean are usually in the 7 to 10 foot range, although the day I dove with them, a 12 footer checked me out. They have a grayish body with a white under belly. The most distinguishing feature is the white tip on their dorsal fin. Looks like someone scratched the color off it. And they weigh in at 350 to 400 pounds. Be careful swimming next to one. Anytime you are bumped by a 400 pound animal, you’re going to feel it.
Speaking of which, these predators do like to play games. One is called, “Bump the Diver”. Usually, this species of shark completely ignores divers. He just wants to be left alone and swim through the warm tropical waters looking for his favorite entre, tuna. But barracuda and white marlin are a nice break from time to time. But on a lazy afternoon, what better way to pass the time than to play a game with new friends. Whether you want to or not, they expect you to play the game. I’ve seen a lot of divers leave the water after just one experience. Some with a brown streak behind them.
If you don’t want bumped - it’s not that much fun, believe me - then when the white tip gets to within 4 or 5 feet, turn and face him head on. This shark likes to approach from the rear for a more dramatic encounter. Sure, sure, doing a stare down with a creature that owns the ocean may seem not quite logical, stupid (?), but it works.
Once he realizes you are not going to let him bump you, he banks and passes over you. From this view point, his white belly can be seen and how it blends in with the surface. This helps hide him from the really bad boys of the deep blue sea, bigger sharks.
I’ve always enjoyed my encounters with large fish. Each has their own purpose in life. Sharks are scavengers, preying on the sick or dead fish. I’ve spent many hours in the water, marveling at their sleekness, the ease with which they glide through the water, their ability to bend their bodies in tight turns, and the gracefulness of their bodies. Sharks are an endangered species, not mindless killing machines as portrayed by Hollywood.
On a full moon rising, Cassandra, a local radio personality awaiting contact with extraterrestrials, disappears while diving on Jesse Stoker’s diesel-fuming scuba dive boat. Stoker didn’t want to charter the boat to someone he considered a hoaxster, but with the bank ready to repossess his vessel, he relents to her and her fans.
Cassandra’s body is found is found three days later. The M.E. says she’s only been dead 5 hours. When the police learn Stoker filled Cassandra’s tank before her dive and the M.E. gives cause of death as “oxygen poisoning”, he becomes their prime suspect. Stoker has never lost a diver before, doesn’t believe in alien abduction, and doesn’t believe she just died.
Stoker has additional demons that haunt him. The memory of his allegedly deceased wife, also a victim of a scuba diving accident. A stripper, Jade, who needs protection from her abusive husband. And now the wrongful death suit the radio station has brought against him because of Cassandra’s death. To clear his name he must figure out where Cassandra spent the missing days and find her killer.
|Jeffrey "Hammerhead" Philips|
Jeffrey “Hammerhead” Philips has brought forth the underwater world and the people whose lives are controlled by the ocean to a one-of-a-kind mystery.
Links: website: www.jeffreyphilips.com
Facebook: Please invite people to "Friend" me. I am the Jeffrey Philips standing on the stern of a boat in front of a yellow shark cage cutting bait.