Dive 281: Death of a Friend

Dear Critters,

Last weekend, my best buddy LP caught this extraordinary footage of the resident draughtboard (aka swell) shark of Flinders Pier, playing with a bottle and hunting for fish:

Nothing like the Spielberg-inspired shark of public misconception, we first encountered this sweet, timid creature a few months ago, a true and precious rarity under Melbourne’s piers. I was thrilled to take this humble footage during our first meeting:

Locating its position has become a genuine highlight of our dives at Flinders Pier. LP had one particularly close and special encounter a couple of weeks ago when the shark gently brushed its nose against his camera:

As is our ritual each Sunday, LP and I make our Critter Wishes as we drive to whichever pier we have elected to dive. Recently, we have chosen to have most of our underwater adventures at Flinders, in the hope of spending more magical underwater moments with our gentle new friend.

Yesterday, we meandered our way slowly beneath the pier from the shore, hoping to catch a treasured glimpse of the big orange octopus that we had come to know from previous dives. And in the deepest recesses of our hearts, we longed to see the beautiful draughtboard shark that had played with the bottle just one week earlier.

When I had watched LP’s video from his dive with Julie Bear the previous week, I had whispered a silent wish of safety for the sweet little shark who played so obliviously around the pylons of the pier with its many baited hooks and huge messes of tangled fishing line.

This week as I swam with a male weedy sea dragon carrying a long row of pink eggs along his tail, one of my long pink fins became hopelessly entangled in the unruly lines. The world beneath the pier is filled with hazards and threats from the often thoughtless and merciless World Above. I cut myself free with my dive knife before swimming back to where LP knelt waiting on the sandy ocean floor.

His eyes met mine with infinite sadness as he shook his head, positioning himself as though to block something from my view. ‘You mustn’t come this way,’ I heard him say in the way that divers talk with thoughts.’What I am trying to hide from you is something too, too terrible and sad for you to see.’

But I needed to know for myself what had happened, and finally I saw what I had entered the water, hoping to find. The beautiful, big blue eyes of our little friend. Staring vacantly into the open water from its sweet, severed head. The long, smooth body lost to the knife of some fisherman filled with elation at the tugging of his line, his satisfaction growing with each desperate thrash of a catch much larger than the whiting he’d anticipated. ‘Here is my prize,’ he declared to himself, before cutting off its precious head in triumph and tossing it with the creature’s guts back under the pier as though it were all nothing but trash.

draughtboard shark final photo

My Friend. I will miss sharing the ocean with you and the presence of your gentle spirit nestled into the bed of weeds each time I enter waters that should have kept you safe from lines, hooks and knives. It is true that death comes for us all, but I had deeply wished a more natural, less violent end for you.

Your death reminds me that mine is inevitable (a statement of truth, irrespective of my current prognosis with terminal cancer). In the shadow of that inevitability, I am flooded with certainty that every moment of every life should be revered and lived fully. Like you, I will be here yesterday and gone tomorrow. But it is how I live, not how or when I die, that gives my life its value and meaning.

I share this story as a tribute to your life. But I am also compelled to tell your tale to combat the ignorance of human predators who, in understanding what your life was like, may come to a new perspective about its value. I pray they might start to consider that a life such as yours is worth more than the Β thrill of the kill or the momentary taste of your flesh in their mouths.And I pray that our friend the octopus whom we could not find is hiding somewhere safe from human harm .

Pretty Little Shark, in Β my eyes, you are precious beyond measure. I shall miss you, dear friend, and every dive will be in honour of your memory.

Eternal bubbles of restful peace,

PT xxx

ps Tank you, Friends, for reading this melancholy post. While you are here, please check out some of my more blissful underwater adventures, and don’t forget to like Pink Tank Scuba on Facebook πŸ™‚

pps Please don’t forget to visit my dive buddy Mark ‘LP’ Jones’ amazing blog http://www.oceanandtheearth.wordpress.com to see more of his extraordinary underwater videos. And don’t forget to like Ocean and the Earth on Facebook πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

pps My long awaited Coral Sea video is now in productions and coming soon – watch this space! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

pppps The following video is a tribute of my Adrian for his best friend Gerry:

21 thoughts on “Dive 281: Death of a Friend

  1. I didn’t think this would bother me so much. But viewed through the lens of your personal struggle, I feel sick to my stomach. Sorry about your dive and your friend. Keep fighting. You’ve got a lot of folks pulling for you. REALLY.

    • Tank you so much for your words of deep and true compassion, realsomefoya. You are always such a beautiful encouragement to me and your words offer so much strength that I absorb into every fibre of my being. Tank you for being someone who knows how to genuinely care – such a role model for others to learn from! πŸ™‚ May blessings, love, peace and joy be yours in all fullness today xxx

  2. Maybe melancholy but also beautiful as it reminds all (and not just those cancer sufferers among us) that all life is beautiful and precious. I am struggling today having just been told of the death (from cancer) of the 16 year old daughter of a friend but this beauriful tale and the images have soothed my heavy heart – thank you PT

    • Tank you for your thoughts today, Mike. I am deeply sorry to hear of such a tragic loss at such a young age – life gone far too soon 😦 My prayers of comfort for you and the family and friends of this precious young girl for this day and all the days ahead. May peace that passes all understanding be yours today. Love and bubbles, PT

    • So true, Loca Gringa. These are things I never wish to see or show, but I can only hope that sharing this story might help even one person to care enough to try to make a difference. Love and blessings for you today, Friend xxx

      • I missed my calling. I wish I had have had the right encouragement in my university years. Marine biology is the direction I should have taken. However, now my memory is failing due to disease 😦 So much for more schooling. So, I’ll have to concentrate on helping people on land instead. Big dreams, little financial worth … grrrr

      • Me too, Loca Gringa (though I hear that marine biology jobs are extremely difficult to come by). Still, I believe we help the ocean by caring about it and helping others to care about it too πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      • Here’s the thing, it is extremely rare to work in the field you were educated in anyways. However, you need balance. Work where you earn your living, and for your balance volunteer for your most precious cause while you are healthy enough to do so.

        In the day, I was so naive, with zero support, zero encouragement, no internet, blah blah blah, I could not fathom how to go about getting educated and working with that big blue wet thing :/ I lived in the prairies. The closest ocean, that was not north was 1500 miles away lol. And really … not a fan of crops or cows!

  3. It is interesting that we bond so much with ocean life. I was once on a dive boat that hit a creature (probably a sea lion) with it’s propeller. It has disturbed me more than any “road kill” I have ever seen near my home. The underwater world just seems so much more majestic and since we only get to see it in short glimpses, so precious. Thank you for sharing this. It is something I can empathize with.

    • Tank you for your words which ring so true for me, waterdogphotographyblog. When I am underwater, I feel so much more connected to myself because I feel so much more connected to the natural world and the blissful creatures that inhabit that sub-surface environment. Your experience on the boat is truly awful and I know if that had happened to me I would have been haunted by it for a very long time. I was in a small whale watching boat once and a whale’s back appeared unexpectedly in our wake – it’s a miracle we didn’t hit it, and the experience was the ultimate hybrid of thrill at what we had seen and horror at what might have happened if our unplanned synchronisation had been less than a second out … On a side-note, I encourage anyone reading this post to check out and follow your blog page full of awesome underwater photography: http://www.waterdogphotographyblog.com Love and bubbles, PT xxx

  4. the shark appreciates your, and now our, Respect and honor to IT. Thanks for sharing this -even though “melancholy” – that too is a part and time in life. the video is beautiful, and to us that never have been brave enough to swim there, we appreciate your adventuresome spirit. thanks, mikey πŸ™‚

    • Tank so much for taking the time to read, watch and respond, Mikey. There are some stories I would rather not tell, but sometimes these are the most important ones to be shared. There are lessons to be learned from every life and every death and every moment in between. While I mourn the loss of this beautiful creature, its sweet and sad story has touched many hearts which helps me to believe that this amazing life, though now lost, has left some sort of poignant legacy. Blessings for today’s journey, PT πŸ™‚

      • I hope we all know that our life, no matter how or when it ends, will be honored in on going ripples- whether we are aware of them or not. the shark wasn’t aware of the ripples, yet here WE are meeting and sharing because of him. ripples of energy NEVER cease. thanks for sharing with us. PS. love the moniker picture! πŸ™‚

  5. This is not really my place and I don’t have a habbit of leaving comments where I go, but I noticed something while studying that poor animal’s head and your friend’s head. They don’t share the same facial markings. Your friend seems to have two dark spots between the eyes that the severed head from the picture you have taken, simply does not possess… I am trying to say your friend might still be alive. Of course it does not make this poor animal’s death any less tragic…
    In the end hope is all we have… No matter how flimsy or frail…

    • Tank you so much for your detailed observation and encouraging words, Corrupted Outcast, of the ice cold wastelands of night πŸ™‚ You are right. We were unaware that we had in fact been swimming with two draughtboard sharks until the following week when my buddy Mark unfortunately discovered the carcass of the 2nd shark, intact but senselessly mutilated (not even killed for food) 😦 I am equally saddened by the death of any animal, but your observation has made me realise the genuine value of being more observant about the markings of each individual animal so that we might be able to better track our unique interactions with different members of the same species. Tank you and may you have a fantastic day today. Kindest regards, PT πŸ™‚

  6. Another thing… I do not like doing this because you have made your choice based on your conscience, but we are talking about survival here, yours, and even your shark friends eat other animals… It is sadly part of being an organism… Unless you are a mineral devouring bacteria you are forced to devour another life form… Even the plants you eat can sense “pain” to an unknown extent, but you are freely eating them… You do not judge the shark for eating the fish. It is part of its natural diet required for it to stay healthy. Same goes for us humans… We are omnivores by nature. Same as bears, wolves and so many others… Yes, even squirrels… Nuts go only so far, ask the birds, their eggs are not nuts and yet the squirrel will eat them given the chance to… You get the picture.
    Eat other life forms out of necessity, not greed, both stationary and mobile. If it helps you live with yourself eat the already dead or dying. Mark my words… Denying one’s most fundemental nature as an organism is dangerous! We have survived to be this planet’s top World altering species. We did not do it on plants alone. We are so heavily invested in eating both Plantae and Animalia that eating just one kingdom damages our health substantially!
    And if you think only animals move around and sense the world, think again. Take these algae http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chlamydomonas_reinhardtii They can both move around and sense the world. And what about one which is stradling both Animalia and Plantae? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euglenid . Yes it is technically both an animal and a plant… Would you hate yourself for eating them? They move, they sense, they act. Even stationary plants can make “decisions” and act on them. The plant in my window still is an omnivore. It can survive for a limited period without meat from insects, but eventually it will die if denied them. Sound familiar?
    I am not judging you. And anyone who judges you in your situation deserves neither pity nor mercy. So please… Take care of your body… Eat from the Kingdom Animalia once in a while… I am not saying it will cure your cancer, but it will help…
    This is a recent enough medical study, done in Austria with as far as I can tell no payed for biases.
    It compares various diets and the participants’s health over a period of time.
    4.8% Cancer rate in vegeterians vs a 1.2% Cancer rate for a diet with mostly plants, but with some animal tissue mixed in, is a statistically significant number. I beg of you to not ignore this.
    http://www.plosone.org/article/fetchObject.action?uri=info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0088278&representation=PDF
    You can judge for yourself if this article is relevant to you or not, but in my fledgling biology obsessed mind I see a small glimmer of hope… I just hope you will add it to your collection. I dedicated most of my day to find this study and research your condition and situation. I wanted to. Because your’s is a life worth saving. Too many of our species are driven almost purely by greed at other life forms’s grave expense. Individuals like yourself are precious for both the survival of our species, but also that of the rest.

    Only read this next part if you are interested in knowing just who on Earth you are talking to.
    I have set myself the goal of studying medicine like my father before me and I want to focus on cancers in the field of synthetic biology. Basically, cancers, ironically being thought of as bringers of death, seem to contain the secret to immortality… Nature’s irony for you…
    So far my life has been an overwhelmingly negative experience with bullying from my peers in school and outside school, violent abuse from my father and numerous betrayals from those I love. I am suffering from my own chronic health problems probably induced by the aforementioned. Chronic, never ending severe headache… Severe memory loss in short term memory, basically living in a “today” bubble, that bleeds into old long term memories from before I got sick…
    Grainy vision, a condition known as visual snow… I struggle to read and make out shapes and it gets progressively worse… The local medical community has given up on me, they recognise that there is something biologically wrong with me, but they do not know what and do not care enough to spend any state money to find out… I am always told to just “live with it”. Because of these disabilities I am also living at the mercy of said state’s benefits… So a vicious circle…
    My own father who is… Or rather was up til a year or so ago, was the head doctor and head surgeon of his field at our capital’s main hospital, cares nothing for my plight… He forgets me mentioning it every time I bring it up… And when I talk with him he only wants to talk about himself… Shows you how important I am in his life… He lectures around the world… Rarely had time for family matters… And when he did have time it was 1/2 chance he would be nice to us and not take his work frustrations out on me and mom… The World’s medical community views him as a hero, I view him as a violent tyrant with a god complex and a psychopath who cares nothing for people around him… When he was drunk he told me he viewed his patients as just slabs of meat for him to play with… I got disgusted with him after that… I looked up to him as a hero for helping others… But here I found out he only cared about the power of holding a life in his hands… At his mercy… To damn or save… To twist and carve like a flesh carving carpenter with no empathy for the person underneath his scalpel… And the fame and recognition that he recieves for his work…
    I on the other hand started sculpting with clay as young as 5 years old. It came very natural to me… I had problems drawing things, but making them in 3D was extremely easy for me. I loved creating new forms and shapes… Moving parts around to get different results… Being extremely interested in all living things just made it that more easy to make sculptures for me. Their shapes, and movement and their behaviour captivated me. Other boys where into cars, I was into studying animals and found cars to be boring… I was always happy when I was surrounded by life, living things just made me overwhelmed with happiness. Death, I became familiar with already at age 3… My mother’s father, my grandfather… Cancer… I knew he was gone… I felt it… I observed it on my mother and my aunt… This, deep, cold, empty pit opened up in my heart and never closed since… Every new death around me made me just more depressed and sad… All these wonderful people… Special, each in their own way… Connecting with other people and influencing untold lives throughout the World… Just gone… I could not bear it… I still cannot bear it… Which is why I am dedicating my life to the search for biological immortality… Cancers that survive outside the original host’s body hold the key… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HeLa is one such organism… Its owner is long since dead… But HeLa, so named for its original host in honour of her, still lives on long after Henrietta Lacks passed on… It killed her… But ironically it brought her a small ounce of immortality as these cells just refuse to die… Yes they waste away to trauma like all living things, but that is where the similarity ends… They endlessly divide… They will never cease dividing… Most living cells abide by the Hayflick limit. They stop dividing after a certain number of divisions have been achieved. End… Game over… HeLa does not abide by this rule… It is literally life never ending… And for someone who hates death… HeLa gives me hope… For me and my wasted life, all those years lost to illness and abuse, I want those years back… I want my life back… My one selfish act… Wanting my life back…
    But just as much I want to harness HeLa’s ability for helping others… Not just aging, but curing diseases, helping severed limbs regrow…
    So far I have not been able to help anyone… Stuck in my dead end life with no prospects of getting out as long as my broken memory stops me from completing my education… I feel worthless, pathetic…
    Helping you with guiding you to knowledge you may not have heard of is the least I can do… Both for you and Me…

    I wish you a long and healthy life surrounded by life! My thoughts will be with you each and every day.
    – Best wishes, Chris.

    • Tank you so much, Chris, for taking the time to share all of that detailed and well-informed information with me – I really appreciate it and will look further at the link you’ve provided which sounds really intriguing! This field is obviously a genuine area of passion for you, and I truly respect each of the arguments that you’ve put forward. I am saddened to learn of all that you have been through in your life and I am so encouraged by your commitment to channeling what you have learned about compassion and empathy and through your extensive research into seeking better outcomes for yourself and those around you. I believe that every moment of your life has tremendous value and I truly appreciate the time that you have invested today to provide this encouragement and information πŸ™‚ In my quest for better ways to sustain my life, I am always grateful to anyone who is able to provide me with another missing piece of the puzzle so that I can then do my best to see how all that information fits together into application. I wish you a lifetime of health, peace and joy and every blessing for your journey, PT πŸ™‚

    • Tank you so much for your kind words, Juliano Wild Blood! Wishing you abundant health and much joy from Melbourne, Australia, PT 😊😊😊

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