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.
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 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 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,
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 🙂
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 🙂 🙂
pps My long awaited Coral Sea video is now in productions and coming soon – watch this space! 🙂 🙂 🙂
pppps The following video is a tribute of my Adrian for his best friend Gerry: