I am human – If you are reading this then you are likely a human too…..or an A.I. robot, in which case you're more than welcome to boost this articles relationship with the Google algorithm. As humans, you and I are naturally curious about the world that surrounds us. If you're like me, the world that surrounds you isn’t enough, and other worlds are needed to suffice your appetite for curiosities.
I mean, not everyone dreams consists of submerging themselves in an alien world, surrounded by the earths oldest family of predators, while wearing a few flimsy pieces of rubber on their feet.
Shark diving as the activity is coined, is a type of scuba diving unlike any other. The biggest difference is that unlike a fun dive where you might encounter sharks by natural chance, shark diving doesn’t try to leave it to chance.
In Jupiter Florida there still exists a large multi species population of sharks that call the coast of the eastern United States home. I had done a few sharks dives in Honduras a few years prior, so I was quite excited to get to see these guys up close with my new camera.
The day we arrived, we were instructed to meet a fellow in a parking lot in an upscale neighborhood at 7 am sharp…..”Hmmmm, where is he?, my wandering eyes lock on to a guy with his arm in a cast clinching a clip board, I knew without knowing that this dude was our dude.
We approached him and of course he was the guy we were looking for. A tiger shark bite is what he said had happened. As we signed in with him, I had noticed that he was also missing pieces of fingers from prior incidents.
Now, to some people this would have turned them off right away…..all we wanted to do was get as close to sharks as possible, so the evidence on his limbs actually was assuring to us.... If anyone was gonna get us close to the sharks, this was likely the dude. He didn’t come with us that day, as his arm was a bit too fucked up, he sent us out with his crew and a few other guests for a 3 dive trip to find some sharks.
We visited Jupiter in early July. We hadn’t really planned on going, had we, we’d a probably went during springtime when there are Great Hammerheads and Tiger Sharks that come to visit the area.
“Don’t get in front of me, if you get scared go back to the boat, if you run out of air go back to the boat, if you get lost try and go back to the boat, if you are uncomfortable go back to the boat…If we don’t see anything after a few minutes…. I’m calling the dive. I’m not here to take care of you, that's your responsibility.... I am here to attract the sharks… You take care of yourself down there. If you see a tiger shark, you don't take your eyes off of it, all the other sharks become invisible to you…..does everybody understand?.” For me and my wife, the briefing couldn't have been any more suited to us.... Nothing worse than being experienced and having a babysitter instead of a dive guide. I can't say however that the other 3 lads from Trinidad felt the same!
To top this all off, dives one and 2 were blue water drift dives…..I hadn’t heard of shark dives like this before, all the ones I’ve done were in sandy areas with a wall for protection behind the divers. We are always up for something different so it was kinda exciting for us. However if your experience level is lacking, dives like this can be tremendously nerve racking. There was a 2nd dive guide in the water who had a surface marker the entire time to signal the boat. Not much was said about him, it seemed like they were training him to become a shark feeder.
On both dives 1 and 2, once we had gotten below the water we saw…...absolutely nothing! Not a single fish, just blue water in all directions. This is when the milk crate of fish comes into action. The guide starts chucking bits of fish and hacking them up with a bread knife. Seemed to be effective at scattering scales everywhere.
A few sharks approached from the distance but never got too close. It seemed like the dead fish in the milk crate was working well at bringing in other fish instead of sharks..... Out came the spear gun! The fish that were attracted to the action where shot with ease and hacked to pieces with the bread knife to continue the attraction.
During both the first 2 dive sites, only 1 lemon shark came in really close. We had seen about a dozen bull sharks off in the distance, a silky or 2 and a few Caribbean Grey reefs down deep. For the third dive of the trip they brought us to a wreck, where they told me during the spring months, the dive site was so good they’d just do all 3 on the same dive.
By this point all the blood from the cooler on board had been released into the water during lunch time and you could see dorsal fins start appearing all around the boat. Like a scene from a Hollywood horror movie or a wet dream for someone who loves sharks.
As we went down there were lemon sharks everywhere. We made it towards the wreck and the plan was to swim it and then settle down for a shark show. The wreck was absolutely covered in Goliath groupers. At least 30 of them all weighing at least 150 pounds. Once we got up towards the front of the boat, that's when the show started. A minimum of 20 full grown lemon sharks zipped and zoomed around the man in the middle ( Mr I have all the fish in my bucket) for the remainder of the dive.
There was one shark in particular that I knew had frequented the dive site, she had a protruding jaw, making her look like a completely different species. She turned up that dive in full form swirling around for the duration of the dive with the others.
You do see quite a few sharks that have the signs of human fuckery lodged in their jaws. There were quite a few sharks that had fishing hooks lodged in the corner of their mouths. I'm told there is quite a bit of shark fishing for sport in the area, and it doesn’t take long to catch one. Since nobody wants to pull the hooks out, they just get clipped off. Pretty fucked up if you ask me…...yes....yes..... I know the 3 dives we did that day were not the most "Eco Friendly", I’m gonna get to that in a minute!
To be honest, we didn’t really know what to expect when we went diving there. Sure, we aren’t idiots, we knew they would be feeding them dead fish, but the spearing of fish and hacking 'em to shreds with bread knives was news to us. A few days later we went fun diving in North Carolina, and divers onboard brought spear guns with them to a wreck dive, I had never seen that before. Anywhere we had dove before, spear guns and scuba aren’t allowed, I can’t speak to the rules and regulations in the United States as I am not familiar with them.
All I can say is…… their method is effective. They certainly got the sharks as close as I was hoping for, I just wasn’t prepared for the spear guns. Can I say it's right or wrong what they are doing?
Ultimately I do have an opinion about it, but who the fuck am I to say what's right or wrong?
I'll let the Facebook heroes debate that. There are a lot of people that will cry wolf here about feeding sharks, yet go home and eat hot dogs and fish sticks….Is that any better than what's going on here?
I can say that despite this, even If I am not the biggest fan of the methods…..I enjoyed myself.
I don't eat fish, or any meat for that matter yet, I dunno, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy the day.
Would I do it again knowing how its done….? Well, I wouldn’t get in the habit of doing these dives routinely, but I might not turn down the chance to go again!