Okay, first off thanks again to Peter Eisenhauer for shooting, editing and sharing these great videos of a truly magical time in South Africa.
Please excuse my orgiastic screams. This was the first shark breach I ever saw so I got a little carried away. After a few more breaches, I was able to tame my insanity into manageable sighs of awe.
I am trying to write and remember more about South Africa, before the memories take on the feelings of dreams, before mundane realities of day-to-day life in L.A. eclipse my beautiful visions.
Here are a few things I can’t stop thinking about:
1. The time I felt most sacred: when a stray piece of bait floated in through the viewing window of the cage. No shark in sight, but I instantly flung the fish head back out into the water just the same.
2. My first full day in South Africa it rained. Apex kindly arranged a wine-tasting tour for us. It felt funny getting slightly drunk on very fragrant wines so early in the day, but I managed to get through it. At one winery near Stellenbosch(?) I stood next to a roaring fire, petting a fat, contented calico cat. A group of school kids on a field trip tramped into the room and collapsed on chairs around the fireplace. They were probably only about 15, but holding their glasses (each one with a swallow of gold in the bottom), scarves wrapped about their necks, they looked impossibly sophisticated. As one lovely dark-haired girl approached me, I had that incredibly rare and warm feeling that I was acting in a scene from a movie. I told her that “my fellow Americans” and I had come to South Africa to see the sharks. She looked wistful. “Once I went diving with ragged tooths. One shark was pregnant and as the sun slanted on the water, I could see her babies inside.” She looked so happy remembering this, her cheeks flush with the fire. A dashing schoolboy approached us, gently breaking her reverie. Maybe it was the wine, but everything felt effortless and scripted at the same time. “Do you mind if we take a photo with you and your friends?” he asked. “It’s not every day that we meet Americans.”
3. On my last day at sea, the swells were high and dark. We weren’t sure if the sharks would come. But they did. Standing on the deck of the boat, as the dark water rose around us, and a near 15-foot shark surfaced near the side, I felt empty in the most beautiful sense of the word: empty of everything except the moment of witnessing: the fin, and tall, sharp tail, then the shark itself, turning on its side, white belly flashing in the sun, jaws opening, closing, then sinking beneath the waves again.
4. Looking at the eye of the shark as it swam close to the cage and feeling recognition, but not knowing if this meant that the shark saw me, or I saw myself in it.
5. All the terrific people I met: Chris and Monique Fallows the most gracious hosts and enthusiastic naturalists in the world, Renee and all the great people at Apex Predators, Carrie from New Hampshire with her bright enthusiasm for South Africa and her saint-like patience with annoying people, Sam who worked at a farm animal sanctuary in Wisconsin and had an uncanny eye for spotting seal predations and her husband Brad who told great stories, Janet with her quick wit and impressive collection of shark swag who gave us all shark neckties, lovely Christine from the U.K, a fourth time visitor to South Africa who knew all the sharks on a first name basis, our kind, funny and amazing guide Alistair, our patient and helpful B&B host Jonathan, generous Peter from Buffalo and his wife Andrea who didn’t even swim yet plucked up the courage to climb in the shark cage anyway. Thanks to everyone who laughed at my jokes and everyone else I’ve forgotten and thanks especially to the sharks for showing up and changing my life.
Events like this make me feel lucky to live in California.
Should I Get a Bigger Boat?
Shark Attacks on Boats, People, Dogs, and Seals
by Ralph S. Collier (President, Shark Research Committee)
and Peter Howorth (Director, Santa Barbara Marine Mammal Center)
Where: Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, 113 Harbor Way, Santa Barbara, California
When: Friday, August 8, 2014 • 7:00pm
Cost: $15 (SBMM and Shark Research Committee members), $20 (non-members)
To Register: Go to www.sbmm.org or call (805) 962-8404 x115
What should you do if a shark takes a fancy to your boat? Yes, this really does happen––boats have been attacked by sharks. Find out why this happens and much more as Ralph S. Collier, the west coast’s leading authority on shark attacks, explores various theories on why sharks attack everything from surfboards to boats, and from crab trap floats to people. Learn what makes a shark tick and why it is such a supremely well-adapted predator. Discover from Peter Howorth how attacks on marine mammals can serve as canaries in the coal mines, warning people of shark hazards, and what is being done about this.
If you are in the Santa Barbara area on August 8, 2014 please stop by. Directions to the Museum are available on the SBMM web site when you order tickets. After you order tickets please notify the SRC so we can place you on our Members list for this event. For confirmation of SRC Membership, and to obtain the $5.00 discount per ticket, please print out and bring this email. Seating is limited so order your tickets today. Thank you and we look forward to seeing you August 8th at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum.
This little guy seems pretty disoriented as he keeps swimming back towards shore, but it’s very satisfying to see him finally disappear beyond the waves.
So beautiful! A powerful argument against keeping these animals in captivity.
1. The young Florida woman who was attacked by a bull shark had a funny feeling about the dark water.
2. Find out why artists Marina Abramovic, Ed Ruscha and others have placed their art in a sunken vault at the bottom of the sea.
3. Whale hidden in Dutch landscape painting finally free.
4. Can new technology slow extinction?
5. Ever wondered what it’s like to live underwater for 31 days? Sure you have. And soon you’ll know.