Just read this account from Matt Coburn, intrepid AI sailor down under.
Surf was up on the 3rd of July on a sunny day just south of Crescent head in the Point Plomer area. I could go to Crescent head for a surf or go for a free-dive and perhaps a spearfish at a semi sheltered headland from the swell. As soon as i swam out the back I'd seen some schools of Salmon swirling around and schools of luderick intermittently appear then disappear. The luderick have probably seen spearos before since they were so flighty and nervous with a diver in the water. I'd video a weird catfish in the shallow water. Despite the swell the water was pretty clear. I swam back to shore.
I'd left the water and went into Crescent Head to pick up some supplies and decided to go back and have a crack at the luderick or salmon. Just as i entered the water Id flicked on the Go-Pro but unfortunately got locked on boot up. This happens about 20% of the time with this camera. I would normally open the housing and pull the battery out and put it back in to reset the camera. Since i was at the waters edge with wet hands Id just left it there with my dry gear. Anyhow, the water was crystal clear but no signs of the salmon or the luderick or any other schooling fish. This fact concentrated my efforts on the headland area to get some benthic fish living around the rocks.
Right on the headland a weak to medium rip was pulling the water parallel with the cliffs. I'd waited for the sets to subside then freedived down to the bottom of the cliff underneath the white sheet of bubbling foam on-top. Though it was dark underneath i'd found a car size rock with 3 drummer fish but the gun wouldn't fit to get off a clean shot. Several wave sets came though and Id tried a couple of time til i realized a shorter pneumatic gun in the car would be a better weapon for later.So i swam out through the curtain of bubbles into clearer water. I/d thought I would wait for a few minutes and hedge my bet on a school of salmon that Id seen there in the morning to swing by. Out over the clean white sand about 20 metres away, swims a shark in my direction. My first thoughts was excitement since a grey nurse always turns a dull dive into an excellent dive. I was thinking at the time ,hmmm looks about 6 ft or so from here...as it got closer i realized that the shark was alot bigger than 6ft, more like 10 feet and not a Grey Nurse!
It had a pure white bottom half and in the sunlight a silver top with a large dorsal fin. The shark was still swimming in my direction and about 10 metres away. I was still excited to see it but i was maintaining a low heart rate. As it came closer,the shark was around 14 foot. It was a monster. It pulled up along side of me and stopped dead in front of me. My vibe was still pretty optimistic as my brain was still ticking over trying to categorize this shark. Its skin was perfect. There were no scars marks or scraps anywhere on it. This sharks doesn't make mistakes! The sun was getting lower on the horizon but refracting threads of light all over its back. Silver flash reflections from a top of the predominantly white shark dazzled. We were both locked in an eyeball to eyeball scenario. I was thinking at the time that the vibe from the shark was not hostile just inquisitive. It was still hanging in the clear water stationary almost defying gravity in front of me.I know that sharks do not have a swim bladder but this whopper was completely neutrally buoyant. By this stage i must have floated up vertically and was at the surface breathing through my snorkel. Another 30 seconds had gone by and the shark was still there. I'd refused to take my eyes off its eyes as the vibe from the shark went from mutual curiosity to an uglier mood. As i was maintaining eye contact with it I'm sure it must have been observing all my vital signs with its toolkit of senses. I momentarily looked at the size of the mouth and estimated in situ that two bites would do it. He began to gnaw its teeth slightly and he was subtly showing me the enormous bulk of its body.I had sensed a frustration from him. He wanted me to run. He wanted me to run so he could slot into predator mode. You run, i will chase.Then finally i sensed i was being sized up and within 20 seconds or less, its all over. So I raised the speargun to the level of his eye and we floated there for another 20 to 30 seconds. At the time I was thinking that if he takes one step closer i will pull the trigger. My finger was already applying pressure on the trigger when i thought..... crikey.....this 1 metre steel spear will not stop this shark. In fact if I release the spear into the shark, in its rage, it will swim off...... pass me and tear off a limb on his way out. I would bleed out before i could get to shore, and Shark will be damaged permanently. This is what was going through my mind so i lowered the spear from aim. The shark was doing its own sums he seemed so alert, so aware of everything. The shark then twisted its spine and awkwardly flicked its huge tail in my direction. A pressure wave hit my thorax creating a shock of some sort. It swam off. At the time the pulse felt part pressure part electrical. I'm not sure if Sharks are capable of this but it was a face slap.I was relieved to see it hit 40 km/hr in only a second or two and it was gone.
I'd thought of leaving my dive buoy and lead weight anchor behind and just get out of there but i knew that i had a long swim back to the beach, giving the shark plenty of time for a change of heart.I'd swam to to bouy gathered the rope and swam back to shore largely underwater so i could scan the underwater horizon for a return visit. As i swam I'd tangled the rope into a messy network into the clear water providing a distraction for the shark it it did return and a new conundrum.
That night i was sleeping in the Camper-van down a bush track and woke around 3:30am feeling a bit disoriented as my subconscious making sense of what just happened.
2012 Tandem Island "SIC EM"www.scenefromabove.com.au