Thursday, December 18, 2008

Isla de Guadalupe!

January 7th 2008

So I waited awhile to post a blog about my trip to Guadalupe mostly because I have been processing it all. (still am) I got an instant message from Dean Karr who is my photography idol particularly regarding great white sharks saying "call me right fucking now". I was thinking someone died and he was gonna be dropping a bomb on me. He did drop a bomb but it was one the best of my life. For the past few years I have been trying to make it on this trip with Dean but it has always come at the busiest time of the year for me and I couldn't get away. For the first time I could actually take the trip I always dreamed of. Absolutely the best gift ever!
I actually went to South Africa to do it once but opted for not getting off the boat after they took me on the tour de breach and then showed me the chicken wire sorry not getting off the boat. EVER! No one said they were the most safety conscious of shark diving operations. South Africa was one of 2 trips I didnt make it into the water for...Bahamas, bull sharks, badddddd experience!
I have been on a lot of shark dives some even sans cage and involved hand feeding but nothing can compare to this. I slid into my gear with the help of Palmolive, which I later discovered was a very bad idea for me. I managed to get it in my eyes twice. Once with the help of my friend Gracy(sloshed accidentally into my hood). The second time I have no explanation but I went blind and decided to poke my head out in front of an incoming shark for assistance. (Thanks to Lawrence for saving me from possible decapitation)
I slid into the cage with Gracy, Matt, and Dean "Sharkbait" Karr. I dubbed him such based on his technique for getting the perfect shot by hanging out of the cage waving his arms to get them to approach. This tactic also resulted in my getting a ton of pictures of Dean's arm and camera right in front of the shark I was trying to photograph.
You can't imagine the rush of seeing God's most perfect invention coming at you mere inches away. They are one of the only things on earth that are completely unchanged. They have not evolved because they were absolutely perfect from the start. Despite popular myth I definitely found them to be intelligent and cunning predators. The most interesting and entertaining thing I learned about their behavior is that they truly are hunters that rely on the element of surprise. They prefer unsuspecting prey. As they would come straight at us in the submersible a simple stare from us would result in a change of their course. They would execute the change with a kind of nonchalance as if to say " Ehhh I was'nt gonna bite you, just checkin you out". Once they saw they had lost the element of surprise the thrill of the hunt seemed lost to them as well.
They all have their own personalities. Some docile and confident, some curious, and some sneaky and aggressive. To me it seemed that the larger they were the more docile. It was as if with the immense size they had nothing to prove and nothing to fear so they moved slowly and calmly while everything else moved out of the way for them.
They also all have their own appearance. Like people, some are shorter, fatter, longer, thinner, some have not nice teeth, some have perfect teeth, they have scars, coloration differences and...FRECKLES! Yes, you read it right FRECKLES! They are actually spots and not all of them have these but my favorite shark of the trip that has apparently been a frequent visitor to the island had them. Beautiful little gray spots that inspired the name Speckles.
It was love at first sight for me and Speckles who must've been 16ft+. I was in the topside cage on the right alone for approximately an hour at the end of the first day Dean and some other divers were in the cage on the left when speckles noticed the lone black thingy (me) bouncing around.When there are four of you in cage its like you're all one big piece but one of you looks a bit more like a possible meal. So as I continued to bounce around Speckles came in right next to the open gap on the cage to check me out. Time after time he would do a u-turn and pass so close that I have several shots of his gills and one head shot that I may have been taking too great a risk for. (check Isla Guadalupe album...still editing)Dean got some really incredible shots of him including one of me in the cage alone with him in the background. It was amazing.
After the excitement of the topside cages I didn't think it could get any better and then the brought out...THE LUNCHBOX! The lunchbox is a submersible cage that goes down to a depth of 20 feet. It has an open top and very large gaps in the sides for filming. Submerging in the lunchbox is a bit scary. Day two I actually fell into it cracking my weights making a loud ring and a splash that almost gave the captain and me a heart attack.
Once you are down there its like nothing else on earth. You are more a part of the action than a witness to it. It's awesome to look up at the topside cages and see what it looks like from the shark's perspective. Lawrence had a kind of spiritual connection with a 17 foot female that was an honor to watch. He got a few tows from her and it was absolutely amazing to witness. It was a bit nerve wracking at times because there were 2 aggressive little males that kept zipping past checking Lawrence out. I have never wanted an underwater intercom so badly in my life.
As far as things went topside? We could not have asked for a better crew and group of divers. It is amazing that such a diverse group of people would get along so well and have such a great time together. I have not laughed that hard since, well maybe ever. I made some great friends that I would not surprised to have in my life for years to come.Even some of the crew have become a part of my everyday life and I am proud to call them my friends.
I feel like I haven't even scratched the surface for you of what this was like but I don't know that writing for a year would do it. It's just one of those indescribable things. If you wanna know for yourself next October for my birthday we are going hit me up to reserve a spot. Changed my life…

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