The boat rocked gently side to side on a sea of black-green-blue, an overcast day with a slight swell, not much chop, just rock, rock, rock. We waited. Waiting quietly for that tug on the line to signify a catch, a fish snagged on the end, the dullness and boredom of waiting suddenly filled with excitement as you spring to attention, grab the rods and intuition takes over, as you reel him in when the line goes slack and hold tight when he’s pulling hard.
Salty goodness of the sun and ocean air filling lungs with a health tonic so treasured it cannot be bought or bottled, only experienced. Rock, rock, rock, drifting, bottom fishing, waiting. What’s that? I thought I saw a fin. You often think you’ve seen a fin, especially when the water’s choppy. But no, I think not. Then I saw it, I saw it rise and keep rising from the water, connecting with the air. A fin so large, one could only imagine the monster below attached to it. My eyes could not believe what they were seeing. My mind could not process what I was experiencing. In that moment nothing else existed apart from myself, the boat, the sea and that huge creature. I’d forgotten about my father, my eyes were trained on the spot where the fin was, travelling slowly past the boat, about 10 feet away.
The fin slowly disappeared and I thought this would be the end of the encounter, but I continued keeping my eyes in the vicinity of where I saw the fin disappear. To my horror and surprise, the shark resurfaced, this time, a whole head, with the mouth agape, water streaming through it’s mouth as it made it’s way directly toward the boat’s centre. No thought crossed my mind, I was paralysed with fear. The shark travelled slowly and calmly, as it approached the boat we were in, I reminded myself that we were at least safe for the moment. I tried not to entertain any thoughts about possibilities of an attack on the boat or on ourselves, however, I think that the general idea that we were being investigated by this monster, had not been lost on me.
I still did not move, I still did not think to look over to see my father’s reaction, I stayed frozen, not breathing, not moving, not speaking, not thinking. The monster sunk slowly beneath the boat, with about 5 feet between us. Within a couple of seconds it had changed position, and approached from the left hand side of the boat, and with an eerie look, it swam right along side the length of Timkamiss (our boat) revealing it’s size to be at least 17 foot, the size of the vessel. It’s menacing black eye, seemed train right on me, and I felt a deep sense of curiousity and a level of enjoyment as well as terror and fear, as I connected with this giant creature, hoping it wasn’t hungry or contemplating me for lunch!
Again, the shark slowly re-entered the water and disappeared for the third and final time, and I breathed!
My father had had a premonition the night before of a shark in the water, shooting up from the depths charging into the air and over the boat, waking in a cold sweat. He knew we were going fishing the next day and didn’t want to mention the nightmare in case it spooked us. An adventure I will never forget. To be in the presence of such a wild creature is to invite the essence of awe into one’s life and forever remind you, that we humans enter the ocean at our own risk and peril, for therein are mysteries of such magnitude we can never comprehend, it gave me a sense of my place in the universe and made me realise that sharks don’t always eat you on first acquaintance, it just depends on whether you’re an easy meal at the right time of day.
Later I wanted to understand why my father didn’t crank up the motor, very sensibly he stayed calm and cool, he explained to me, how the shark could easily mangle a motor and how much trouble we would have been in then. So instead, he cautioned us to continue quietly fishing for another few hours, hours in which I think I barely drew breath.
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This is a story I often tell people, but today I felt like trying to recall what happened, how I felt at the time, and create a written piece about it. It comes out better if I write it down, than when I try to tell it verbally.
This happened to my father and I, on one of our fishing trips out to Nine Mile Reef off Kingscliff. You’d often try to bring in a big wahoo, mackeral or tuna or other fish, only to manage the head, after a shark had got hold of it. You had to share any catch with those big fellas.
This story is about a rather curious 17 foot great white shark or white pointer who was very inquisitive, and thankfully not too hungry that day!