Offshore San Diego

Deepwater Blues

by Michael Bear*


As I giant stride into 3,000 feet of deep Pacific blue, a feeling of unreality overtakes me. My system is flooded with adrenaline as I follow the sharkmaster down the long, yellow rope leading to the submerged shark cage. The water is alive with Pacific blue sharks, gliding effortlessly around the steel contraption.

We enter the cage and settle in to watch as our sharkmaster, Jessie, holds out her chain mailed hand with a mackerel in it. Suddenly, from the left, a sleek blue about three feet long begins a high speed run. Jessie calmly floats outside the safety of the cage as the shark hurtles past, snatching half the fish from her hand and streaking off. Another shark darts in and tries to snatch the rest, but Jessie keeps her hold on it.

As the blue shakes its head back and forth, furiously trying to break free with the piece of fish, I can see the shark's gills pumping water in and out, and an eerie, secondary eyelid close over its eve. Finally, Jessie lets go and the shark breaks away with its fish, darting right in front of us as it zooms off into the distance.

You don't often get the rush of watching a blue shark feed like that. In fact, divers rarely get to see blue sharks at all. They're pelagic hunters who favor the deepest oceans. In order to see them, we have traveled 20 miles from land and enticed them to the shallows by chumming the waters.

Shark diving off San Diego is an unforgettable all-day trip, but frankly, it's not for everyone. It starts with long rides through unpredictable open-ocean waters. Diving from a drifting boat into thousands of feet of water can be disorienting, and some find the cage claustrophobic. But the payoff is priceless. Read all you want to about the biology of sharks, but until you've seen the business end of one in action, you can't truly know the grace, power and efficiency of these great fish. Photographers: you'll go nuts over the close-up potential.

I turn and peer downward into the blue abyss. Emerging from haze is the unmistakable blunt-snout form of a mako shark, the more menacing cousin of the Pacific blue. The mako's mouth is half open, full of nasty-looking teeth, and it's coming straight up toward us at high speed. All I see are mouth and teeth and coal-black eyes. This fellow looks to be at least six feet long and he glides toward us until he is about 15 feet away from the cage, and suddenly, he turns away and disappears back into the depths. Gone—just like that. Also gone is any lingering media-fueled fear of sharks as mindless killing machines. It's been replaced with fascination, respect and admiration.


*Michael Bear is a 4th Advanced level Actualism lightworker. The text of this story appeared as an article in the April 2002 issue of Scuba Diving magazine. A more detailed version is also available. Text ©2002 Michael Bear. Photo by Perry Armor.