A couple of months back I was diving with my usual partner, when we hit on some productive ground for spiny lobster. Now, contrary to perceptions, to find a place twice underwater, especially if the visibility is not great, is actually rather difficult. We’re diving on Hookah (compressed air from the surface) so much less constrained with time – but also, as it were, on a leash to the boat. That limits your range to a 100 yard radius circle around the boat, but does mean you can follow the hose – or haul on it – to get back to the boat. As we often dive in very strong currents this means you can dive where SCUBA would be suicidal. You’d never get back to the boat, and the next stop might be South America.
The other obvious plus is that one diver can follow the other’s air-line.
Now, dive alone = die alone.
Still, 33 feet down – if you’re ready for it, is not the hardest ascent. I carry a pony bottle, and use two weight belts, so I can drop two for fast bug out, or just one for a more controlled ascent. You don’t want to do fast ascents – but you’re unlikely to have major damage as long as you exhale all the way up. The pony will give me 35 breaths, and I can take it real slowly on that.
So: we catch really, really big lobster. 11-12 pounds at the big end. Fitting more than two in the catch bag (our limit is four) can be very difficult. We work them tag-team – so having both of us there is vital to our success. They can also be very scattered. We’ll typically spend about 4 hours underwater –and 80% of that is looking for them.
When we find a spot with quite a few… it is quite important stay there until we’ve finished. Which means one of us will stay on the bottom in the area, and the other will swim or haul back to the boat with the catch bag. If you’re the guy sitting on the bottom, you resist temptation to go into any caves or cracks – because that’s what you need your buddy for.
Now I always spear fish while I am there.
Which is as dumb as rocks as the fish went in my sporran-bag while the catch bag is heading up. I’ve done it for years, but now use a stringer.
Because I was sitting on the bottom while my partner took the bag up – and a seven-giller (a shark) somewhat larger than me must have picked up the fish-blood scent and came to investigate.
It’s an over-rated pastime, being circled by a shark. I had a puny little handspear and no way to get rid of the sporran. I also don’t want to start it feeding, because they’re kind of bad at stopping. Besides, trust me on this, you really don’t want to stop watching the damn shark and having your spear in both hands.
Shark was swimming circles – Monkey was keeping flat on the bottom because they’re midwater predators, not really well-designed to take prey there. I kept moving slowly but steadily (no panic and no flailing about to excite it) along the air-lines for the boat – If I could get the fish out of my sporran I was going to let him have them and break all records getting up 33 feet.
Shark was getting pushy. Coming closer and closer with each circle. I could see the two little 2 inch Mado yellow-striped perch (there to eat the scraps) swimming just below his jaw. The wide mouth was still closed, mostly.
I pushed his nose with the back end of the spear (I really don’t want him angry). He ignores it. He’s now about 4 feet away.
I’m turning over to watch him so he can’t attack from the back.
Still swimming towards the boat.
It looks like confrontation, as he comes in straight towards me.
I poke his nose hard with the spear…
His mouth opens and lips peel I can see the jagged white teeth.
But he does turn away a little. But the teeth are now bared.
He circles again…
And suddenly… leaves.
He left because my dive buddy, following my hose down, started dropping in on him.
I had a spear.
Puny, intended for small fish – nothing bigger four pounds. The shark was about 8-9 foot long (so relatively small for this kind). The spear was not going to stop him. He would barely know it was there. His gape was wider than my head.
My buddy had a dive bag.
He saw the shark circling me.
And swam towards it.
We swam up to the boat pretty quickly, keeping together. Those lobster weren’t that important.
But there is the measure of a man: the friend who will swim towards you when you’re being circled by a shark.
I quite possibly owe him my life. My respect for him is vast, and I would do my best to do my best for him.
I won’t know until I am tested if I could have been that courageous.
I’ve been through a few tests, but every time is different.
We moved the boat and jumped in again, and got the remainder of our bag limit.
Going down – it was rather poor viz, that day – as the water closed over me, and I could no longer see the silver of the surface… I held quite tightly to my little spear.
The point of this story? Well, we writers live in a world that is chock-full of virtue-signaling. Bowing to cause de jour of the current powers-that-be in our field, kissing up, and joining every ‘righteous‘ pogrom. It’s a near cost-free, risk free exercise. It is about safe as diving for spiny lobster in an inflatable kiddies paddling pool 100 miles inland. It’s about as productive too.
Standing against that, against the mob, coming to help people who are the target of the virtue signaling sharks (who come to circle and bite the moment the target is wounded or vulnerable…) risking all to the possible feeding frenzy… That’s not cheap or easy.
That’s a real measure of worth.
And those who get back into the water again… that’s someone worth taking risks for.
So: as many of our readers here, and my fellow Mad Genius members have done both… I am both glad and honored to know you.