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.


41 thoughts on “Worth

    1. I’ve had… 6 encounters :-), And I started diving seriously almost 50 years ago. And two of those – the most scary two, turned out to asshole seals. This particular shark eats a lot of seals.

  1. Glad you’re still here, and still swimming. (And writing.) May there be many more years of diving with your partner, and many more years of writing with the rest of the crowd here..

    1. Well, I managed to all the right things in a bad place – including choosing to dive with a brave man. It wasn’t fun, but it is a known risk. something I choose to do, that feeds my family well.

  2. Bigger spear was my first thought, but your friends swoop from above sounded like it was the best next move. Glad you’re safe to tell the tale, and what a tale. Got to be worth a drink or two next time you’re with friends in a bar.

    1. The downside with ‘bigger spear’ is you only have two hands. Torch in one. Spear that actually gets you food – a lot of our food, in the other. A lot of the time the current is so strong you move by pulling yourself along the bottom – torch has a strap, handspear is narrow enough to hold it and the bottom – believe me I have thought about it. A good buddy is better insurance

  3. Damn. Getting accosted by strange people at work is usually about as scary as my week gets. Glad you’re okay.

  4. Being a keyboard-cowboy is a lot easier that poking sharks in the nose with a too-small spear. But if it helps, I’m happy to come along for the bunfight. ~:D

    1. Compared to some assholes on the internet who will try and ruin your life, career, family… sharks at least have a real reason for what they do, and possibly with a pea-sized brain, more intelligence and less nastiness.

  5. I suppose adding a bang stick to your dive accoutrements would be out of the question for some reason?

        1. Right? Better that Dave should be eaten than he should be allowed to defend himself.

          Same deal with bears in Canada. Oh the poor thousand-pound killing machines must be protected! Better that humans should be eaten in their own driveways than a poor innocent bear should be shot.

          Or a deer, coyote, groundhog, feral pig, rabid dog…

          1. With regards the ferals, it’s pretty sensible here from what little I know. You’re allowed to kill them; hunt them, poison… though hunting is the preferred method, especially from bunny upward.

            Not sure what they do with the feral camels though.

            1. Feral hogs get over 800lbs in Texas, so they say on the interwebz. Need a lot of gun for a thing like that.

              They have feral camels where you are? Do they fight the kangaroos? ~:D

              1. IIRC the feral hogs, cows, dogs, cats and maybe the camels are why the first-provider (I might be misremembering the name, but basically the farms that provide the nation’s food) can be the ones issued permits and sold AR-15s, shotguns, etc. For some areas though, bolt-action rifles are enough for taking out the smaller razorbacks, large goats, rams… But they grow really big and nasty elsewhere. (at least, that’s what I was told when Rhys was part of the hunting community up in Queensland. There hasn’t been time here where we are now. Maybe next time.)


                I remember reading somewhere that they also get caught and imported to the Middle East.

                1. Most normal bolt-action hunting rifles fire heavier rounds than normal AR-15s. The .223/5.56 AR-15 is actually too small to hunt big game with in some states.

                    1. Rabbits and dingos, right? Many, many rabbits.

                      I would not want to shoot a wild pig with an AR-15. Off-hand, .308 at a bare minimum with .338 being more to my taste. Its liable to get up and run at you with the .308.

                2. Yeah, AR-15 (.223) is a tad light for anything bigger than a coyote. An 800-lb hog? I understand LawDog might have some thoughts…. 😎

    1. Bangstick is a shotgun shell on a pole with a trigger. It’s my (limited to book learning) understanding that sharks tend not to notice being speared unless you nail them through something important, like the spine. Meaning they don’t die of it until about halfway through digesting you. Like a bear. The arrow will eventually kill him, quite a while after he’s done eating you.

      At a pinch a boar-spear might work, but I’ll leave that experiment for Dave to do. ~:D

      1. I didn’t know I needed to know about bangsticks . . .
        Now I do – runs off to internet search – thanks! C;

        I’m glad you got out of that ok, Dave 😳
        (Is terrified of sharks)

        1. Nope, specialized tool that incorporates a cartridge at the end of a short pole. In some southern states it’s required to put down gators. My understanding is that in 12 gauge it’s fairly effective on sharks.

    2. spearguns – I have 3 and 3 handspears – are actually worse than what I had. To put it in gun terms what I had was a single shot shotgun loaded with number 12 shot – not going to kill but very likely to score a hit on a sensitive spot – the tip of the nose or eye. A speargun would be a .22. Not likely to kill quickly (the shark brain is tiny, and small injuries just make them worse for long enough to kill you.) You need an elephant gun (a bang-stick) and still to be fairly lucky, and strong.

      1. And the bang-stick is super illegal, right? Just guessing, but since everything that works is always illegal…

      2. It seems to me that a wave motion gun would be an effective solution to the shark threat. The only problem is fitting it and a wave motion engine into something you can carry with you while diving.

        1. Tom Clancy described bang sticks in Without Remorse. Ever since, I thought they sounded like a neat idea.

  6. I’m not sure I’d ever dive again (not that it’s likely I’ll ever dive again, anyway – Colorado is not very dive friendly). Cheers to good friends!

  7. Brave sidekicks are a fictional standard, for a good reason. They save the hero’s (or Monkey’s, in this case) deriere regularly and are valued in real life and fiction.

    1. Oh yes. Fortunately, villains capable of maintaining a sidekick relationship are few and far between.

  8. Physics question: On land, I can work out that there are at least three factors limiting the size and mass of a spear for practical use. Amount of force that can be transmitted through the ground by friction, amount of acceleration that can be ‘buffered’* by body mass, and strength and leverage permitted by human physiology.

    How does that work under water? How significant does drag become?

  9. I infer that a hookah is an air pump floating on the surface pumping air down to the divers. There is an interesting stfnal connection here. They were invented by Arthur C Clarke, or so he claimed. I am aware of this because many years ago Clarke visited the MIT Science Fiction Society library, made the claim, and remembered the SF zine where he had a story featuringt eh device published. It was there iirc including an illustration. Just as with geostationary earth satellites, which he also invented, he got no financial benefit out of the invention. he then went off to a local High School to give a speech (I was there, too), and made the bizarre (for ca. 1971) prediction that in 40 years American High schools would be offering Mandarin as a foreign language.

  10. Good ‘insurance’ in the form of a buddy diver. Smart and brave is icing on the cake! Glad you’re a smart man!

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