Friday, September 5, 2008

Rachel and Clara's first whale shark encounter

First reactions of our would-be marine biologists, by Rachel Pool and Clara Anganuzzi

We didn’t get to swim with our first whale shark. The micro-light saw it and contacted us but when we got to the site, the shark swam under the boat. We were really disappointed especially as we had already frantically pulled on our snorkeling gear just seconds before. Then we found one. Hearts in our mouths, we yet again pulled on the gear and waited for the okay from the spotter to get in the water. When the okay finally came, we were frozen by the sight of the dorsal fin that had
seemingly popped out of nowhere.

My first impression was that it looked like a toy. One of those inflatable things that you stick in your pool. Then I wondered how they got it in the middle of the sea without us seeing it. It didn’t move that fast at first. I kept up quite easily and floated around for a bit. Time seemed endless. Then I lost sight of him for a few seconds and the next thing I knew, everyone was swimming in the opposite direction. He looked like a clown. A really big clown.

I thought it was squishy and had to suppress an
immediate desire to reach out and grab it. I was so excited to get into the water that when I did and water entered my mask, I forgot to breathe through my snorkel and instead inhaled a lot of seawater. Not fun. The shark was beautiful. I didn’t think it was that big. It looked like a plastic toy. What was actually five minutes seemed like so much longer.

Photo: Intern James (left) works with Clara (centre) and Rachel (right) to enter the data of their first encounter and identify the shark.... turns out that this is a 'frequent flyer' having been identified in both 2006 and 2007.

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