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My Close Encounter with a Great White Shark!

 

I am often told how adventurous, crazy or “brave” I am, or that I am a major risk taker.  Well, that’s sort of flattering, but I have to tell you that it is really not the case.  I do take calculated risks, and participate in activities that may seem risky, but I make sure all precautions are taken.  More people are killed in car accidents than in “adventure sports”.  I love nature, I love diving, but I am not reckless, far from it. But sometimes, things happen.  My close encounter happened when my husband, Randy, and I took our young adult children, Wes and Ally, on our dream trip to Guadalupe Island to cage dive with Great White Sharks! We could not wait to get in the water.

great white shark, diving, photography, underwater photography, swimming with sharks, shark attack, midlife, midlife women

Before you begin to think I am the world’s most irresponsible mom, you should know that Great White Sharks do not “prey” on humans.  Seriously!  Of the 33 or so Great White bites a year, most of them are “sample” bites, most are not fatal.  We are the ones killing them in unsustainable numbers. Many divers are animal enthusiasts, and conservationists, and the idea of being in close proximity to these amazing and beautiful apex predators is downright exhilarating.

So, on the last dive of our 6 day trip, I was in one of the cages with two young men.  I was taking photos when  I noticed that the bait was very close to the cage. I prepared to take an awesome close up of the Great White, but I got more than I bargained for…the shark went for the bait and ended up slamming into the opening of the cage.  These cages have an 18 inch opening for photographers (I mean, we have to be able to get our strobes through the bars, you know!) and it was just large enough for the 13 foot Great White to come for a visit…all the way to his pectoral fins!  He got stuck, and it felt like an 18 wheeler had slammed into the cage.

When the shark hit, the young man who was in the middle pulled me back…and believe me, I appreciated it!  The shark was panicked and thrashing violently…it felt like being in a big washing machine.  I kept trying to hold on to the bottom of the cage, but just could not keep my grip, so I floated up toward the shark.  The shark actually did a 360 degree turn in the opening, which caused his gills to bleed.  My husband and daughter, watching from above, thought it was my blood, so you can imagine how upset they were, but my daughter who was taking photos kept shooting and caught the entire event from above. What a pro!

After what seemed like an eon the shark managed to free himself and took off, scared to death!  While the shark was upside down I received a bump on the head from his snout, and he somehow ended up with my air hose in his mouth, so my air was wet and salty.  What an experience!  I wouldn’t want to go through it again, but my grandchildren will think I am totally cool (when and if I ever have them).  Our trip was fantastic, and we all loved every minute of it.

You know, I guess I could tell a harrowing tale of a Great White Shark “attack”, but it just isn’t true. No shark showed any aggression whatsoever while we were there.  Hey, getting in a cage with Great White Sharks swimming around has inherent risk, but no shark at Guadalupe has attacked a human being, and I know people who have been with them outside of the cages, free diving.  Would I go cage diving again?  Yes, it was a breathtaking experience.  I wasn’t hurt, no harm done (except to the poor shark’s gills) and I take full responsibility for being in the cage.  I do plan to go again, absolutely.  Lightning doesn’t strike twice, right?

Tam Warner Minton is an enthusiastic midlife adventurer who loves to scuba dive, travel, and explore the world. For Tam, the unexpected is usually the norm! You can find her travels and life journeys at www.travelswithtam.com

Tam Warner Minton

I am an avid scuba diver, underwater photographer, amateur historian; interested in all people and cultures. For me, the unexpected is usually the norm! My motto? Live life on purpose and with passion and do what you can to make a difference in this world, no matter how small! Contact me at travelswithtam@gmail.com

Tam Warner Minton

I am an avid scuba diver, underwater photographer, amateur historian; interested in all people and cultures. For me, the unexpected is usually the norm! My motto? Live life on purpose and with passion and do what you can to make a difference in this world, no matter how small! Contact me at travelswithtam@gmail.com

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Carol Cassara

Monday 31st of March 2014

I could hear the sound track from the movie all through this post! You're definitely an adventurer!

Tam Warner Minton

Monday 31st of March 2014

dah dah. dah dah.

Lori M

Saturday 29th of March 2014

I just read this to my husband and kids, and they think you are the coolest! They are all huge fans of sharks and dream of having this sort of experience. Me, not so much, but who knows? Maybe one day! Thanks for sharing this incredible story and your wonderful photos!

Tam Warner Minton

Saturday 29th of March 2014

You are welcome, Lori M, and I am so happy to hear you have a family of shark appreciators! This was just an unusual accident, not a common experience, so don't be afraid to get in the cage! Watching them, seeing them up close (not THAT close!) is a privilege few people receive.

Lisa

Saturday 29th of March 2014

Diving with you is the best! I love your adventurous side and your love of all animals, both in and out of the sea! Your love for all things is contagious. Thanks for introducing me to the sea! It is a whole new world.

Tam Warner Minton

Saturday 29th of March 2014

Thank you! That is so lovely to hear, that my love of animals and the sea is contagious...that is the ultimate compliment. Yes, we know more about space than we do our wonderful oceans!

Susan Schweikert

Friday 28th of March 2014

Tammie, That scary picture needs to be on the blog too!!! S

Tam Warner Minton

Saturday 29th of March 2014

You've seen it, S!

Jennifer Steck

Friday 28th of March 2014

You are an inspiration, Tam. I've always been fascinated by sharks and hope to follow in your footsteps one day. BRAVO!!

Tam Warner Minton

Friday 28th of March 2014

Thanks Jennifer! Sharks are fascinating...and so NECESSARY. We are losing them too quickly, I just spent 8 days diving Myanmar and thailand and did not see even ONE. The protection of these animals is crucial. and....they are fun and fascinating to dive with!

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