My Son Charlie Sees his First Great White Shark Underwater

Location: Lighthouse Bay, Isla Guadalupe, off the coast of Mexico

Comments: Today is our last day of cage diving with the great white sharks at Guadalupe Island on this trip and the sightings have continued to be very good. We saw at least five different animals and the sightings were reasonably consistent all day long. It has been a very interesting season so far. The behaviour and number of sharks that the boys and Captain Dave reported on our first two trips of the season were quite spectacular. They tell me that today was the quietest day of the season so far. This is my third year of running white shark trips at Guadalupe and I thought quite the opposite – that today’s sightings were some of the best that I have seen here! Darn, I wish I had been on the first two trips when the shark sightings were extraordinary. It will be interesting to see what happens with the sharks next week.

Our son Charlie turned five years old two weeks ago and it understandably took him a bit longer than the older kids to get used to cage diving. There was absolutely no pressure from us for him to get in the cages. Quite the opposite in fact – Charlie is the one who was pushing hard to try “scuba diving.” So it’s been a question of getting Charlie comfortable at the top of the ladder leading into a cage and then taking it one rung at a time. By the time he made it to the bottom of the cage with Mary Anne yesterday, the sharks had packed up for the day and he didn’t see any. Last night Charlie told us “I hope I see great whites tomorrow because it’s the last day before we have to go home.” It was my turn to dive with him today. We took it really slow and he hung on to my neck as we slowly worked our way down the ladder. I got to practice my free diving skills for lack of a spare regulator at first and ended up needing to stay down a surprisingly long time on occasion!

We taught all the kids hand signals and Charlie was so cute when he stuck his tiny little thumb up to indicate that he wanted to go back to the surface. We surfaced quite a few times – generally to a comment from Charlie such as “did you see the propeller on the back of the Nautilus??”, “did you see that fish?”, “did you see the rudder thing on the back of the Nautilus?” After half an hour, we finally made it to the bottom. Charlie looked just amazing standing there on the bottom of the cage, waist high to me, dressed in his little wetsuit, hood, booties, mask and regulator, calmly surveying his surroundings and flashing me an OK sign. As a concerned parent, scuba instructor and dive boat captain, I had all sorts of thoughts running through my head such as Charlie losing his regulator, or sucking water in through his reg, or flooding his mask (although we did teach all the kids how to clear their masks) or panicking. Instead he just stood at the edge of the cage, looking out through the bars, with a nice easy pace of breathing as evidenced by the regular and even stream of bubbles exhausting from his regulator.

AND THEN WE SAW OUR FIRST SHARK! Yeah!!! I was so happy for Charlie. I pointed it out to him and he stayed amazingly cool and just intently watched it swim past. He then spotted the next shark 10 minutes later and calmly walked over to the other side of the cage to watch it swim away. And then the next one and next one. I think we had 10 shark sightings with Charlie spotting 9 of them.

Once the different camera crews realized what was happening, they all jumped in the water and Charlie was soon surrounded by large housed high-def cameras shooting his every move. He was very good-natured about it although he had to duck underneath one of the cameras to continue watching a shark swim past. After half an hour on the bottom in 70˚F water, I signalled to Charlie that we had to go up. He shook his head with an emphatic “NO” and signalled that he was ok. It was so cute especially with the cameras rolling! Same thing at 45 minutes. At 60 minutes I was getting quite concerned about Charlie becoming chilled and finally took him to the surface. He was SO excited when he broke surface and one very, very happy kid.

His comments??  “One of those sharks sure was fat,” “one of those sharks was growling at us just like a dog,” “sharks sure are cool!” My question to Charlie: “Were the sharks scary?” Charlie: “Not at all.” Well done Charlie! We were all immensely proud of him and the other kids and can only guess at what they will be dreaming of tonight.

–Captain Mike


Weather: Clear, air temperature high 70’s, 5 – 10 knot northwest winds, calm seas.

Water: Water visibility 100 feet plus and it’s usual deep blue colour, a water temperature of 70˚F

By Nautilus Staff

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