Location: Shark Bay, Guadalupe Island, Baja California, Mexico
Dive day 2 of this trip and it was a doozie. The Mexican navy frigate is still anchored on site in Shark Bay and we are getting to know the crew. They are good guys and very interested in the experience of diving with great white sharks. Heck, I think the great whites are even swimming around the back of their boat. The Captain of the frigate extended a very kind invitation to myself and the television crew that I am hosting onboard to go for a 2 hour steam with them to the south end of Guadalupe and then ashore for a tour of the island with the local NGO. I would have LOVED to have gone but it would have been irresponsible of me as Captain of the Nautilus Explorer to be off the ship, onshore 20 miles away, with a full load of guests and crew left behind.
DANG as I’ve never gone for a ride on a navy frigate before and the remote volcanic oceanic island of Guadalupe is always a fascinating place to go ashore. I consoled myself by taking our new submersible cage down for my first dive in it. It is very cool. The lexan deck is fabulous. When you climb down the ladder into the cage and look down, it is completely clear. There doesn’t appear to be anything between you and the bottom 250 feet below. I am definitely thinking about converting our other 4 cages to lexan decks as well!! And as I discovered during my dive, it is pretty amazing when a 15 foot great white shark swims by 1 foot underneath the cage and you have a clear and unobstructed view of him from VERY close up. Submerging the cage is a blast.
I made sure that my divers were ready and signalled ok to the deck crew. And then it was blow the ballast tanks with a big whhooossh and we were on our way down to 40 feet. What an amazing perspective - we could see the 4 other cages above us and the anchor line was clearly visible 125 feet in front of us. Best of all, a nice big 15 foot male great white shark showed up 2 minutes into our dive and started circling us. And circling us. I found it to be a very different experience from watching the sharks from the surface cages as it is obviously far more 3 dimensionable (is that a word??).
The pattern the white shark was following became clear and predictable after a while - he would circle tightly around us for 3 or 4 revolutions and then disappear off the front of the Nautilus. And then reappear in a tight vertical climb towards the boom and transom cages and do a close pass in front of those cages and then gliiiiiiiide down towards us, circle us another 3 or 4 times and then head off to the bow of the Nautilus again. Always more or less the same pattern with just small variations. Fascinating. And boy did this guy swim close to us - we could literally watch the pupil of his eye swivel back and forth as he swam past the cage (when you see a great white shark close up, you realize that their eye is not the black “hole” that it appears at a distance - there is very clearly a brown pupil surrounded by a lighter coloured background).. All too soon, our 40 minutes were up and it was time to put some air in the buoyancy tanks and be hauled up to the surface. What a great splash and my good fortune that Sten and Buzz decided to let me do a second back-to-back dive.
We’re happy to take 2 divers and divemaster in the submersible cage and I decided to ask the navy lieutenant who was onboard the Nautilus if he would like to go for a dive with me. It took him all of 30 seconds to chuck his khaki uniform and jump into the cage in his shorts!!! We blew the ballast tanks and went back down to 40 feet to find that the same shark was still hanging around. Our friend from the Mexican navy had a huge smile on his face and kept on reaching out to try and touch the white shark as it swam past. Today was a very good day and all of our guests are very, very happy.