An Encounter with a Six-Gill Shark

by Dan Killam

The day was gorgeous, and the water was at a perfect temperature. As I followed Professor Ginsburg through the kelp forest, appreciating my newfound skills in maintaining neutral buoyancy, I suddenly saw a long, silver object appear and disappear between two stands of kelp. I realized excitedly that we had the privilege of swimming with a 5-foot-long shark, and when Dr. Ginsburg animatedly motioned for our group to follow it, I didn’t hesitate. Another glimpse of the shark immediately followed, this time headed back around us, barreling through the water like a missile. I realized that this magnificent creature, far from treating us as a predatory threat, was actually just as interested in us as we were in him. To him, we were simply three strange black fish, with 4 long fins apiece and with all sorts of strange tentacles emerging from our mouths. We began to wonder if he was observing us or sizing us up as a refreshing snack, and started to swim back towards the safety of the dock, but not before seeing our new companion/diner 2 more times, circling us.

We later learned that it was a six-gill shark, extremely uncommon in shallow waters and mostly harmless to humans, but the experience of sharing an environment with such a powerful, impressive creature made me realize the immense privilege that we had been given, learning to dive in a pristine marine preserve. In this environment, I was merely a participant in the ecosystem rather than a disturbance. In developed, controlled Los Angeles, there aren’t many opportunities to witness the power of nature. Diving with this magnificent creature was like living in a nature documentary, except as a participant rather than an observer. As I complete the 25 dives needed to be certified as a scientific diver, I hope to hone my skills until diving becomes as natural as swimming. Only at that point will the really exciting discoveries begin.

This entry was posted in Catalina Island. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s