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Scuba Diving in Catalina Island, California, USA
Dive Site: Blue Shark Dive
Location: 15 miles from Avalon Harbour
Description: Shark dive
Depth: 0 - 10 metres (0 - 30 feet)
Visibility: 30 metres (100 feet)
After an early start we headed from Avalon harbour on the King Neptune 15 miles out into channel where we hoped sharks would be waiting for us in the deep blue clear water. The crew started chopping up mackerel making a fish-oil mixture. When in position the boats engines were shut off and we drifted with the current over the flat blue sea chumming the delicious fishy mix into the water to entice the hungry sharks. The cage (not that it got used) was then dropped in and positioned 5m out to one side of the boat in 3m of water. A few divers jumped in straight away to check it out, but nothing had arrived yet. Only a few teeny mackerel drifted past, which was better than nothing and allowed them to practise their photography before the big fish made a show.
As I looked out to the ocean from the boat, I was so excited that I imagined I saw a dorsal fin slice though the surface. After four hours of being totally memorised by the serene blue sea it was time to get wet. My buddy and I kitted up and we were extremely positive our female charm would bring in the sharks. And sure enough just seconds before we were in someone yelped 'SHARK' .. I jumped in leaving behind mayhem on the boat as kit flew around in the panic to get ready. I descended with bugling eyes where I first saw the shark at 2m. I kept on descending and the shark swam right up to me at about 6m. To be honest I was shocked at first, realising that it was not a blue shark but in fact it was a short fin mako. I wasn't expecting her to turn up, at least not straight away!
There were now around 6 of us in the water with her and she ruled. She sharply swam around us with speed and grace. She approached right up close and took a few good bites out of the mackerel head that hung from cage, as well as having a nibble of some tasty fins and even nose butting a camera dome. This was a real experience of an apex ocean predator and we were witnessing her ability to successfully hunt and find food firsthand. She wasn't scared of us, instead she was beautifully inquisitive - however she did come a bit too close to me for my liking! It was excellent though and the photographers managed to snap some awesome shots.
A baby blue shark did visit the arena for a brief moment and afterwards we decided that there were definitely more blue sharks down there somewhere but the mako's presence had kept them at bay. We were incredibly lucky to dive with this mako and have her stay with us for a few hours as usually the mako is shy and just stays with divers for a short while and keeps a distance.
I will never forget this feisty mako and hope to dive with another again one day. The dive was exhilarating and also interesting. She had a little silver fish follow her around and trails of parasites were stuck onto her dorsal fin. Her sharp teeth and black eye were transfixing to watch. I wanted to know where she had come from, what she thought of us and where the blue sharks were. Left overwhelmed at the end of the day and even more fascinated by sharks, the cold Pacifico with lime went down plentifully incredibly well that evening! It had been an unforgettable and successful day.
This was not a feeding frenzy dive, only a fish head hung off the cage and the mako wasn't fed by any divers. I have dubious views and don't tend to agree with actual sharks feeds but I believe this experience was carried out in a more then acceptable way. However to learn more about sharks, understand their behaviour and study them human interaction is an important part in educating and beginning to find ways to preserve these unique creature.
Carina Hall, PADI Divemaster
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