Friday, January 09, 2009

Six metre monster shark menaces Perth

Yeah, it's the sort of headline that drags you in doesn't it? In a sense it's true - there probably is a six metre white pointer somewhere off the WA coast, maybe closer to Antarctica than Cottesloe Beach, but by god the bugger's out there... waiting for its chance to hit our shores, gnashing its teeth and snapping surf skis in half like, well, like... surf skis.

These monsters live in our heads and I dare any one of you to make the claim that you never ever think - just for a fraction of a second - that there might be a big Noah's Ark with your name on it just about to burst through the next wave.

Like most gen-Xers and probably most baby boomers, I live by a creed of 'never turn your back to the sea'. It's in those moments, no matter how brief, that something built like a combi van with dead black eyes and a mouth like a cave filled with razor sharp stallectites, will suddenly appear from the 'dark patch'.

You know the dark patch? It's that bit where you can no longer see the sandy bottom. That bit that you glimpse when you open your eyes under water only to see multitudes of shifty shadows darting your way. I steer clear of the dark water. I fancy that if that hungry behemoth crosses from dark to light, I'll at least have a couple of seconds on my side to churn my way to shore.

I've seen a shark or two in my life. I've even caught two small bronze whalers and eaten the proceeds, so I know there are family out there with a reason to want me chewed on.

In one trip to Esperance alone I saw the mo-fo of all great white fins breach the foreshore surface and cruise silently between me and about a dozen surfers before sliding under again. I didn't say a word.

The next day we watched two gents of southern European experience frolicking with a school of dolphins in a remote bay. "Come and see the dolphin - is swimming with us yes?" It was quite a sight to see how quickly two men can exit the water when they're told the dolphins are actually tiger sharks feeding on salmon. One of them kept swimming right up the slope of the granite rocks leading down to the bay. Blood everywhere!

But we all let our guards down at times, despite the clear and present danger that Jaws taught us was lurking EVERYWHERE.

I'll never forget the day I was surfing at Cottesloe, on the Leighton side of the groin (meant to throw in a testicular shrinkage pun here, but forgot - thanks for pointing out my 'groyne problems '') very late in the day. My mate had gone in about 10 minutes earlier, but I just wanted to catch one more wave.

The water was dark and almost oily with a thick layer of weed that pulled at your legs and arms as you paddled. The light was almost gone, so I sat up on the board and swung around to the horizon to see if any small sets were coming through.

It was then that I heard a splash to one side. A loud slap on the surface.

I whipped around and could see that something had broken through the weed about a metre away. Too close, no matter what it was. I lay flat on the deck and reached in to start paddling.

Suddenly a black mass burst through the weed about three feet from my face.

It was a seal. A damned seal, that had my heart punching its way out of my wetsuit.

Jaws had been the first blow to my life as a part-time surfer and that seal was without doubt the mortal wound. I could never quite relax after that and if you can't relax while you're having a surf, then what is the point I ask?

These days I still love a dip in the briny and I know that my chances of being shark chum are very, very slim, but there's no escaping those nasty thoughts. And who could blame me right now with the sort of headlines and constant parade of sharkies we see in the media every second day?

And I know you're all suckers for a good shark tale, because in the past three weeks I must have had over 600 hits to this site thanks to Google searches on 'shark sightings in Perth'.

So now that you're here, tell me why? What is it about those beasties from the deep that float, ahem (sink) your boat? For now I'll keep one eye on the latest happenings and the other on the sea [cue Jaws soundtrack here...]



Anonymous said...

Three more spotted this afternoon!

Anonymous said...

is the Leighton "groin" on the left hand side or the right hand side of your dangly bit?


Cookster said...

Aha, very perceptive! I meant to throw a line in there about testicular shrinkage, but forgot... now I'll have to edit :-)

Anonymous said...

Oh, now I feel cheap. Of course it was the thrill of having diced with death that led me to your blog, I mean just weeks before (a tiny margin where sharks are concerned, as we know)I had been swimming daily at Cottesloe...oh stupid pom, had I but known how real the danger!