Blue Water Hunting and Freediving - Digital Version 1 - Page 50

bluewater hunting and freediving
You know you have to be wary of a beast that eats several of its litter mates — in the womb ! Tiger sharks , found in tropical and subtropical waters , are respected by bluewater divers because of their man-eating reputation , their immense size and their stealth .
When we first proposed the idea of spearfishing for the giant tuna around the Mexican Rivillagigedo Archipelago , experienced sportfishing boat captains told us it was impossible . Tiger sharks , they said , would eat us . They based their theory on sightings of these huge fish attacking angled fish next to their boats . In those waters it is not uncommon for fishermen to reel in the head of a 200-to 300-pound tuna with a semicircular wound behind the gills , where the body should be .
Undaunted we went anyway , and our first trips were successful . However , on one trip several years later , I discovered a 14-foot tiger at my fin-tips , on the surface . I was in my hunting mode , and I thought my eyes were covering the surrounding area well , looking above , below and side to side . Apparently , I missed this huge animal , which stealthily approached me from my blind spot — the area directly behind me on the surface . When I finally spotted it there , I practically leaped out of my skin . The shark , frightened by my convulsion , shuddered too , and then swam off . As it swam by , I estimated that two of me could have fit easily in its stomach .
It is patently dangerous to make generalizations about shark behavior because there is always the unpredictable individual or circumstance , as Australian Ray Short can attest . With this caveat aside , most tiger sharks do appear to behave consistently . Having been implicated in shark attacks on surfers in the Hawaiian Islands , they are considered to be the most dangerous in shallow , dirty water . In deeper water the tiger , unlike the white shark , generally circles its prey and “ thinks about it for a while ” before attacking . Hopefully , this interlude before an attack , will allow you enough time to exit the water .
Australian “ spearo ” Greg Pickering has had plenty of experience with tiger sharks . He explains that tigers , members of the requiem shark family , are found virtually everywhere in Northern Australia , from close to shore in mangroves , around coral reefs and estuaries , to the deeper offshore waters . Much more common than white sharks , they are veritable garbage cans , frequenting prawn trawlers as they sort their catch .
“ They have a habit of turning up without the diver knowing that they are present ,” Greg says . “ Often quite docile , they do not race around like bronze whalers . However , there are exceptions . They can move quickly when necessary and behave in an aggressive manner . While they have attacked floats , bitten spears and rushed divers , they mostly cruise around on the bottom eating diver ’ s burley ( chum ).
“ Their habits seem to vary with the water visibility , boldly circling closer to divers at the edge of the visibility in dirty water , but becoming more wary in clean water .” Greg contends that tigers can be tolerated if they remain on the bottom , but when they start coming up toward the diver , they cannot be trusted .
Many close encounters with tiger sharks have made Greg and his friends particularly wary . In one instance Greg temporarily attached his float line to his weight belt and dove to 40 feet . A surface-swimming tiger shark grabbed the fish strung to his float and as it swam off with them , dragged an attached Greg backward . Another seized his fish , floating just four feet behind him — too close to get his gun between the shark and himself . Yet another , attempting to eat Greg ’ s just-speared fish , chomped his spearshaft instead . When this big shark returned , Greg ’ s buddy , accomplished diver Barry Paxman , hit it squarely in the head with a powerhead . The shark , appearing dead , settled to the bottom . It “ revived ” an hour later and swam off .
Once a big tiger swam off with a 6-foot bronze whaler shark the divers were forced to kill in self defense . Grabbing the whaler by the back , it picked it off the bottom and brought it to the