View Full Version : Swimming with sharks - Great White Adventures rattle the cage in the deep below

10-26-03, 08:49 AM
Swimming with sharks - Great White Adventures rattle the cage in the deep below
Submitted by: MCRD San Diego
Story Identification Number: 20031024181836
Story by Lance Cpl. Jess Levens

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif.(October 24, 2003) -- A metal cage is lowered into the ocean as the water begins to bleed red and rains fish guts from above. A diver in scuba gear gives the thumbs up. The diver turns around only to see a razor blade smile and a pair of cold, blank eyes from a great white shark staring him in his face.

This was the experience of Capt. Max Hopkins, Depot protocol officer. Hopkins set off on a five-day voyage to Isla de Guadalupe, about 200 miles off the coast of San Diego Oct. 15 to spend some quality time with sharks.

Hopkins, a licensed dive instructor, has had a fascination with sharks since childhood. He decided it was time to get up close and personal with the great white. He hooked up with a company called Great White Adventures for the shark-diving experience of a lifetime.

"We left on a 95-foot boat called the Searcher at noon," said Hopkins. "It took about 20 hours to get to the island, and it was on from there."

The crew of 25 arrived at 8 a.m. the following morning and prepared to sink into the depths with one of nature's fiercest predators.

Before going in with the sharks, the group was given an orientation brief, ranging from how to put their gear on to how the air supply works. They were also reminded to be aware of their surroundings and to keep all limbs inside the cage when sharks swam by. They were then instructed on how to get in and out of the cages.

After the period of instruction, it was crunch time, literally. Two cages of four people each, bobbed six feet beneath the surface for about an hour at a time. The divers who were not in the water acted as "shark wranglers," pouring buckets of chum, a concoction of beef blood and fish guts into the water to attract the sharks.

"When I was under water, one of the sharks bit the cage," said Hopkins. "He got mixed up with the chum and did a test bite on the cage. It was awesome. After that, he slapped the cage with his tail."

Once the sharks came to the chum, they were fed hang-bait, which is yellow fin and skipjack tuna by the shark wranglers above. Divers in the cages did not feed the sharks.

"(The wranglers) gave the sharks the hang-bait at first almost as a reward for coming to the area," said Hopkins. "After the first one, we used the hang-bait to lure the sharks to different places. We got one shark to actually come up out of the water to take the bait."

Hopkins spent more than 16 hours underwater during the five-day trip. The dives took place approximately 200 feet out from the shore, where the water was deeper, according to Hopkins.

"The whole trip was incredible," said Hopkins. "Underwater, the sharks were circling everywhere. You can see their eyes looking at you."

Hopkins' group encountered between 6 and 8 sharks on the voyage, ranging from 10 to 15 feet long.

"It was amazing how effortlessly they moved through the water," said Hopkins. "Each shark definitely had their own personality. You could tell by the way they moved."

Hopkins returned to San Diego Sunday and said he was very pleased with the adventure.

"It was a great experience," said Hopkins. "I want to do it again ... It was absolutely fabulous. I think sharks are the most magnificent creatures in the ocean."