Would You Have a Look at Tom Carroll with This Big Tiger Shark

10 Aug 2018 7

Nick Carroll

Senior Writer

Photo: Juan Oliphant/OneOcean

Photo: Juan Oliphant/OneOcean

COASTALWATCH | NICK CARROLL

Moana and Me

Yesterday around three miles off Haleiwa, guided by OneOcean Diving’s Ocean Ramsay and Juan Oliphant, Tom Carroll and his partner Mary Graham went for a shark dive. The dive – guided yet essentially unprotected – has become a ritual on Hawaii visits for Carroll, who is fascinated with the big animals. For OneOcean, it’s a business, but a business connected with their own deep concerns around ocean wildlife. By their own account Ramsay and Oliphant and their team want people to come to grips with the fleshly reality of sharks: the fact that they aren’t just figments of the unconscious, or mega-fear objects, but real functioning creatures, whose lives don’t necessarily include a ravening desire to eat human beings.

On this morning, TC, Mary and the OneOcean team pulled up at the dive spot, and the team began rapping on the boat hull — a signal that seems to attract the area’s regular population of Galapagos and sandbar sharks. (No bait is used by the team.)

Instead, there was 10 minutes or so of empty water. Then looming up next to the boat came a large tiger shark. Followed by another. And another.

“I thought you’re kidding, I’m not getting in the water with those things,” reports TC. Instead, the pair watched while the crew talked them through the sharks’ behaviour, and eventually moved Tom quietly off the boat and in.

The shark you can see in this pic has been named Moana by the OneOcean crew. She’s a big female who hasn’t been seen for around three years by the team. She’s also very pregnant. Moana moved very calmly and smoothly around the boat, allowing TC to make physical contact with her on occasion. Says Tom: “The skin didn’t have the sandpapery feel of the other sharks, it felt smoother and seemed to be sliding around on top of a deeper muscle layer.”

The other two tigers were a big male, similarly quite calm but not quite as willing to approach the humans, and a younger frisky male who moved and turned quickly. The lesser sharks stayed down deep, well away from the surface, except for an old blind Galapagos who blundered up at one point, clearly hoping for some food. (It scored a chunk of old tuna thanks to Ramsay, who jumped in and passed over the fish while the tigers continued to move past, seemingly unconcerned.)

After an hour or so the young male took off, but the others stuck around. All up Tom spent around two hours in the water with them. By that night, he was still quietly buzzing. “I’d never do something like that without (the OneOcean team),” he says. “Every time I do, I learn a bit more.”

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