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are around. There's a risk they might mistake you for a seal and take a bite . I decided
to abort the dive and we returned to the rubber boat.
The other divers joined us, evidently spooked by the sharks. The young woman
was particularly unnerved. The water was no more than waste deep and she stood
beside the boat, struggling to undo a strap.
Without warning, a baby shark appeared and attacked her . The small creature was
so slim it was almost snakelike. I grabbed its tail, whirled it over my head and hurled it
away. Moments later the little shark was back, gnawing at the woman's leg. This time
I wasn't taking any chances. I sliced off its head with my dive knife and dumped the
pieces in the boat.
By now we were in a state of considerable apprehension. There were sharks all
around us and they were agitated. As divemaster I had to remain calm and collected.
I did my best. There was room in the boat for six people and there were eight of us. I
called for a volunteer and we hung onto a rope at the rear while the woman's husband
skippered the boat back. In my brightly coloured wetsuit, I felt like a lure on a fishing
If I'd had time to think I would have done things differently. Scuba tanks float. They
could have been trailed behind the boat. There would then have been room for all of
us on board.
19 Narrow escape
Sod's Law doesn't reign supreme. It has a rival and it goes something like this:
You can't lose 'em all ... sometimes you gotta win.
When I worked in the diving industry I lived in Townsville which is conveniently
situated for trips to the Great Barrier Reef. The weather is fairly predictable. Most of
the time it is fit for diving. When it's not, a tropical cyclone (hurricane) is probably
brewing and it's too dangerous to go to sea. You rarely get those in-between days
when you can't be sure whether to stay out or return to port ... but they do happen.
On one memorable trip the weather was totally unpredictable. Squalls were going
through. By good chance, I had some highly professional guys with me. They were
commercial divers on leave from the North Sea oil rigs and we were anxious to give
them a good time. They were the sort of guys who can dive under conditions that
would be unacceptable for sports divers.
A couple of squalls interrupted diving during the day and the shipping forecast was
still sending out warnings when night fell. The commercial divers had brought
expensive cameras with them and were keen for a night dive. I consulted the skipper
and we decided it would be safe for them but the other divers should remain on board.
There was a strong current and we devised a safety plan, which involved a line with
a buoy on the end. We would make our way down it to the dive site and pull ourselves
back at the end of the dive.
All went according to plan. We reached the dive site and anchored the buoy. I was
learning a lot from the professionals. They knew how to get things right and they were
highly disciplined. No one moved far. Everyone stayed together, taking photographs
and checking their dive instruments.
Then a squall came through. It arrived without warning and the buoy danced madly
above our heads. Suddenly, the line tightened and the buoy was dragged below the
surface. It stretched to breaking point and the commercial divers were quick to act.