WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE SMACKED BY FIGHTING SHARKS
Two dozen sharks swirl in as the crew lowers a ball of frozen fish chunks. Yap’s warm waters blur its edges, triggering flares of blood, which look greenish-black 40 feet down.
With current kicking, the bait — and us divers — remain tethered. I bob on my reef hook’s 6-foot cord like a balloon.
Northwest Yap attracts reef sharks. Lean and scarred, they scythe toward the chumsicle. I’ve never seen sharks this beat up. They look like they’ve been rumbling with the Jets daily — in a knife-fight way, not a dance-battle one.
Sure enough, they start squabbling. Grays swim in figure-eight patterns, snouts up. Some charge each other. For one particular pair, when neither backs down, the teeth come out.
The two sharks lock together, thrashing. Time slows as they tumble toward me. I dart sideways, but the current straightens the reef hook’s line, snapping me back into their path. I exhale and cower over the coral. Then ... wham!
My head snaps back as the sharks smack into my face: a knot of writhing, biting fury. The water softens the blow, so it feels like getting socked in a pillow fight — except for the fear factor. What if the sharks turn on me? I’m grateful when they stay focused on each other.
I later learn baited grays tend to enter a frenzied-mob feeding pattern. Why are we inciting wild creatures to savage each other? I vow to avoid shark dives.
But then I hear of the carefully choreographed dives in Beqa, Fiji, where operators chum several areas so sharks don’t have to compete. Instead, they float around, grabbing food almost lazily. Excess chum falls to the ocean floor, encouraging coral formations.
So maybe these dives can be done right. But next time, I’m keeping my nose out of it.