PORT ARTHUR —
Someone recently asked me to recount my best ever wildlife encounter. Since I am constantly seeking them out, they are frequent but it did not take long to narrow it down to one.
Here it goes…
A cold chill ran down my spine as I entered the Pacific Ocean. I may have told myself otherwise, but that chill had nothing to do with the 56-degree water temperature. Actually, it had everything to do with what dwelt in that water.
As I documented on these pages in 2002, I was in the Farallon Islands, located off the coast of San Francisco, California. That area hosts more great white sharks than any other in North America and they are huge.
The great whites at the Farallons are in fact the largest in the world, with specimens generally ranging from 15 to 18 feet in length. Although I was in the safety of a well-crafted steel cage, I did not feel very comfortable as I gazed into the murky waters. I was frightened, but also more excited than at any other time in my life.
After all, I have longed to encounter great whites since seeing a Jacque Cousteau television special many years ago. Venturing into their lair was a dream come true.
Helping make this dream come true was Golden Gate Expeditions, a diving outfitter based in Alameda, California. I learned of their great white expeditions in early 2002, and immediately booked a trip for September. Back in the cage, the water around me was turbid with visibility no more than 30 feet. If a shark showed itself, it would be right on me before I knew it. Things were intense. Forget skydiving, bungee jumping, and other “extreme” sports.
They have nothing on entering the backyard of the largest predatory shark in the world. After 30 minutes in the cage, I got out to warm up and grab a bite to eat. Little did I know the most amazing creature I have ever seen would soon take a bite of its own.