Red Sea Stories, aka Shark Tales
I realized I hadn’t posted any teasers from my memoir lately, so thought I would throw in a piece of one of my favorite chapters – Red Sea Stories.
My first real view of a shark was when my dad came home from a fishing trip with an Arab buddy from work. In his hands were two small reef sharks about 2-3 feet long. They didn’t look that menacing to me until he cut their heads off and only THEN when he was sure they were really totally dead, he pried open their mouths and showed all the teeth. Still, they were small and not that scary. (Are we ever scared of ANYTHING when we are kids?)
So a few weeks later when a friend offered to show a couple of us teens how to scuba dive, we didn’t have a fear in our minds of sharks or anything else that may be in the deep. We left out of the port of Jeddah near the Souk, not by The Creek as we had assumed. It took no time at all for the 4 of us on the boat to reach a reef not too far from shore and not far north of Jeddah. After extremely brief instructions (this is your BC, breathe in here, stay with someone at all times) we suited up. No dive suits, just scuba tanks over our swimsuits, regulator, masks, fins and snorkels. I’m sure now that the instructions we were given were MUCH more intense and responsible than I let on here, I just don’t remember it! Any way, I do remember that we were told to watch out for sharks. “Don’t let them swim around you in a circle, keep your back close to the reef, and if they get in too close; a sharp fist to the nose will drive them off. Normally, a shark won‘t attack you unless they can swim all the way around you.”
Yea, right. Shark 101. I never found out if he was right, and I am sure I don’t want to know.
So, we jumped in anyway. We swam for about 15 minutes, never really going down more than 25 feet or so. We could see that the reef wall dropped off to seemingly bottomless depths, but we had been warned not to split up and not go down too deep yet until we had more practice. Then we saw the sharks. They were below us, about 6 of them. And bigger than the ones my dad had brought home. Although water distorts and magnifies the size of things, I would venture to guess none of these sharks was less than 5 feet long. They were gray with lighter or white bellies and swam with their mouths partly open to show a dazzling display of teeth. Now these were scary and fierce looking. It’s probably a good thing the movie, “Jaws” had yet to make its debut or we would have been scared out of our gourds at these magnificent beasts of the deep. The sharks were swimming around and about a shelf of water about 40 feet deep with various brain corals, clams and such and a sandy bottom about 5 feet wide (the shelf). Beyond this small shelf was the drop off, which was more than 100 feet deep. Staying together, we kept our backs to the reef, swam along and watched the sharks for a few minutes. After about 5 minutes, they swam away and disappeared over the shelf into deeper water. They had shown no interest in us at all and we got a view not many kids get to see!
I dove again with scuba tanks a few more times that summer, but never again saw the sharks. But we knew they were there.