18 September, 2014    #16

Smooth As Silk

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Snorkeling for Grouper and Snapper, we weightlessly navigate the coral canyons off of Key West.  Small, brightly colored reef fish dart for safety as our fins fight surface swells in search of our prey.


Never totally ignoring the pack of silver barracuda encircling us, we simply view them as spineless spectators in a vast, inverted underwater stadium, as we swim across the field-of-play.  An abrupt charge with a spear gun ends intermittent on-field curiosity - they always retreat back to the safety of the spectator pack.


We are on the edge of the reef which plunges into a cold, dark blue abyss.  Never venturing out there, we hug the safety of the reef, just like the fish. The Blue is an almost lifeless void, yet demanding our attention with imagined anxiety of what might appear from down below.


After missing several spear shots, the fish have finally figured out our intentions; the hunt is over as our prey take defensive positions within the safety of the coral.  Suddenly, detecting a disturbance in the Blue, I scan the open ocean for any slight movement.  Approaching at high speed, three Lemon Sharks fly by in perfect Blue Angel formation.  Intuitively, we snap like rubber bands into a sea urchin posture with spears pointing outward.  Realizing that there is no escape without becoming live bait, we wait.


Approaching for their second flyby, this time within inches, I instinctively push hard against the ten foot body with my free hand.  Startled by physical contact, they slip back into the Blue to reassess my aggression.


With our escape now at hand, we frantically dart away, splashing into the safety of our boat.


Being the hunted rather than the hunter is a life changing experience.  No panic, just three kids with instincts summoned from ancestral DNA.  I can still feel the silky smoothness of that shark’s powerful body as it slid beneath my outstretched hand, back into the Blue.


Mike Kohut, President, DDMS




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