By Carl Roessler
Australia’s mid-Winter is the perfect time to arrive, for there are always several big, hungry sharks in the bay at the North Neptune Islands preying on baby sea lions born the prior November.
Some of our favorite sharks were back this year. Jonny and Kal were huge and intimidating. However, this year’s real stars were some large, aggressive female white sharks such as Double Scoop, Tinker and especially Rusty. Curly Boy also delivered some heady moments in glorious weather and water conditions.
This cruise very much reminded me of the Good Old Days, when each expedition had several big sharks eager to perform. In this case, the large females had homicide on their minds and didn’t care if anyone knew it. Rusty, the most spectacular example, would hang back perhaps 30 feet beneath the surface and behind us as if she had no interest in eating any thing.
When a fresh bait hit the surface, however, Rusty would accelerate like a Polaris missile and launch at the bait with a ferocity I’ve seldom seen. For any diver in the water, such an attack would have been unstoppable, lethal, brief and final. This shark was what I envisioned as a natural born killer, throwing all caution to the winds with each fresh charge.
With such speed and power, Rusty was one of the most successful sharks of the year for getting the baits before crew members could pull them out of her way.
As a warm-hearted sidelight to all the mayhem, a seven-month-old baby sea lion appeared beneath the stern platform where we were feeding the sharks one day. Soon she had observed us long enough to climb out of the water and sit on top of our cage.
Minutes later, she was looking over the side to watch the passing sharks as if she owned the cage, and the divers and crew were her employees. She seemed to internalize everything she saw and learn from it like lightning—a handy skill when your life is lived out in these waters.
One thing led to another, and we began to find her hanging upside down inside the cages with us, watching us film the sharks outside as if she were just one of the team.
After three and a half hours she clearly became hungry; she would dart out and try to take a bite out of the hanging baits between shark attacks, which can shorten one’s career considerably.
Finally, deciding she could wait no longer, she watched two sharks crass in front of our cage, raced out between their disappearing tails and raced for home.
Crew members sitting atop our boat saw her make it to shore and climb out on the rocks. We all cheered for her. What a kid! Imagine the tales she had to tell the herd!
After well over thirty years, this expedition with Rodney and Andrew Fox still produces thrills beyond any other I have ever taken.
Oh—and, as you see, the digital camera and housing worked just fine!
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