Tuesday, January 25, 2011

adventures with mama graham part 6

Some of you may have received this email a few-okay, 7- years ago while I was "studying" in the Caribbean. I wanted to share it with you again, because I thought of it as I took Graham to the Oceanarium in Lisbon.

It was a lovely, sunny day on the campus of The School for Field Studies located on South Caicos Island in the middle of the Caribbean.  There was much work to be done, but I just couldn't stand to be in front of a computer any longer.  I just had to go out and play in the water...

I convinced my friend, Nick, to come out in a kayak with me to the middle of theocean.  When I say middle of the ocean, I do mean the middle of nowhere.   It took some persuading, but he agreed.  We grabbed the two-person kayak and we were on our way! As we splashed over the giant waves in the crystal clear ocean, we discussed his habit of smoking weed and how he wanted to quit.  We were pretending that I was his psychologist since I told him that I want to open a psychology clinic on a lake where my clients and I can take out kayaks and talk.  He thought I should start practicing now, I guess.  So, he asked me for advice and I did what I could to help him. About half way through the kayak ride, we realized that we had forgotten to sign out and we had also forgotten to take a flag so boaters could see us.  So, we joked about the fact that if we died, nobody would know. They would just assume we were on the campus somewhere since our names were not on the "out" side of the board.

Finally, we reached our destination of the mooring ball that is located in a little spot we call "Shark Alley."  This is where we tied up our kayak, strapped on our snorkeling gear, and jumped in the refreshing water.  It was really deep, but we could see the bottom.  We noticed that at a certain point, there was nolonger a bottom.  The drop off!  I just couldn't resist swimming right over it. I felt so free knowing that the bottom of the ocean was a million miles below me.  All I could see were the rays from the sun shining through the deep blue water.  I was just having a hay day swimming around when I noticed that Nick was not joining me. 

"No way," he said, "that shit scares me!"  

"Oh, Nick," I teased, "what is there to be afraid of?  This is great!"  

"Well, what if a big shark just comes out of nowhere?" he asked.  

"Whatever," I said and continued to go about my merry way.  

Eventually, he started to swim back to where he could see the bottom.  I felt that I should probably not stray too far from him, so I began my swim toward him... I wasn't quite ready to leave the endless blue water, so I turned around to get one more look and what I saw will forever be imprinted on my mind.  

A shark.  

A big, huge, scary shark about 5 feet away from my face. 

His face was staring and swimming right at mine.  Our eyes met and he had a big smile that seemed to say "I'm going to eat you!"  Right then, I took a deep breath and I panicked.  I cannot remember a time in my life where I have been scared to the point of panicking.  I flipped my little flippers as fast as I could in the direction of Nick, screaming to him the whole time.  As I was frantically swimming to him, I was thinking, "I'm trying to out-swim a shark!  Yeah, right!"  Once Nick became aware of the situation, he grabbed my hand and said, "Okay, stop.  We will get through this together."  Apparently, the shark had been following me, and hewas still on my tail.  Nick did not let go of my hand and he continued to watchthe shark.  I couldn't bring myself to turn around and look at it.  I was just too frightened.  Nick told me to just swim slowly in the opposite direction of the shark.  This was where I realized that we were just two young kids in the absolute middle of nowhere and our lives were about to end and nobody would know it.  Yep, my whole life flashed before my eyes, folks.  I'm telling you, I was terrified! Eventually, after what seemed like years, Nick told me the shark swam away and all was clear.  At this point, I found the courage to turn around and look at him swimming away.  He was huge!  He could have murdered the both of us if he had wanted to.  And, he was not alone.  Nope, he had about 3 buddies with him, but they were a safe distance from us, so we just admired them for awhile.  This is when Nick proceeded to tell me that while I was too scared to look, the shark was coming up extremely close to us, then backed away, then came close to us again, then backed away.  I guess he was just checking us out.  Just as a side note for those of you who don't know, this was my very first encounter with a shark.  I had never seen one, not even in an aquarium, until him. Now, I feel very up close and personal to sharks.

Nick and I were both pretty shook up about it, but all we could do was laugh!  We laughed and laughed for quite awile and I said, "Okay, let's get back in thekayak."  "No," he said, "I want to see if we can find a turtle."  "Okay," I agreed since that was the sole purpose of us going to this particular location. We were hoping to find turtles and a plane crash.  We had heard rumors that there was a plane crash out there, but we never saw it.  We also never saw any turtles... 

As soon as I put my face back in the water, I turned to look behind me to makesure there was no shark, and Nick started yelling something.  I tell you what, it scared me half to death!  "Dolphins!" He exclaimed, and pointed to them. Yep, 4 big, and 3 little dolphins swam right beneath me.  They rolled around on the bottom and put on a little show for us.  This was most certainly a grace from the gods, because it immediately calmed me down and I could here a voice saying, "It's going to be okay." 

We swam around some more and then decided to call it a day.  Once we made it back here to the center, we were in no mood to converse with people, so we just chilled on the kayak for another half hour.  Of course, now, every member of the School for Field Studies on South Caicos knows what happened, because we just could not keep that near-death experience inside.  We had to share it. So, now I am sharing it with you.  I will certainly be going to bed tonight thanking God for my life...
Have a wonderful day!

This might lead you to believe that the sharks were the scariest part of our adventure, but you would be wrong. I have absolutely no fear of sharks, and Graham kept insisting that they were "nice" sharks. 

It was the crowds and public transportation that scared me...


  1. Mama Graham - You should know that I read your (very entertaining) shark story to my entire class of sixth graders today. They LOVED it. Don't worry, I read appropriate parts only. This story has always stuck in my mind whenever I think of sharks, the Carribean, or swimming in open water. I hope it always does, because I love thinking of how fortunate we are that you made it safely back to shore! Love to you from Seattle. -Mandy

  2. Big fish love to feed around big drop offs. Your sharks must have been looking for fatter prey. love, your fishin' Father

  3. You know they say that the presence of dolphins reduces the risk of nice sharks turning into mean ones... glad this story turned out so well! :-) -Jenna