|Marineland, Florida, 2011|
|Marineland back in 1963|
Just south of St. Augustine Florida is Marineland, built in 1938 it was Florida's first marine park and boasts the worlds first oceanarium.
The family and I took a day trip to Marineland beach, a spectacular and surprisingly secluded spot on Florida's crowded east coast, the following event caused the me to change my ocean going habits...
The four of us are playing in the shallow surf about knee deep, the water is very clear almost crystal and my oldest son wants to swim out to the sandbar.
The sandbar is roughly 125 yards from shore and is visible from the beach, many people swim out there and relax for a while before the tide changes. This is something we have done many many times in the past without hesitation, we are all strong swimmers and both my children have grown up in the water and will probably grow gills someday but after this experience we will never do it again. We all made the swim and are now standing on the sandbar, it is quite unique and ethereal to be that far out and standing ankle deep in the ocean, after 10 minutes we decided to head back.
We start swimming in a line with my wife and I on the outside and the boys in the middle, about 30 seconds after we departed the sandbar my life flashed before my eyes.
I looked behind me and saw a shark!!!!
How big you ask? well lets just say if sharky wanted to lie down on your sofa he would not fit, that according to the flash measurement I guessed at while trying to beat the best time of Michael Phelps with a child under one arm. I grabbed one son and my wife grabbed the other, without trying to alarm them I screamed for everyone to move and move fast, swimming with a child in one arm while a shark is behind you is akin to walking on quicksand the more I vehemently paddled the more I seemed to be stationary. My wife not doing any better I waited for contact with the shark feeling at any moment that one of us would be the next statistic on the shark attack file for the year.
We finally made it back to the welcoming shore, the panic still fresh it infused me to the core and I could have stopped breathing right there and then. I felt sadness that I put my family in such jeopardy, swimming out to the sandbar is a right of passage down here and we were one of a dozen or more people out there the shark just happened to tail us and not the others.
That evening after a few glasses of calm down juice aka Bunnahabhain I researched the habits of Florida sharks and found that some sharks patrol the areas between the sandbar and the shore for bait fish. One of the suspects was the Sand bar shark, how apropos. Other suspects were the hammerhead, the blacktip, and most frighteningly the bull shark an ultra aggressive killer type shark up there in status with the great white.
So I put that on the list of things not to do again, especially with children. Even yesterday I saw families camped out on the sandbar about the same distance that we had the encounter. I did mention the experience to some of them and they waived me off as some kook. Good luck.
My whole life did not flash in front of my eyes but I did see things that have happened in the past, that phenomenon surely is a strange one.
Somewhere out in the deep blue sea a shark is telling a tale of the day he almost caught a Sausage in his kitchen, not today sharky....not today.
|A killer among us...the bull shark.|