Fourth Time Is A Charm

Fourth Time Is A Charm

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Diana Nyad is back at it. Tom Sims writes about Diana’s planned fourth attempt of the Florida Strait from Cuba to Florida in the New York Times (see here).

The distance of 103 miles (168K) is not the primary obstacle. Sharks, she can handle and has the right people to keep her safe (see below).

The heat is tolerable and waves are manageable. Currents and the great Gulf Stream can be accounted for, but it is the dreaded box jellies that are her greatest threat.

She will be coming up with solutions for those critters (see the effects on left).

As Diana Nyad was nearing her 19th hour in the deep blue Caribbean Sea, a curious oceanic white tip shark approached Diana’s flotilla. The shark was observed swimming 2-3 meters under the surface with its distinctive white tips reflecting off the canvas of royal blue.

Diana’s safety team spotted the 4-5 foot endangered shark lurking in the crystal clear water well in time for preventative action.

Safety Diver Rob MacDonald of West Palm Beach, Florida sprang immediately to action and dove into the water to protect Diana. Rob showed no hesitation and no worries or regrets. He just professionally moved into a heightened state of alert.

Rob entered the glassy flat doldrums under cloudless skies with free diving fins and a long pole with a soft end to it. He moved as stealthfully as humanly possible, kicking silently and smoothly with his long fins, snorkel put like a periscope, and long pole armed at the ready.

But this was not an inhospitable encounter it was merely an expression of temporary territorial rights. “I don’t want to hurt the sharks. The sharks are our friends,” explained Rob. “We just want to keep the sharks away from Diana. I never saw any aggression from the shark. “

“While I approached the shark, it was so beautiful. I wish I had my camera. The shark never lowered its pectoral fins or arched its back. When a shark does that, it is ready to attack.”

As the shark continued to circle underneath, Rob continued to play offense. As the shark moved, Rob moved. As the shark circled, Rob circled. They mirrored each others movements. As the shark rose to the surface, Rob met him like two heavyweights meeting in mid-rink.

To the disbelief of the crew watching from the four escort boats, Rob dove below the surface like a protective mother bear. He faced the shark eye-to-eye, facing it head-on, never letting the shark out of his sights. The two faced off in the silent arena underwater, each respectful of one another. The shark clearly sensed a formidable denizen in the Caribbean depths. Like two enemy jet pilots swooping at one another in the skies above, Rob and the shark locked onto one another.

The crew held their breath for both combatants were obscured underwater. Cameras were at the ready as they wondered what the next move was going to be.

Mano-a-mano was replaced by mano-a-apex predator.

While the shark’s pectoral fins remained static, Rob made a forward thrust with his soft pole in front like a knight with his lance out. “That (move) was enough to convince it to swim off. I never hit it. He just dove down to 60-70 feet and he headed off in the opposite direction of Diana.”

Safely separated, Diana kept stroking hour by hour, mile by mile, away from the shark and closer to her Xtreme Dream destination in Florida…still at least 30-40 hours of swimming away.

Rob climbed nonchalantly on board to the whoops and hollers of Diana’s crew…and readied his camera for the next encounter.

Copyright © 2012 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones