A different perspective…


“I can smell them. The seals. Tasty, tasty seals. I just have to wait for the right one to pass overhead. Da….Da! Da…Da! Da..Da! DaDaDaDaDa! ” Bam! I soar through the air…graceful like a dolphin. “No! Come back! I want to eat you…I’m hungry.”  In the background I hear a roar racing towards me. “Better move. Find another seal. I’m so hungry. Always hungry for seals.  The big white noisy thing has moved off. I think they are looking for me. Maybe I should show them how I catch seals. I hear that roar coming closer again. It better not scare away my breakfast. Ah!

Great White Sharks eat Seals

There’s a seal! And… Bam! Got you!” There are strange screaming sounds in the background, not the seal. “Agh! That’s not a seal! Doesn’t taste right. Doesn’t feel right. Don’t know what that was.” The white thing is moving now, around the island. “Where are you going?” I know this white thing, I have seen it before. They have stopped now. I can smell it now, that familiar smell of deliciousness. Let’s go see what tasty treats they have for me. “Oh look! That seal must be injured, it’s not moving. Let me eat it. Wait! Where are you going seal? Whoa! What are these things? They smell weird…wrong. Don’t smell like seals, but kind of look like seals. Let me take a closer look. They seem to be trapped in a big metal box. I think they might need help. Let me see if I can open it.” Nom! Nom! Nom! “I will get you out! Why do they seem so afraid? Strange seal things. I’m not going to hurt you. What are you doing here? Should I be afraid of you? Maybe it is better that you stay in there, blowing your bubbles, pointing strange things at me.  What are you doing here in my domain? Are you here for me? Take a good look. I will do the same. Show you my magnificence. I am a hunting machine, perfectly designed to hunt in this underwater world of mine. Yet I won’t eat you. You don’t seem like food in your metal box. You don’t smell like food. Maybe a taste…but not now. Take one last look. A good look. Remember me. Remember that I chose to leave you be.” I leave, unsure of what to make of these strange seal things in the metal box. Maybe one day I will get a closer look. Or maybe I should be weary, keep my distance, and watch them from afar, until I know…Know that you won’t harm me. I swim off into the dark depths, to wait. Wait until it is time to hunt again.  –  Great White Shark.

Great White Shark swimming past the cage

Cowshark idly swimming on the sea floor around Seal Island. “Shell. Shell. Stone. Crab. Shell.” Bump! “Hey shark, watch where you’re swimming. I’m trying to concentrate here. Shell. Shell. Stone. Shadow. Big shadow, making it all dark. Can’t see the shells.” Clunk! “Shell. Shell. Big metal thing. Shell. Hey, what’s this? A fish head? For me? And there’s snoek inside, my favourite. I should take a bite, yeah. Whoa man, where are going fishy head? I was going to eat you. Come here. Here fishy head. Don’t swim so fast. Up you go, up, up, up. No way man, you’re too high. Gotta grab you and pull you back down. Whoa man, why are you so strong fishy head. I see a light. Oh it’s just the sun. Got you now fishy head. Mmm…yummy snoek. Back down now. Check it out, there’s another fishy head now. I’m going to get you. Up we go. Whoa, what is this thing? There are things in there. I should say hi. Hi there. What’s your name? What you doing in there? Is it fun in there? It looks like fun. Can I come in? No, don’t worry; I’m sure I can fit through this gap. Nope, too small. Maybe this one. Almost. Come on man, let me in. Why are you backing away? Give me a hand. It’s chilled; I will just go try the other side. Oh, hi there! You’re new. What’s your name? Whoa, check you out. You are weird looking? Haha! You look like you feel squishy. Can I touch you? Just come a little closer so I can feel how squishy you are. No! Where are you going? Where did all the things go? Check it out, there’s a fishy head again. Bite it. Grrrr! Oh man, there are more things in the water now. New things. I want to see them. Ok, I’m bored now. Back to the bottom. Shell. Shell. Stone. Shell.” – Sevengill cowshark.

seven gilled cow shark near shark cage

Have you ever wondered what the sharks think and experience when they encounter a cage diving boat? Well I do, all the time. I think about it while I watch them circle the cage, wonder what thoughts go through their minds, how much they comprehend, what their personalities are like. I have written my version of what I think goes through the mind of both a Great White shark and a Sevengill Cowshark on a typical day at Seal Island.  As I watch these majestic animals come and curiously peer into the cage, not always going after the bait, but sometimes just coming over for a look, I wonder what they are thinking.  Do they understand our purpose there? Do they understand that we are there just for them. How much do they know? Do they care? What are we to them? I wonder if they ponder the same things as they cruise through the water on their endless quest to survive. Do they know to be afraid of the strange seal things and the big noisy white thing? Do they know that not all humans are there just to admire them? I like to believe that not all their thoughts are violent ones. I like to think that they are capable of curiosity. I would have so many questions for them if I could ask. I have written my monologues based on the personalities I like to believe each shark species has. All individual sharks have their own personalities, just like people do. I like to think that White sharks are more melancholy and that they are more serious; that they are always trying to maintain their position at the top of the food chain. Great Whites are formidable predators, and I think they know this, so they go about their lives with little fear of other organisms. This would make them quite brazen and almost cocky in their interactions with others. But I also believe them to be very intelligent, resulting in a mindfulness that most people probably wouldn’t give as an attribute to a White shark. Cowsharks seem more chilled to me. Behaviourally they are a very docile animal, which makes me think they have subdued personalities. When they visit the cage during a dive, they are evidently very curious. Often peering into the cage, staring you straight in the eye. It feels like they are looking into your soul. They appear to be thinking as they watch you. Possibly wondering who, and what, we are. Since cowsharks are thought to be nocturnal hunters, it makes me wonder what they would be doing during the day while they wait for the sun to set. I think they would just be cruising along on the bottom where they like to spend their time, just wiling away the hours, observing their environment.

Sevengill Broadnose Cow SHark

For those of you not fortunate enough to have gone out on a cage diving trip with us yet, you might not get all the references in these monologues, so I will explain what is happening. In the first monologue, the Great White shark is at Seal Island doing what White sharks do best during the winter months, breaching. It is hunting seals in the typical fashion of a white shark at the island, where they wait in ambush for a young seal to swim overhead and then launch themselves out the water at high speed as they try to grab the seal. This shark is not successful on its first attempt, which often happens. The roaring sound is the cage diving boat, Blue Pointer, arriving at the island, cruising around looking for breaching sharks. The boat then tows the decoy seal around, which the shark mistakes for a real seal and breaches in an attempt to eat it. The shark is successful in grabbing the decoy only to realise it is not a real seal. The screaming in the background is the sound of the excited guests on-board Blue Pointer that have just witnessed a breaching shark. The shark refers to having “seen this white thing before”, this is not referring to the Blue Pointer, since in my version of events this shark has never encountered a cage diving boat before. It is a reference to the shark having seen a white boat of some kind before in its lifetime, and acknowledging that it is the same thing. The shark then smells the chum that the crew have put in the water to attract the sharks. It makes its way over to the boat, attracted by the delicious smell of fish, and sees the seal decoy on the surface of the water, once again thinking it is a real seal and having a go at it. The seal decoy is attached to a line held my a crew member which is pulled away from the shark as it tries to grab the decoy, bringing the shark right up to the cage. This is the point where the shark sees the cage for the first time and the divers inside. Having never seen divers before the shark doesn’t know what to make of them. The initial thought is not that the divers are prey but rather that they are trapped and in need of help. The shark bites the cage (Nom!), which can happen when they are attempting to grab the bait lines in the water. As the shark bites the cage the divers are naturally frightened, even though they are safe in the cage, the shark can sense this fear due to the increased heart rates of the divers. The divers in their wetsuits vaguely resemble seals and it is the closest thing the shark would have to use as a reference when describing their appearance. When the divers don’t leave the water the shark starts to wonder more about them, questioning whether they are there to harm it, but being a top predator the thought doesn’t last long and the shark circles the cage showing off. The shark still doesn’t regard the divers as food. Even though we can’t tell what the shark is actually thinking I have written this based on typical shark behaviour around the cage. Most sharks are more interested in the bait than the divers in the cage, yet some sharks ignore the bait and simply circle the cage eyeing out the divers as if the shark is showing off for its audience. The white sharks have such a presence about them when they swim slowly past the cage you almost feel as if they are very proud of themselves. The shark then moves off, but will undoubtedly remember its encounter with the “strange steel things” in the cage.

Great White SHark cage diving

Cage diving with Sevengill Sharks

In the second monologue I describe a cowshark cage diving trip, which is the type of trip we have been doing for the past couple of months. While not as formidable as a White shark, the cowsharks are special in their own way and still an incredible sight to see from the cage. Since cowsharks are believed to be nocturnal hunters I had to imagine what they would be doing at the island during the day. Based on their typical temperament and demeanour I imagine they are very chilled sharks. This particular shark is quite bored and has taken to counting the shells and other objects it swims over on the sea floor. As it does this the boat arrives at the island, but the shark is quite preoccupied with its current activity, it only notices the boats arrival as a shadow. The shark sees and acknowledges the anchor dropping on the bottom “big metal thing” and carries on with its shell counting. The crew uses a tuna head on a bait line with a sinker that is dropped to the sea floor in an attempt to lure the cowsharks up to the cage. They don’t surface as willingly as a White shark so it takes a bit of persuasion. It is only once the shark spots this tuna head that it shifts its interest from the shells. Inside the tuna head the crew hides a snoek head, as snoek seems to be a favourite with the cowsharks. When the shark discovers the snoek it can’t resist, and as it takes a bite the crew member holding the line feels the tug and pulls the line slowly towards the surface. The shark, determined to get the snoek, follows it up. The shark is reluctant to come up at first, but really wants that snoek head and so it quickly grabs the head and tries to swim down with it. The crew member holding the line doesn’t want to lose the shark and so they pull the line hard trying to draw it up, but the shark with its razor sharp teeth manages to sever the line and get away with the snoek head, which it then eats. The crew usually have a second bait line in the water on the opposite side of the cage, which is what the shark spots and goes for, but this time the crew member is a little quicker and in its attempt to grab the bait the shark comes all the way up to the surface. It then notices the cage and the divers. The cowsharks are often much more interested in the divers and often try to stick their snouts in the gaps of the cage, which are too small for them to fit in. They often look you dead in the eye and just hover in the water watching you, possibly wondering what you are. Based on their interest in the divers in the cage, I think they are quite curious and would have lots of questions going through their minds, I imagine it to be quite comical as well. They sometimes continuously try to fit through the gaps making the divers a little uneasy, but when they realise they can’t fit through they turn their attention elsewhere. The first group of divers are taken out the cage and the next group put in, and the shark takes one brief look at the new crowd and loses interest. This is also typical for cowsharks, one minute they are very interested and the next they appear to get bored and just disappear.

I hope you liked my version of a shark’s perception, but I think the best thing would be to join us and decide for yourself what the sharks are thinking…


Catherine Currin