Feb 8, 2009

LADIES WHO LUNCH: SHARK EDITION

PALAU, Micronesia – Current frets at my mask, hoses and pigtails, as I finally dive the famous Blue Corner. Parachute cord and a reef hook – a clever J-shaped curve of metal – anchor me to the reef. I bob, balloon on a string, staring out towards the Philippine Sea. Black tips, white tips, grey reef sharks: they all muscle past in great sweeps, sometimes framed by a quiver of barracuda.

My last trip to Palau, I only managed four descents. We hit bad weather. Some hilarity ensued.

Now three weeks of saltwater unfurl before me, as I work on a June feature for Sport Diver magazine. Sharks will be just another occupational hazard.

Except they're not so worrisome, at least, not in this archipelago 820 miles east of Manila. Palau's standard-issue predators aren't the human-flesh-gouging type, though the odd fierce tiger scythes through these waters.

Up to six feet in length, the reef sharks mainly lollygag in the current. These animals must swim to survive – pushing water across their gills to breathe. The kicky currents here create the equivalent of, well, an oxygen spa.

A lot of people see my job in those terms. "Travel writing? Just rock up into the free hotel room, enjoy the pedicure and pump out some fluff!" they yammer. That might be someone's job description, but it ain't mine. On the road, I generally halve my normal sleep schedule. I spend the days adventuring and the nights interviewing, note-taking, photo-editing, travel-planning and teaching classes for Writers.com.

This gig isn't shark-slack. Yet the good times do roll: I can explore, play, learn and create on the clock. And also personally mock dilettante predators on one of the world's premier drop-offs...

Who knows where the future of professional media lies?

But today the water's couldn't be sweeter.

2 comments:

  1. The water also couldn't be any bluer. Brilliant stuff, Amanda.

    A question about sharks: do they swim when the sleep? Or, do they sleep at all?

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  2. No one's quite sure about sharks and sleeping. But I found these nifty facts from Elasmo-Research.org.

    "From Russian studies carried out in the early 1970's, we know that dolphins catnap in 2 to 3-minute stretches, actually shutting down one hemisphere of their brain at a time. From experiments carried out on a small shark called the Spiny Dogfish (Squalus acanthias), we know that the 'Central Pattern Generator' that co-ordinates swimming movements in sharks is not located in the brain, but in the spinal chord. Thus, it is possible for an unconscious shark to swim."

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