Behind the Shot-My first Tiger Shark
Kona Diving Company had been seeing a lot of tiger sharks around the mouth of Honokohau Harbor right around the time I was due to work a shift with Kampachi Farms, so I caught a flight a day early hoping to catch some of the action. The day I was due to fly out was just one of those days where nothing went right. My delayed flight sat me next to a smelly guy, the rental car company lost my discounted reservation, complain, moan, etc. So when I finally hit the water and was disappointed with a healthy dose of a fat-lot-of-nothing, I was over it. I took my gear off, walked off a ways and had myself a sit-down, leaving my buddy behind at the car.
I really thought I was going to give up and wander off to find a beer. It wasn't until I was unlocking the car that I decided that, wait a minute, here I was in Kona with my new camera at the shore of a beautiful site with an extra tank ready to go. Why couldn't I just go down and enjoy a world-class Kona shore-dive, tiger sharks be damned!
On the bottom at about 80' we came across an especially friendly fischer's angelfish (Centropyge fisheri). It flitted about from rock to rock and I just followed it, buried behind my camera waiting for the perfectly timed money shot. That would have given my otherwise rotten day a high point to grow from. As my luck would have it, before I got that chance, something spooked the little guy behind a rock. I assumed it was something I had done because for most of the encounter, I was hovering within a foot of the fish. It was only a matter of time before I did something to scare it.
I looked up from my camera for the first time in minutes to see a very large tiger shark circling me at a distance of no more than 3 feet. It was bigger than huge; there is really no other way to put it, the shark was simply monstrous. I had been lying motionless in the sand for so long, I must have looked like a a big hunk of carrion. I watched in complete shock as the animal circled me once and lost interest. It wasn't until I watched it swimming off that I blinked to my senses and took a photo without readjusting the camera settings. My strobes fired, still set to illuminate the fisher's angel from before, visibly startling the goliath lumbering before me.
The shark abruptly turned at me and within a few shakes of its massive tail, it would be at my position. I was again wowed by just how huge this thing was. I later ID'ed my animal from other pictures taken at Honokohau and learned that it had been estimated at 14 feet long. From my angle of view, it looked roughly the size of a pickup truck. I weighed my choices. I could try to swim for shore, but the shark was obviously faster and would probably give pursuit. So I knelt in the sand with one hand outstretched to push off its nose, the other shakily offering my new camera as its next meal, braced for impact and, bravely, closed my eyes.
The shark turned at the very last minute, nearly brushing my with its pec fin. I watched for when I felt the mouth was beyond where the shark could easily snap at me, aimed and fired.