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Atoll de Fakarava,French Polynesia

I decide to take my courage by the horns.

I first dip my legs in the water and observe. I am breathing trough my snorkeling gear, my mask tightly attached to the head. I look at the many grey shapes turning around the boat and remember yesterday's swim. Hakan my sister and her husband are all with me on deck, no one is trying to dissuade me and not one of them wants me with a missing foot or a bloody belly. By the horns I take my courage, keep close contact with my fear, breathing as slow as I can manage I slip as smoothly as I can in the water. I want no air bubbles when I my head will submerge, I want my vision clear.

Hakan is right behind me, in shorts and t-shirt, I slip my whole legs in, then my belly, the grey shapes are at a few meters but not coming in closer, I try to control my heartbeat and let go my grasp on the boat. I'm in...

In the water. In the water with the sharks! They are a few meters from me and we observe each other, there must be around 10 of them. They stay at a distance, they are not very big but they seem huge to me, their body grey, the fins black and their shape perfect. They swim effortlessly around. I float close to them. I know trough many sources and many more that those sharks are inoffensive but the design of their body evokes nothing else but accuracy and efficiency for the kill. Streamline and lean, grey eyes and many fins. Under their high-tech shaped head I can see that atrocious mouth. my imagination starts spinning, I see it open, its nasty bloody teeth hungry for fight and death, but reality just keeps the mouth shut, shut to keep the streamline design of the killer. The killers, in front me, under me around me. There are more than 10 and we keep a polite distance from each other. Thankfully I have my camera with me like a protective shield, which keeps me from getting too scared. It doesn't mater you know they are just curious and will not attack, they are the very image of danger, the collective fear of the open water. All images of sharks seem to have the purpose of scaring the spectator, sharks, killing machines. And here I am, with them, in my bathing suit, my mask and my snorkel, confronting my fear.

They are beautiful, they look at me, I look back, I've been in for 10 minutes and am still whole, this thing seems secure, for real.
I call in Hakan, and Daniel my brother in law. They join me, the sharks keep a little more distance every time someone new enters the water. By now they must be close to 20.

The next day I scrub the hull of Mardek, and a few sharks are around but quite far away and quite deep, I keep a distracted eye on them but am busy with the scrubbing. When that's done I decide to go for a swim in shallower waters where I can watch the coral from close up. I am naked in this deserted place, I swim and turn around every now and then to see if I am being followed, no one around... I float above coral, tiny blue fish mix with pink vegetation, I get closer for a good look and suddenly think that it would be weird if I would turn around and see a shark right behind me, just to calm my rushing imagination I look over my, and on the spot I imagined a big shark is watching me. My blood boils my heart skips a beat and the shark turns around and swims on. I am far from the boat, I lose confidence and start to swim back, I look behind me and there he is again, following me, when I look he takes off but always comes back, this terrifying sight makes me nervous, I am still a while away, I must not panic, my heart is running already, I know the shark feels that and my heart starts racing at the idea, the less confident I am the closer he comes. Finally I reach Mardek, pffff, still whole. It's a terrifying thing really, but it's in the head, I would like to get rid of this terror. Those sharks eat little fish, do I look like a little fish? Do I? No, I don't, not even from afar, so why this anguish?

I know why. They have a totally different behavior, no fish will turn around you, it is you who turns around them, no fish I ever swam with was ever close to this size, my size. They are shaped to perfection, predators with blood in their thoughts, I've seen them accelerate, from standstill they rush off like a sports car, no wonder I am afraid...

Today we will change atoll, a night sail. I check the chain with my snorkeling gear, it is all mixed up with coral heads, I swim above it and make mental notes how to get out of this mayhem. a shark again, it is infested here... it keeps a decent distance but I'm not too pleased, it's tiring to have them around, I don't dare to make sudden movements in case I upset him so I just stare with intent, send over the message ''get away you big fish'' it works but the nasty thing is that he always comes back, from behind... I have to go to the bottom at one coral head because it is not clear from here which way the chain went under it, 10 meters depth. but the shark that's around, I am scared, I must go though, I look around, he is swimming away, low, slow, I take a big breath and dive in the depth, I follow the chain and understand what to do, I need air but am far away from it, I start my ascend like a rocket, fish are all over me, I'm afraid only of the sharks but they are not on my way. when I get to the air my heart is racing, tudum tudum tudum tudum and in no time 3 sharks rush towards me, aaargh, I shoo them away and swim as confident as I can towards Mardek, to more I see them, the less I like it. I'm in their territory, what can I do? Stay dry?

18.06.2006/Atoll de Fakarava,French Polynesia

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