Conflicted Again

The other day, actually, a few months ago, a coworker gave me an article about a woman who free dives with great white sharks. Granted, first thing I noticed was that I recognized the shark before I looked at the woman. However, the article and this blog are about the person, and her name is Ocean Ramsey.

Ocean

Now, Ocean has been called the shark whisperer. She free dives in Mexican waters (and possibly other places) and grabs onto the dorsal fin, basically hitching a ride with the big fish. I admit, it is truly amazing to watch her do this, and I give her full credit for her bravery for what she does. Not because I think great whites are mindless beasts like the media and a few Australian politicians lead you to believe. No, I appreciate what she does cause while the sharks are not mindless beasts, she is still taking a great chance because they are still wild animals.

I also believe what she was doing may be illegal in Mexico. Granted, I am not 100% sure about that, but it is what I have heard from a few sources. So, not only is she risking her life, and the lives of anyone in the water (and not in a cage) with her, but she could also get the charter company in trouble as well. Which is why I won’t even ask the people running my shark diving trip if I could leave the cage.

Now, why am I so conflicted? Well, I am not sure what she is doing helps or hurts the sharks. Yes, she is showing that you can function in the waters with the amazing animals without being killed or maimed. Ocean is also proving that Jaws should not be treated as a nature show, Jaws is fiction. But she may give people the idea that these creatures should not be respected and other divers may take a chance that they otherwise may normally not take. And as Australia has proven, human nature is to overreact and blame the animal for acting like it is supposed to.

Now, I am sure that if something did go wrong, Ms. Ramsey would not want the local government to go on the hunt for their own warped sense of revenge, but politicians rarely act in the way the people want. And most divers I have talked to respect nature, just like most surfers I know. However, it just takes one idiot, and then some politician will think that baited lines will keep people safe.

Now, on facebook someone posted a picture of Ocean and a great white shark, and Ocean was criticized left, right, up, and down. I couldn’t actually bring myself to join in the conversation. Yes, she is taking risks, but I am also a little jealous. I would love the opportunity to swim with a great white. Yes, I have gone cage diving and will be going again this October, but to actually swim freely with a great white, that would be amazing.

So, while I think Ocean is doing some good, I also think that she is doing some harm as well. And I am conflicted… and a little jealous.

Please don’t sue

“I am aware that activities I may engage in while on the adventure are hazardous activities, and hereby state and acknowledge that I am voluntarily participating in the adventure with full knowledge and understand of the danger involved, and agree to accept any and all risks of injury, damage or death, while I am engaged in the adventure. I verify this statement by placing my initials here:”

I initialed this statement today, right were I was supposed to, and right where I did about two years ago, meaning I am one step closer to the adventure of a lifetime. Well, not really the adventure of a lifetime since this will be the second time I am taking this trip, but that does not reduce my excitement for my upcoming cage diving trip.  I officially paid off the rest of what I owed, and now I just have to book some flights and a hotel room, then I am good to go.

Now, the question remains as to why I would take this trip a second time when there are so many places in the world that I have yet to dive. Well, I don’t have a good answer for that. I admit that I want to dive the Bahamas, the Great Barrier Reef, and so many other places, but going to see these beautiful great white sharks a second time is something I really want to do. But the clear waters of Guadeloupe, and the great white sharks and seals that live in their waters are amazing.

The experiences from last time are etched in my memory (at least until the alcohol kills those particular brain cells) and I cannot wait to create more memories. These animals are so amazing that even the HD footage during Shark Week does not do sharks justice. They are so graceful, and even peaceful, in the wild. Yes, I am sure that there are some points where they are highly aggressive, but when I saw them last time, they were just peaceful.

So, mom and dad, if something does go wrong, and I do something stupid, please don’t sue the operators. I probably did something they warned against, and possibly even provoked the shark. It’s not their fault that I’m an idiot at times. And realize, that through the screaming (if there was any) and agony (if I lived long enough to have agony) I died doing something I enjoyed.

And if I don’t die (and dying is highly unlikely), understand that I will probably do this all again.

And now, to update my will.

 

Scheduled

Well, It happened. I finally booked my next date with the friendly Great Whites of Guadeloupe. Next October, I will be leaving on my second cruise to dive with these magnificent creatures. At least this time I will not have to go through diver certification during the summer, and I will not have to buy much as far as equipment since I have done all that two summers ago. Basically, I am getting my money’s worth out of this certification.

There are other places I would like to dive. The Bahamas have Tiger beach. I would also love to dive the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and South Africa as well. But I have been told that Guadeloupe is THE place to dive with great whites. Granted, I will not go to Australia until they stop the shark cull, even if I could easily afford it, but it will remain on my dive list.

Last time I was in Guadeloupe, the water was cool and clear. Crystal clear. So clear in fact, that even the seals were not afraid on the sharks. Other than some seasickness on the way there and back, I had absolutely no issues. And, sleeping for the entire trip is a decent diet plan, making fitting in a wetsuit slightly easier. On that trip I made some good friends, two of which will be there on this trip. It will be great to see them again, and the sharks. Jimmi, TJ, Bella, Tzitzimitl, I only wish the Nardinis could make it.

Now I have to pay for this trip, and count down the days. With the last few days I have had at work, October is going to take a very long time to get here.

Odd Training

A few years ago, a friend of mine was in training for her new job with the State Department. Her first assignment was in the Bahamas and who would complain about that? Well, she did, but that is not the point of this blog. One part of her training was how to handle calling someone’s family to notify him or her that a family member was killed by wildlife. For example, say an American was diving and was killed by a tiger shark. Apparently, if someone were killed in that scenario, she would have to call the family and inform that that the individual was killed by “aggressive wildlife.”

I always made a joke about this, and like a lot of jokes, there is some truth behind the joke. If my friend had to make that call to my mom, my friend probably wouldn’t even get to the “aggressive wildlife” statement. As soon as she said she was from the State Department, my mom’s response would be “What did he do now?” And if she finally did to the wildlife portion of the call, my mom wouldn’t be surprised. She’d probably say something like “He probably provoked it” or “I’m sure he did something stupid.” My mom knows me all to well.

I respect nature, and I hope I wouldn’t do something to provoke a shark attack, but if I do, I would die enjoying myself. Well, probably not at the moment of the attack, but right up until that point I probably would have a smile on my face.

Now, onto my friend complaining about being stationed in the Bahamas. It seems that after you hit the beach and the bars there isn’t much else to do. Now if I were there, I would go diving every day, though hopefully not alone. I would dive tiger beach and swim with the tiger sharks. I would dive the reefs. Aggressive wildlife would definitely kill me.

And if I am ever killed by aggressive wildlife, I hope that my family wouldn’t blame the wildlife. I couldn’t live knowing they called for a cull. Well, I wouldn’t want a cull; it’s not the sharks fault that I am an idiot.

What Annoys Brian This Week

Today, I am going to steal… er, borrow a format from a fellow blogger.

1. Timing. I appreciate that the U.S. Army wants me to not drive in to work when the roads are covered with snow and ice. However, could they get their timing right? My local roads were not plowed by the time I was supposed to report during the 4 hour delayed opening. I decided to call my boss and say I wasn’t coming in. I know others tried to get into work. And after they were already online to get into post, and in some cases already on post, the powers that be finally posted the base closed message. So, coworkers that already drove to work, sometimes spending hours to get there, had to turn around and go home. And this is not the first time. The same thing happened to me at Fort Monmouth. After I was already in the office they decided to post the base closure message.

2. Uneducated Politicians. Acting Premier Kim Hayes of Australia is an idiot, but it is nice to know that stupid politicians are not limited to here in America. Hayes is trying to defend his governments “not a cull” culling policy on great white sharks. The plan of baiting swimming waters to “not cull” Great Whites is almost as stupid as saying women can’t get pregnant when raped (thank you Tea Party). Let’s attract more sharks to areas where there are swimmers by chumming the waters, and that will reduce shark attacks. Seems simple math to me, more sharks plus more people equals less attacks.

Hayes also says that sharks may target humans. What???? Where did he learn his facts on sharks? Maybe he recently watched “Jaws” or “Sharktopus” or maybe even “Sharknado” and thought these were documentaries. There is NO evidence that sharks target humans and there is plenty of evidence that most attacks on people are a case of mistaken identity.

I’ve said it before; the best way to reduce attacks is to educate the swimmers. Two areas in Australia with the highest amount of shark attacks on humans already have a shark control policy. Queensland, which has had shark control policy since 1962, has the highest amount of “shark attacks” in the country. Educate the people on when to swim, where to swim, and how to act in shark populated waters. You won’t reduce the attacks to zero, but you will reduce the chances of an attack.

I only wish I could have gone to the protests in Western Australia, but with a shark culling policy, I can guarantee that I will not be visiting Western Australia, or Queensland, or even New South Whales anytime soon. However, Guadeloupe, Mexico, here I come again.

Ok, off my soapbox.

Another Attack

The last few weeks have been pretty tough for the shark species. In recent weeks, we have had 2 fatalities, and the death of a huge supporter of shark conservation. Now, one may ask, how can shark attacks be hard on sharks? I mean, it’s not like they were the ones who died. But trust me, the reaction of the human race is going to be much harder on the sharks than 2 deaths will be.

Now, if you are going to act in a way that attracts sharks, you should not be surprised when you are attacked. If you look like dinner to a shark, it’s going to check to see if you are dinner. Now, sharks have no hands, arms, or any other way to check if you are food or not, except to a quick bite, a small nibble. And guess what, the guy in Hawaii was bitten on his foot. The shark was probably curious, and sadly a man died from that curiosity.

I am not trying to down play the situation, the man died and that is regrettable, but the man was fishing from a kayak in shark infested waters, with his feet dangling in the water. So, not only do you have bait bloodying water, you have the fish being caught and, I would presume, struggling. Well, this is a dinner bell to a shark. Dangling one’s feet in the water is just stupid.

Now, here is how Hawaii might react. They may react the same way Western Australia wants to react. By killing as many sharks as possible. First, there is no evidence that sharks become man-eaters once they attack one person, but that is the belief, thank you “Jaws.” There is also no evidence that culling the shark population actually reduces shark attacks. In theory, yes, there would be fewer sharks, and therefore fewer attacks. But in practice, it is not likely to work. Finally, there is no way to know you killed the correct shark.

Hopefully, Hawaii will react with more thought. More education and better practices would be a better way to handle the situation. Teach the people how to not appear as food to the shark. Teach people what to do and, more importantly, what not to do when in shark infested waters. So many things are more lethal to humans, like vending machines, that we should not have to worry about sharks. We are in their territory, and last I heard, sharks do not walk on land to get us.

The loss of Paul Walker is also a blow to the shark community.  This actor, who majored in marine biology, was a huge supporter of shark conservation. He was even scheduled to dive in Guadeloupe this year, and it wouldn’t have been his first. Paul Walker will be missed.

Finning

I once had a conversation with a friend who didn’t think that “finning” was actually occurring. The argument that was made was that a fisherman would never waste that much shark. Why would a fisherman scraping by throw most of the shark overboard just for the fins. However, that argument actually proves that the poor fisherman would throw most of the shark overboard. Let’s look at this economically. Hey! I’m going to use my major!

The demand for fins is much higher than the demand for the rest of the shark, and there is much less supply for it when you consider how much more of the shark there is. So, lets say that the average price per pound of the overall shark is five dollars per pound. But the price of the fins per pound is 15 dollars per pound. It makes sense for the fisherman to dump the shark overboard and make room for more fins.

Of course, I am not supporting the finning of sharks. Come on! I love sharks. Ignoring the fact that live sharks are the sign a healthy ecosystem, and ignoring that sharks are not as dangerous as the media makes them out to be, Sharks deserve our respect. Local economies can actually benefit from shark diving. Look at Guadeloupe, Mexico. They have turned the three months when the great whites are there into a fantastic location. The Bahamas have some of the best tiger shark locations for diving. Sharks should be studied, not finned.

Now, I admit, I don’t know how much I can do for the sharks. I know that I will never eat at a restaurant that serves shark fin soup. I know that I share and repost everything I can about finning. I try to talk to the few who would actually eat sharks out of doing that. But what else is there? I guess I could blog about it…

Convenience Fees

1. I was writing out a check for my water and sewer bill today, and I realized that this is one of the few bills I still write a check for.  Most bills I pay online. Mortgage, Phone, Cable, almost all bills. So why don’t I pay my water and sewer online? Well, turns out that they charge a convenience fee. It costs a couple of dollars to pay online. Now, I may be wrong, but I would assume this would also be convenient for the county of Harford as well as for me. So, I’ll save the money, pay for the stamp, write out the check, and mail it in. At least I’ll feel like I am keeping the post office open another few moments.

2. I have been thinking about my next vacation for a while now, my next serious vacation. I haven’t been away on a vacation since last October. Yes, I took trips to places, visited family, made a drive up to Canada, but none of those were really a vacation. I want to go dive in the Bahamas so I can swim with Tiger Sharks. I want to go to San Diego Comic-Con. There is so much I want to do, but I keep coming back to diving in Guadeloupe again. It was a great trip, and I had no choice but to turn off my phone for a few days, completely cut off from society. Not to mention, if I go diving there again, I might be able to see Bella. That was one beautiful shark. So, even though I have done it before, I think I will do it again. Next October: Guadeloupe.

Blackfish

I have yet to watch “Blackfish”. I want to, I just can’t bring myself to watch it. I have a hard enough time watching “Seas of Life” when the killer whales are hunting a baby humpback whale. Apparently, I am too much of a softie. Yet, I have no issues watching great whites hunting seals, odd.

I remember my parents bringing me to Sea World when I was younger. And it worked; I was fascinated with sea life. I didn’t learn much, but I was hooked. As I got older, I started wondering if aquariums are a fit place for large sea creatures. I know, some adapt excellently, but maybe it is not the best place for all sea creatures. Great Whites don’t last long in aquariums; I believe the longest one lived was 1 year in captivity.

Is a fish tank the best place to squeeze in whale sharks? Is training animals we call killer whales a good idea? Is cramming a bunch of dolphins into a tank to put them on display for us to ogle best for the dolphin? We can learn so much from them, but are we learning enough to justify the cost?

Like I said, some animals adept fine, but not all. After diving with white sharks, I don’t even know how I feel about nurse sharks being trapped inside a small tank. Now, their tanks may not seem small to us, but we are talking about animal that had the oceans and reefs to roam, and now have a small circular tank to swim around and around an around. Maybe we, as a species, need to look at how we would feel being put in a cage. Wait, we do that to, and we do it as a punishment.

Hobbies

Sometimes I wonder what my hobbies say about me. I mean, looking at four of my hobbies, Kayaking, Skiing, Diving, and Warhammer, I can see certain similarities between them.

When I go kayaking, I usually go alone. I paddle us a stream, out onto a river, into the middle of a bay, all with no company. Well, usually with no company. There has been one or two occasions when I had company. Even when I go ocean kayaking, the most dangerous kayaking I do, I usually go alone and early in the morning when there are no lifeguards. Ocean kayaking is the most recent reason that I had massive dental work done. I don’t go river kayaking, not because of the danger, but because I don’t have the training. And once I get the training, I’d probably do that alone too. And that’s just stupid.

I usually go skiing alone as well. Now this is risky, and even I’ll admit that. If I wasn’t with company the last time I went, I have no idea how I would have gotten home. I fell, bad, and probably got a concussion.  I never got it diagnosed, so I can’t be sure. I’ll still go skiing alone, but I know, it’s risky. The view of that fall from the outside had to be funny as hell, I wish I could have seen it.

Diving is a sport that almost forces you to go with a friend. And you should go with a friend. If something goes wrong in 60ft of water, you want someone there to help, or help find the body. If something were to go wrong, say your tank suddenly ran out of air, it’s nice to know you have an emergency line to breathe off of using your buddy’s tank. But, when you are in the water, you are basically alone. As I covered before, when you are under water, no one can talk to you, except through hand signals.

And now, Warhammer. This hobby almost forces me to interact with people. Yes, most of the lobbying can be done alone. The building, painting, priming, and list building can all be done with no one else. No interaction required. But to actually play you need an opponent. I guess you can play a game by yourself, but to actually be competitive, you need another living being.

And that’s what I noticed. Almost all of my hobbies can be done alone, but you are almost forced to interact with the outside world.

And my wine drinking? Alone, that would be alcoholism.