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  • Writer's pictureSteven Hopkinson

One word (and it's not malletmelon)

Mark Evans and I were talking near the dive mooring that was the turn point of our afternoon snorkeling session just east of the parrot tree channel, and since we'd been talking for a bit of time, I decided to have a look down, and what I saw left me speechless. My brain tried to classify it and came away with a first impression like an eagle ray. Only as it got closer did I realize what it was: a hammerhead 🦈. Maybe six, eight feet long, and definitely coming to check us out.

I wish I filmed it, a go pro was in my hand, but all I could think was to get away from it, to make it realize I was not prey. So I turned and kicked, shouted "Hammerhead" as loud as I could, moving as Mark said, "faster than I've ever seen you move." And when I got my head back into the water a moment later the shark was heading off back down below into the current. And my heart was beating quite fast.

Now, I've seen sharks before, and I know they're just big inquisitive marine creatures. I know that they're not going to do me any harm, hell I saw three black-tipped reef sharks on my first open water dive! And I've swam with dozens more reef sharks a couple of times, and have been up close and personal with loads of nurse sharks. But this was center stage with a hammerhead. A forking hammerhead! Maybe it's the weird shape of their head, but there is something distinctly uncanny about them. Especially when you're bobbing on the surface and they're rising up out of the blue towards you like some kind of vengeful old god of the deep. 

I've heard hammerheads are actually quite skittish with divers, but I was snorkeling -- a world of difference! I'm not sure if it was the great hammerhead or the scalloped one, to be honest, it could have been either. My lizard brain was telling me to jump out of the water. To walk on water back to Parrot Tree, over Mark if I had too. Now Mark didn't have his mask on, so he didn't see it. All he can confirm is that I definitely saw something. Course, I'll be going back out tomorrow or Monday to check and see if I can run into this amazing creature again. Let me know if you want to tag along!

I'm kind of ashamed of my reaction, of not being able to get some video proof of this unforgettable encounter with an apex predator, but I like to remind myself this is the ground floor, my first hammerhead. I'm humbled by the sheer majesty of the animal I was so lucky to encounter. Like many sharks, they're endangered. People kill them for their fins, of all things. Hopefully there will be many more hammerhead encounters in my future, and maybe if I'm lucky next time I'll react with a little more poise, a might more awareness and get a video of the hammerhead swimming away at the very least...


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