One of my closest friends, Brent, had the incredible chance to take a trip to the Bahamas over spring break. While he was there, he almost made some new friends with one of the ocean’s most dangerous inhabitants–bull sharks. Though he encouraged me to exaggerate the story, I will give it to you as he gave it to me. So here’s the story….
We drove two hours down the island to Lighthouse Beach…this beautiful beach that we had to off road through forest in jeeps to get to. It had some high cliffs right on the beach where seagulls and ospreys made nests, and had reefs around the edge of the beach for good snorkeling. We went as a group to these reefs to snorkel. The depth ranged from 4 feet to about 12 or 15 feet. After we had gone around the entire reef as a group, the others decided they had enough. I didn’t have enough. So I left them to the beach and rocks and went back out to a really cool spot that was between 8 and 15 feet deep depending on where you were.
The reef itself under water was gorgeous. I was diving down to 12 feet to pick up sand dollars and bright colored shells when I saw a huge conch shell just under the reef. I decided to get it out with my flipper, push it out to the middle, and then dive down to pick it up. This would be the coolest finding by far. When I went down to get it (at about 12 feet deep), I heard a screeching noise, kind of like a dolphin sounds. I immediately came to the surface because I didn’t know where it came from. When I came out of the water, the two boys with us (Kirk,12 and Jake, 9) were on top of one of the cliffs screaming. They had climbed up there to see the osprey’s nest, and while up there, they spotted two bull sharks in the same cove where I was snorkeling.
The screeching noise I heard 12 feet under was Kirk and Jake screaming “Shark!” as loudly as they could. I thought maybe it was a joke until I realized there was a third voice screaming “Brent…shark!!! Get out of the water!” It was Tim not more than 50 feet away from me. At this point, I didn’t panic, only because I kept telling myself not to. I very briskly but calmly swam for the coral reef about 20 feet away because it was only 3 feet deep and I knew I could stand there. Better to face the shark(s) in 3 feet of water than 15.
As I was swimming towards the coral reef, I looked over my shoulder and could see a darker shadow coming towards me but I honestly could not make it out to be anything specific. I got onto the reef, waddled quickly towards Tim on the beach, and then turned around to see two shadows (bull sharks) swimming in the area I was snorkeling. I don’t really think the full effect of the situation hit me until I saw Tim’s face. His eyes were bug-eyed and he couldn’t stop saying how close the shark was to me.He told me that he heard the boys scream from the cliff and looked out and could see the shark about 100 feet away from me. There were two, one about 6 feet and one about 4 feet. And he said that the larger one started making a Bee-line for me. It was at that point he joined the kids in screaming at me to get out of the water. I asked him how far the shark was from me when I got to the coral reef at 3 foot depth. He told me it wasn’t more than 15 feet from me. Wow. Could he be exaggerating? If you know Tim, you know that’s highly unlikely.
I am blessed to be alive or at least all in one piece. Bull sharks are extremely aggressive sharks and are known for attacking humans for no reason much more than other types of sharks. And the shark coming for me was as big as me if not bigger. A few things I realize looking back:
- What if those two boys hadn’t been on the cliff doing something they had been told not to do? They should never have climbed up there. But I am glad they did.
- The water was at low tide that exact day. The 3 foot coral reef I used for a refuge is usually 6 feet deep. This day happened to be low tide. What if I was stuck swimming through 6-8 feet of water to shore instead of having 3 feet and standing?
- How did I hear them scream at 12 feet below the ocean? It is very hard to hear anything when you snorkel. But for some reason, at this time, I heard the boys screaming from 100 feet away on the cliff.
- Maybe the sharks would have done nothing. Maybe they would have nudged me and then swam away. But maybe not. This was my closest experience with death, to my estimation. The closest hospital was a 2.5 hour drive away and there was no one else on this remote beach. And we found out later that one of the jeeps had a flat tire.
- If the shark was 15 feet from me when I reached “safety,” what if I had heard their screaming 2 seconds later? Or what if I had been 15 feet further out?
- God’s providence was merciful for me that day. The kids, Tim, me hearing it when I did, it being low tide,etc.
But I am alive. And I will go snorkeling today, our last day, because it is so beautiful and adventurous and we found some barracudas and starfish worth seeing again . Thanks for hearing my story. This is one I will never, ever forget.
[Update]: Whether you know Brent or not, I would like to invite you to say a prayer for him and his family. The same sovereign God that spared Brent’s life in the Bahamas has just taken the life of his grandfather, Kermit, who died this morning in his old age. Brent and his father will be leading the funeral. Isn’t it encouraging to know that this situation (like all of life’s situations) is not too big or too small for God–it’s not too big that God can’t handle it, and it’s not too small that God doesn’t care about it. If you want to leave an encouraging word for Brent, please do so in the comments section–he will see this soon.