Penny Palfrey - Swimming Great White Sharks
By Penny Palfrey for their fans from Nadandolibre ...
On two of my channel crossings I’ve swum very close to a great white shark. The moments were fleeting the memories will last a life time.
The first time I saw a great white shark during my swims was very early on in my successful 40 mile crossing from Santa Barbara Island to Point Vincente on the Californian coast, which is the same finished place as where the Catalina Channel swimmers finish.
Organising the swim had taken months of planning and training. I had my charter boat booked and a wonderful crew assembled for the crossing. I flew from Australia to Los Angeles and trained at Long Beach, California for a week prior to my swim. Finally my day came, everything was in place and everyone was ready to go. We met at the marina and boarded the charter boat at midday. Knowing I was about to swim through the night and well into the following day I went below and tried to rest on the five hour boat trip out to Santa Barbara Island. There was a good size swell running but the boat was large on comfortable.
We knew we needed to start my swim well before dark, this was great white shark territory, and there were baby seals in the area, the great whites would be here for their share in the food chain. Since we were unable to load the boat before midday, the five hour boat trip wouldn’t leave us much time to waste in getting me into the water before sunset.
When we arrived at the tiny island, the weather was good and the sea quite settled, but the ocean swell was surging around the rocky island. We motored for quite some time trying to find the best place for me to begin my swim; finally we found a small ledge I felt I could pull myself out of the water onto. I was greased up and ready to go. My goggles pulled down over my eyes and about to jump into the water....oh no! A baby seal hauled itself up onto my chosen ledge. Where there are babies, there are sure to be mothers...
.I couldn’t use this ledge now, we needed to find another. More time went by, the day was wearing on, I found a new ledge and made me way to shore, the sun was close to setting, I knew I didn’t have much time to get away from the island before sunset. Finally I was away, the clock was started and I began stroking my way back out to my support boat and towards the mainland. I could still see the bottom; I like to look at the bottom when it’s in view because for most of my swims it is not. I watched the rocky bottom slowly deepen beneath me, then within just a few minutes of starting my swim, oh my goodness, my heart was thumping in my chest, my eyes bulging, I could hardly believe what I saw, yes I could still see the bottom but cruising right below me was a great white shark. I looked, instinctively took my regular breath, then looked back again, yes it was a shark, yes it was a great white shark, it was majestic, I was in awe of this huge, graceful creature beneath, it me looked like a small airplane.
. I took another breath and moved a little closer to my support boat and looked again, it was gone. I didn’t see it again; I don’t think it was at all bothered by me. Though as the sun sank over the horizon and disappeared into the ocean I did think about my encounter with the Great White shark, a little apprehensive of where it might be, but mostly I was in awe of the beautiful creature I’d seen cruise effortlessly beneath me.
By Penny Palfrey.