NOVEMBER 8, 2012, was a day we won’t forget on the Solmar V. It was our first trip back to Roca Partida, a very special, isolated dive-site some 300 miles south-west of Cabo San Lucas in Mexico.
We were excited because the weather was great, the water warm and there was a good chance of seeing whale sharks. After a five-minute ride in the pangas, we dropped into the water.
We took our time taking in the scale of this place. Fish of all colours and sizes filled the water column, and there were sharks everywhere we looked – Galapagos, silvertip and whitetip.
With 25m visibility we could observe everything at once, so it was almost a sensory overload.
At the north point, we saw a large shadow. An 11m whale shark was heading right for us – we were ecstatic!
As it swam closer, we noticed something odd. A line some 15cm thick was wrapped completely around this female’s midsection. We were saddened because the line seemed to dig into the thick epidermis, and had obviously been there for a long time.
Closer inspection revealed large anemones and gooseneck barnacles covering the whole line. The growth seemed to irritate the whale shark with every swagger of its giant tail. We watched as it swam away into the blue.
Between dives, we discussed cutting the poor shark free. Everyone had an opinion: some thought it would freak out and swim away fast, others thought it impossible to cut through the thick line.
Either way it would be dangerous, especially if the shark was deep. But in case he had a chance, our lead divemaster, Dani, borrowed a knife from a guest.
Our second dive started much like the first, but all we could think about was the whale shark. Within minutes my group saw it, and we were able to get an idea of the damage the line had done.
It had to come off. None of us had a knife, so we looked for Dani, but his group was a bit further down the dive-site.
Knowing that our spotted friends are creatures of habit, we waited in the same area. Towards the end of the dive we were at about 18m when I spotted the whale shark at more than 30m, which would blow the group’s profiles.
So we slowly swam down to about 25m and it swam towards us. Just as we met, Dani charged from above and grabbed the line on the shark.
With great tenacity, he sawed away and made quick work of it, eventually peeling the line from the shark’s flesh. The great fish brushed the line off and shed it like a chain of bondage – it was free. Wow!
I swam back down to pick up the line for Dani, so that we could prove to the rest of the group that the impossible was in fact possible.
It was a feeling of relief to have saved this ocean creature from the negative impact that we humans sometimes impose on them. Our oceans will survive because of people like Dani.