July 22, 2008 -Tuesday – Kissed by a Whale…Shark

By Jack Crowe

It was a day that started like any other. Out on a wreck site, looking for cannons, which I did find! Capt. J.F. was taking us home to the TC Explorer II after a hard day in the field when he happened to notice a large black form almost directly under our dingy. He shouted “Whale!” and pulled up to have a look. Randy and I threw on our fins and masks and jumped straight overboard to have a look. Low and behold, it wasn’t just a whale, but a 40 foot whale shark, the largest fish in the sea!!! I’ve always wanted to see one, and have joked about being able to “speak whale” as well (Finding Nemo).

As luck would have it, J.F. had his HD video camera for shooting the cannons, so he handed it to me to shoot our new friend. When I took the camera, she (yes, the whale shark was a she) seemed to change; instead of having to swim after her and hope for a good shot, she came straight for me, mouth opening and closing right in front of me! I wanted to get a shot of Randy swimming with her, but she was making it difficult by staying too close.

I got nice footage of the inside of her throat, thinking the whole time “she’s going to swallow the camera”. I had to swim hard in reverse away from her so as not to be sucked in with the water and the camera. Putting my hand on her lip (if whales have lips) was the only way I could stay away from her huge mouth. At this point we were all questioning her behavior: was she sick and seeking help, or was she OK? We were amazed at her friendliness and when I gave the camera to J.F. and she did the same thing. Definitely not camera shy!

Although you don’t get this kind of opportunity often, or ever, I had to swim away and retrieve the dingy which was slowly drifting away from us. As I got closer to the boat, she again came straight toward me, not stopping until she had me pinned between the dingy and her bottom lip. She was gentle, but certainly firm. I couldn’t push her so I pushed the tender away instead. As far as kissing goes it was by far the biggest and wettest I’ve ever had.

Between a whale shark and a hard dinghy

We swam and played with her for some 45 minutes, but wanted to share our experience with the others on board, so we loaded up and headed back to the ship, with her following like a puppy. Unfortunately about half way back, she disappeared as quickly as she showed up.

I’ll never forget her and our time together. Whatever it was, luck, fate or chance, I’m lucky to say it’s all part of my job!