12 August 2009


I saw a Hammerhead Shark on a dive yesterday evening!! They are quite rare in this area (our ID book lists them as "uncommon" and they're listed as endangered by the World Conservation Union). There are only a handful of sightings by SFS people each year. Two of us saw this one at a dive site called The Grotto, which is beautiful reef made up of giant coral heads. The dive was just before sunset which, I am told, is prime shark feeding time. And the sharks were certainly active - we saw somewhere in the range of 8 to 10 (I lost count) Caribbean Reef Sharks in addition. As we passed alongside two large coral heads, we looked left between them and saw the unmistakable outline of a Hammerhead.

It was very exciting! The staff here talks a lot about the rarer species like Hammerheads, Bull Sharks, and Tiger Sharks, and you're the envy of everybody when you spot one. The Hammerhead we saw was completely uninterested in us (it may not have even noticed us), and we only saw it for a few brief seconds. It was traveling in the opposite direction and we didn't follow. Despite being confident that it wasn't going to harm us, it's not the sort of animal I'd go chasing after. It was easily recognizable by its odd shaped head (of course), but also from its very tall, triangular shaped dorsal fin.

The first thing I thought, as my excitement level shot through the roof was, "okay, breath slowly." Which is good because often times when that happens while diving you suck down a lot of air and have to turn back soon after. There's a bit more of an intimidation factor with a species like this because of its size - this Hammerhead was nearly twice the size of most of the Reef Sharks. But there's really not the need to be terrified like people think you should. For the most part, sharks are completely uninterested in humans. We're not exactly their favorite food and we're too big besides - one shark (even a Hammerhead) couldn't eat us as single meal.

Though the Hammerhead didn't look at us (so far as we know), it may well have known we were there. They have a sort of "sixth sense." That's why their heads are shaped that way (actually, all sharks have this sense, but it's better developed in Hammerheads). They pick up small electromagnetic signals, which (I gather) are created by all living things. Their heads act sort of like a metal detector for food! They're such an incredible animal. My next desire is to see a Tiger Shark, which can get to be 24 feet long!

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