Divers are well aware of the risks of entering the water and slipping below the waves into the domain of creatures that are better adapted to life in the deep. Humans do not belong in the ocean. They are trespassers and they must be careful and respectful in this undersea world, for improper behavior will often have serious consequences. Understanding the creatures that call this place their home is crucial.
Among the many animals in the ocean that create a thrill as well as a sense of fear for humans, sharks are perhaps the best example. These Caribbean Reef Sharks are formidable predators and powerful swimmers with a mouth full of razor sharp teeth. Their cold, steely stare is enough to send a chill down the spine of almost anyone who finds themselves close enough to touch one. They grow to almost ten feet in length and are solid muscle. The clamping pressure of their jaws would easily sever a limb if they chose to. But, the truth is that they rarely attack humans, and almost all attacks are the result of misunderstanding or error on the part of the human.
Belize is a beautiful place to visit, especially for scuba divers. It is home to an abundance of beautiful coral and incredible sea life. But, until recently, there were no Caribbean Reef Sharks to be found. Warming waters and changing currents may be the cause of the sharks' sudden appearance here. These divers were equipped to harvest lion fish off the Island of San Pedro, Belize. It is another species that is not usually found in the Atlantic Ocean. They are invasive species that are extremely destructive to the reef and the creatures that actually live there. Eating tremendous amounts of fish and having no natural predators, the Lion Fish has had a devastating effect on entire ecosystems. Divers are encouraged to cull the Lion fish in order to protect the reef. This group had just returned from a successful harvest.
For these divers, an unexpected result of spearing Lion fish was the surprising appearance of the Reef Sharks. Able to smell the fish in the tube from miles away, these sharks approached the divers at the end of their dive and showed extremely curious behavior. The divers soon recognized that the sharks were merely looking for scraps of fish and they were not actually posing any real threat, but the sight of the sharks obviously startled the divers. For a few minutes, the divers needed to remain suspended at 20 feet below the surface for what is referred to as a "safety stop". This allows the divers to expel the built up nitrogen that accumulates during a dive. To ascend without doing this can have disastrous consequences. Having the sharks circling them during this time was unnerving and fascinating at the same time.
Sharks are still wild and unpredictable and their curiosity can turn to aggression when food is involved. These sharks were coming closer to the divers, even bumping them, which is a signal that the sharks are hungry. The divers made the decision to dump their catch and move aside to allow the sharks to take what they wanted. When the safety stop was complete, the divers ascended and left the water. But, despite being aware that they had been in the middle of a pac