Saturday, July 12, 2008

Diver escaped Great White shark attack by seconds!

In a blink of an eye a great white shark shot across 50 feet of water toward Stanley Aranita, giving the experienced diver only seconds to ditch his speargun and jump into his kayak to safety.
The 50-year-old Aranita, who has 12 years of diving experience, had just begun his blue-water dive routine yesterday morning off Yokohama Bay on the Leeward Coast when he first spotted the creature about 100 feet away.

It was big, he said, longer than his 14-foot kayak and between 1,000 and 1,500 pounds.
"I seen 500-pound marlins and this was bigger," Aranita said. "I remember its eyes and it looked like it was full or pregnant."

The great white — a species rarely seen in Hawai'i — was apparently zeroing in on his chum line that he had been scattering to attract ono.

Aranita said it's doubtful that he would be telling this tale if he hadn't taken the time to scan the water all around him in preparation for his dive. He said he was saved by extreme precaution in the water and quick reflexes.

"He would have taken out my leg at least, if I hadn't seen it," Aranita said.

Water conditions were murky yesterday because of the south swell, he said, but the season was right for ono and mahimahi and he was hoping to get a head start before the weekend divers came through.

Aranita, of Wahiawa, said he had heard a big splash when he arrived at his dive spot about 2,000 feet offshore and thought someone had jumped into the water. But when he looked around there was nothing there.

Upon reflection, he said, it might have been the shark killing a big turtle.

He jumped into the ocean and chummed the water for about 15 minutes by crushing akule with his hand. Aranita said he was next to his kayak and drifting with the current, his speargun ready for action. The speargun held an akule just in case an ono came by. Ono like akule, so he would toss the fish out and wait for the ono to take it.

He said the shark was probably attracted to the chum and seemed to follow the bloody guts right to where he was in the water.

As always, he said, he scanned the water 360 degrees to keep watch for fish and predators. Because of the murky conditions Aranita said he didn't see the shark until it was 100 feet away.
Seconds later the animal had closed the gap, making him realize that it was moving at high speed. Even the normal weaving motion that sharks are known for wasn't detectable, Aranita said.

By the time the shark was about 60 feet away he decided to toss the gun with the akule attached and jump in the kayak, he said. In less than two seconds the shark was below him.

"The thing didn't rock back and forth coming toward me," he said. "No rocking, just shooting like a giant one-man sub."

Once in the kayak, he said he threw out anything that might have had the scent of fish on it, including his akule bag and gloves, hoping the great white would go after them.

But before heading to the beach he collected the gear and, "digging out," paddled to shore.
whites rare here.

The sighting hasn't been confirmed by anyone else, and Aranita was diving alone.

Bryan Cheplic, spokesman for the city Emergency Services Department, said lifeguards did not see the shark.

Great white sharks are rare in Hawai'i, according to Alan Everson, biologist for the National Marine Fisheries Service. Some have been tracked by satellite from California, Everson said. A couple years ago one was caught on video during a shark tour off Hale'iwa, he said.

William Aila, harbormaster at Wai'anae Boat Harbor, said great white shark teeth can be found in ancient Hawaiian weapons, so he's not surprised to hear about a sighting.

Aila said he's hearing more and more stories of shark sightings as more people are getting out into the ocean and fishing.

"It's not a function of more sharks being out there," he said. "It's a function of more people being out there."

'not much time'

Aranita said he saw the shark from the front and it was impossible to see its tail or dorsal fins, a clear indication of its girth.

He said the shark sighting wasn't a heart-pounding experience because he has seen other sharks, including big tiger sharks.

But this was his first great white, he said, adding that another blue-water diver had reported seeing a great white in the area but he didn't believe the report.

Although he didn't have a camera and couldn't get a picture of the animal, he said he is positive it was a great white shark. He said he was impressed with the animal's speed.

"Now I see why people get eaten alive," Aranita said. "The thing is pretty fast. There's not much time."


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