I just watched CBC Canada’s “Fifth Estate” segment on holiday hell and it brought back a memory. It also reminded me how lucky I’ve been in life.
Here’s my story. It is not a vacation one per se. I grew up in Hawai’i, and spent a lot of time in the ocean. I was into spear fishing. I was pretty cocky sometimes as well. There are certain things you learn right from a very early age, living there and being a water baby. You never swim in the ocean at dusk or dawn. That’s when most predators can just about be guaranteed to be hunting near shore. You never go spearfishing (or any diving really) alone. While the ocean is beautiful and full of bounty, as a human you are just as likely to be prey as you are to be the hunter. Safety in numbers and all that. You never carry your catch close to you. You have a stringer that you thread them onto and drag it several feet behind you. Finally (Relevant to this story. There’s a LOT more you need to know!), never, ever, ever follow a lobster into its hole. Lobsters and Moray eels quite often live together and you don’t want to tangle with a Moray!
So. It was a nice summer afternoon and we were visiting with my aunt and uncle who lived in a nice house overlooking the ocean in Ka’a’awa on O’ahu. There was a narrow reef maybe 100 yards off shore and then open water till you hit the larger reef a quarter mile or so out. Then you were into open ocean.
Around 1:00 or so my uncle and I decided to go see what we could gather up to throw on the evening BBQ. We went out to the outer reef then proceeded to hunt between the two reefs, spearing fish as we worked our way back toward shore. It was a great day and we kind of got lost as to time. Finally, my uncle surfaced, saw it was getting late, and told me we needed to head back… now.
As we got close to the inner reef my uncle went to the right for an easy spot to cross over it. Just as I was about to follow him, out of the corner of my eye I spotted a honkin’ big lobster. YES! Yummy! We hadn’t caught any lobster that day and I wanted to be “top spear”. So he went right and I quietly hung a U-ey and went left after the lobster. My uncle didn’t notice I’d left him.
Meanwhile, my aunt, father and mother were up in the house at the picture window and watched what came next unfold. Don’t think they were neglectful. They tried to shout up both my uncle and I but we were under water, couldn’t hear them and it all happened in less than a minute from what I was told. Never mind what they saw. I’ll just tell this from my perspective.
The lobster saw me coming and boogied for his hole in the reef. My little pea brain was in “lobster passion” overload. Common sense, training, all that… out the window.
In a fraction of a second three things happened just about all at once. I poked my spear into the hole. A big, fat, angry Moray eel came whipping out the hole, mouth gaping with eyes for me, just me ……………………. and a large shadow passed over my head. The eel seemed to decide, “Never mind. All yours!” and withdrew back into the hole. I glanced up and saw a tiger shark swimming off in a curve, and to my mind he had the near eye on ME! Was he/she/it circling around to taste me?
I never found out. My parents said that as they were helplessly freaking out, well, as my Dad put it, “Jesus Christ walked on water and so did Maryanne! Up, over the reef, and then swimming for shore like an Olympian!” Dropped my spear. Dropped my drag line. Hauled ass for safety!
Need I say I never did that again?!