2nd Chance Shark Hunting

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2nd Chance Shark Hunting

Two weeks ago we drove down to La Jolla Shores and back on a Friday. On September 4th, another Friday, we’d planned on going to Catalina Island for the first time. We figured it would work better during a pandemic because nobody would be interested in going there. Most of the restaurants would be closed, the hotels would also probably closed, etc.

Nope. Two weeks before our planned visit the ferry tickets for the time we wanted were already sold out. Here’s a word of advice: In a pandemic, if you’re in a hotspot, maybe don’t go anywhere that’s “sold out.” So what now?

Well, we missed out on sharks last time but had a good time at La Jolla, so why not go back?

On the day of I didn’t get much sleep. Woke up grumpy. Sam slept in late. We left late. The traffic was worse than two weeks ago with multiple stop-and-goes on the 5 south. In my mind, as I grumbled and ground my teeth I was more determined to get there since all this extra work probably meant there were sharks waiting for us. A “balance to the force” type of thing.

And… the water was much clearer than last time. Drifting around I ran into some interesting things.

Sam was the first of us to see a shovelnose guitarfish many years ago at La Jolla and it took me another year or two to spot one.
so was that other guitarfish a strat and this is a tele?
rays were everywhere, as usual
I even managed to get into a staring contest with a blue-eyed thornback ray before it buried itself
got threatened by a few crabs
there were a lot of lil’ baby flounders a few miles up the sand from the Underwater Park, but I was only able to get a picture of mom (dad?)
Sam found the seashell city
looks a little morbid to me, but trust me these little purple guys are all alive and hairy

So I said earlier I thought all the annoyances of getting down there would mean we’d be rewarded with sharks…but I’m also agnostic and understand that’s all hogwash. So I wasn’t exceptionally surprised when, after 3 hours in the water we didn’t see any sharks. The water was colder and clearer than last time, I saw a few thornback rays, crabs, and other stuff, but no sharks. Sam got seasick around 3:30pm and went back to our little tent on the beach by the lifeguard station at Kellogg Park (we always set up camp in this spot). We’d been swimming about a quarter-mile north of Kellogg Park and I knew the light was going to start dimming soon (diffraction and an earlier sunset makes visibility more difficult in non-shallow areas after 4ish) so I resigned myself to just drift with the current south to the Underwater Park.

I shuffled around the Park for a bit. It was almost low-tide, so the water was very shallow but still too choppy and dirty to really see anything in more than two feet of water.

Around 4, tired and a little dejected, I let the waves push me toward shore, not even swimming north to our spot on the beach, I’d just exit in front of the Marine Room and walk back, rinse, and start the longer drive home.

Surrounded by people wading into the shallow water and nearly ready to plant my feet down and waddle out, a shark passed right under me.

hello goodbye

I’d been drifting so it evidently mistook me for the ample dead kelp and other detritus that floated above it. As soon as I tried to follow it it disappeared into the muck.


From experience, I knew where there’s one there’s many. I also knew they like to hover around the same spots. So I did some hovering myself. I turned my cameras on and just waited patiently in water no more than three feet deep, rising, falling, and churning with the waves, avoiding an errant human foot every now and again.

And over the next twenty minutes, I’d have several experiences like the first.

I wish there was a magic button that could alert Sam to come join me – an underwater GPS transmitter… it’s harder to locate sharks, get out, and try to find their hang-out again

A shark would drift past and then disappear completely.

nothing to see here, move along

If we didn’t have a long drive ahead of us I might have stayed longer, but every minute in the water meant the light faded a little more and visibility got a little worse. I dragged myself out after 20 minutes at least happy to spend that small amount of time with the mysterious creatures (it had been a few years since we’d managed to coincidentally happen upon them there, though they’re always at La Jolla “somewhere” this time of year).

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