This feature is now closed … but the AGS team was delighted with the great response for this feature and would like to thank all who participated.
After compiling a collection of the top 11 stories, we took them to display at our educational booth at the Asia Dive Expo (9-11 April 2010 at Suntec Singapore).
The crowd reaction was really encouraging and we were delighted with the number of new names added to our ongoing pledge against shark-fin soup. If you haven't yet pledged, see those who have HERE and add your name with the form on the right-hand side.
The top 11 were all awarded certificates and gifts, including a compilation of the stories and latest issues of our sister magazines ASIAN Geographic, ASIAN Geographic JUNIOR and Asian Diver. The lucky winners are also now entitled to half price subscription rates to any of the 5 titles under our magazine family umbrella.
Enjoy the 11 entries below and we hope you’ll participate in our next feature.
What makes me want to dive and see a shark one day was a story-tale told to me when I was a kid. This is the story of SHARK DIVA.
Shark Diva is a super hero under the sea. She protects the oceans’ reef and corals with her laser eyes and poisonous bladed fins and rescues fishes and sea animals from her deadly nemesis called The Toxic Man. The Toxic Man always finding ways to kill and destroy Shark Diva’s beloved underwater world and her friends by using his favourite weapon, The Waste Cannon, capable of firing waste discharge into the sea, poisoning every corals and fishes nearby. However, Shark Diva always saves the day by using her Shark spinning technique to clean the water and her bladed fins to subdue Toxic Man and his Waste Cannon.
However, in recent times, Shark Diva faces a new and more powerful nemesis called, THE HUMAN THING. Capable of taking away Shark Diva’s and her friends’ bladed fins and making it into food for their eating pleasure. By taking away her fins, Shark Diva cannot defend herself from Toxic Man and thus, giving Toxic Man a chance to pollute our sea, killing all our beautiful sea creatures with his Waste Cannon. Sadly, The Human Thing has been identified as us truly!! So instead of being Shark Diva’s enemies, we can be her beloved sidekick by stop buying shark’s fin so that she can save our beloved and cute sea animals with her Bladed Fins.
So join her up to be her sidekick today!! Stop buying and eating shark’s fin!!
266 words, Age Category: Under 15
Don’t Follow Others
In Asia, people are catching sharks, cutting off their fins, and throwing them still alive back into the water. They make it into a soup called “shark fin soup.”
CHANGE YOUR DECISION ON SHARKS; DON’T FOLLOW OTHERS!
Many people eat shark fin soup and kill them only for their fins. They throw them back in the water, still alive! It is very cruel, and sharks are now endangered because of the Chinese desire for shark fin soup! Shark fin gives neither flavour nor nutritional value; it is only there for texture. It really only happens because everyone follows tradition. It’s your decision that matters, change the tradition!
Pearce Jones, Singapore
109 words, Age Category: Under 15
My Dream Encounter with a Shark
The pristine sands of the beach glittered under the glorious rays of sunlight. I advanced to the shore, brimming with anticipation for my swim at the beach. My gentle trot turned into a sprint as I dived into the clear waters. The saline taste of the sea, the fresh breeze combined with the rays of sun dancing on the waves made me feel as if I was at a tropical resort. Ah!, I thought, the joy of swimming at the beach.
Perhaps it was the salt-infused winds, the 'holidaying-at-a-resort' feel I had or because I was in a particularly imaginative mood that morning, my mind raced to thoughts of swimming with a shark. Though it was impossible to meet a shark off a coast in Singapore, my curiosity was aroused and I dreamt of swimming with sharks. Beyond the confines of the floating yellow buoys, I envisioned what was possibly on the other side; a whole new world to me.
After spending an hour under the sun swimming, weariness took over as I trudged back to shore, laying down on a comfortable mat, fulfilling my heavy eyelids. Despite my fatigue, my thoughts were still fixed on my dream of meeting a shark, and would transpire …
A dark form loomed , in the depths of the ocean. It lunged towards me viciously, baring its angular, sharp teeth. It was a shark. Hurriedly I dodged out of its way and spun around. It turned out there was a gathering as another shark appeared.
''My fin was close to being in a bowl of soup, I saw those hunters again and made it away in time. Sadly, Old Joe was entangled in their nets, finned and dumped back to the sea.''
''I just don't get it, why do those guys keep coming to take our fins? And they're coming more frequently now. It's rare to not find one of their boats on the sea in a typical day.''
''I agree, those guys are weird. Why would they want our fins? It’s just made of some cartilage and that's all it is. It's like bones.''
As I listened to the conversation, I felt pangs of guilt emanating from my stomach as now I was aware of the heartless process of obtaining sharks' fins.
''Yeah, and those Man always complain about us sharks being man-eating, vicious, ferocious and make us out to sound like killing machines. We don't even like how Man taste; all bones, no fat, totally unlike our favourite snack: seals. Our slow digestive systems couldn't even digest a Man properly!''
I had heard enough, as those two sharks glided gracefully into the depths of the sea, a drastic difference from how they arrived as my misconception regarding those supposed ''Man-eaters'' were cleared up. I awoke, not just from my sleep and dream but also from my ignorance, regarding the brutality of how sharks are finned for shark's fin soup. So, Shark's fin soup; goodbye!
Sean Tan, Singapore
497 words, Age Category: under 15
My First Shark Dive
Sharks. There are hundreds of species of them, with some at the very top of the underwater food chain. Since I was five, when my parents brought me to the zoo for the very first time to celebrate my birthday, I have been fascinated by sharks.
During that first visit to the zoo, I was by far intrigued the most by the sharks. Even after gaping at their sleek body and swift movements for almost half an hour, I was still reluctant to move on when my parents wanted to take me to see other animals. It marked the beginning of my delving into the world of sharks.
Sharks were almost the only thing I ever had in my mind since then. When I was younger, I would always pester my parents for toys of sharks, and as I grew older, I loved doing research on sharks. I always wished one day I could swim together with them in the wild, where they could roam free in the sea, however, the cost of such a trip was simply impossible to save up for.
Then one day, the zoo announced that they would be starting a new programme that would allow members of the public to swim with the sharks, for a relatively small price. I was overjoyed and signed up the following week…
I was filled with nervousness as I entered the huge “aquarium”. The sharks swimming around me seemed vicious, and yet there was a certain elegance about them. I felt clumsy with all the diving equipment hanging off my body. After a few moments of getting used to the equipment, I decided to spend my twenty minutes in there to the fullest. I swam deeper, and one of the four sharks inside nudged me as it swam past. I squealed in delight inside my mask.
I felt awkward swimming together with the much more streamlined sharks, however, it was very fun. Suddenly, I felt some difficulty breathing through the mouthpiece of the scuba tank. I realized that there must have been some technical malfunction. I tried to kick upwards to the surface but I suddenly felt unable to move due to my extreme panic and nervousness. I thought I could feel a sort of cramp coming to my legs.
Just at that moment, one of the sharks, called Meat, swam over to me, gliding through the water as gracefully as a swan. It seemed to know what was going through my mind and, swimming underneath me, pushed me upwards. My leg muscles finally relaxed and with one powerful kick, I went upwards to fresh air.
The moment I broke out of the surface of the water and breathed in fresh air, my heart rate finally started to slow down. I felt extremely relieved. After the day’s incident, I only had all the more admiration towards the sharks and how they could understand my predicament and help me. This incident only made me love sharks even more.
Timothy Tan, Singapore
496 words, Age Category: under 15
Close Encounter with a Great White Shark
The water lapped idly around the little boat. I sighed deeply as I gazed into the vermillion sunset. The two tiny fishes my father and I caught in the past three hours were undoubtedly insufficient to feed our family of eight. Times beyond number my father had been casting the tattered green net but each time it came up naught. My father’s taut muscles rippled under his shirt and his face exhibited an expression of concrete determination as he continued the arduous task of hauling up the net.
The pale golden sky was rapidly darkening as if the earth was dimming its lights to sleep. Soon we would not have adequate light to see a mere five metres ahead of us.
“Papa, we should be going back. I don’t think we would catch anything else today.”
“Don’t worry son, just a few more minutes. We may get lucky.”
Just then, the fishing net seemed to possess a mind of its own, pulling my father towards one side of the boat.
“Oh my, what a big fish we got here!”
I quickly lunged forward, holding onto my father’s waist and balancing my weight skilfully so as not to capsize the boat. The huge fish was thrashing wildly in the water, spraying stinging drops of seawater into my eyes.
After ten minutes of struggle and employing all our combined strength, we finally managed to haul the metre-long booty onto the boat. Panting from both exhaustion and excitement, we surveyed our catch. This bizarre-looking fish was nothing like what I had seen before. It had a pointed snout, an enormous dorsal fin and rows of serrated razor-sharp teeth that lined a gigantic gaping jaw. For the first time in my life, I realized that I had come face to face with a live great white shark!
My heart galloped and my breath stopped as I remembered the shocking new reports and tales of shark encounters where these terrifying creatures devoured everything in its path. Compared to full-grown great white sharks of four to seven metres long, this metre-long shark was merely a pup but still I was awed by this dangerous yet fascinating creature.
The shark’s pectoral fins were entangled in the fishing net and it was desperately gasping for breath. I glanced up at my father.
“Papa, should we take it home for dinner? We could have a feast tonight!”
“No, son. As sharks are indiscriminately hunted for their fins and female great white sharks only reproduce twice in her whole life, these sharks are already facing an imminent danger of extinction. We should release this shark pup and hopefully it would grow and reproduce for its own kind.”
After some painstaking finger work to disentangle the shark, we gently released it back into the sea. In the silver moonlight, we watched silently as the ocean’s apex predator swam away, and prayed that it would be able to survive the ravages of man and time.
Raphael Soh, Singapore
494 words, Age Category: under 15
The Great Aquamarine
The boast of nature is in its great aquamarine, in the great seclusion of the worlds largest competitive arena, where its animal against animal, animal against itself. And sharks are no small player. With a legacy of 420 million years, longer or equitable to the history of our combined humanity, over a diverse spectrum of 440 species, Sharks are a invaluable member of our planet. Fictionalised, immortalised in movies and literature, they stand for seemingly the worst killing machine, unpremeditated, ruthless attackers of the human species, But we kill more that they have ever attempted. !00 million sharks a year are killed by humans but shark attacks, provoked and provoked have only averaged at 4.3. If they are murderers deserving of fading into extinction, then we have embarked on a genocide that has no other objective than to serve ourselves.
As the daughter of a marine biologist, sharks have always been an integral part of my life ever since I was a child. Marine life and its inhabitants have never foreign entities to be. The complexity and wondrous nature that the ocean held for me, helped facilitate a dream, to one day swim, in an unprotected, natural environment with the one of the world’s greatest creatures; the Great White.
I have always been fascinated by its strength and overwhelming power, the way its has managed to inspire fear in the hearts of unassuming men, the manner in which it has been portrayed and publicised in movies, almost always negatively it seems as though no shark movie has ever escaped from its influence and its dominance in the ocean. The Great White or any other shark for that matter, is not an organism that should be examined in the confines of a commercial exhibition, in Seaworld or possibly in museums neither should it exist in our bowls of shark fin soup. (I still remember insisting to my family that if I ever wanted to achieve my dream than I must sacrifice shark fin soup.) It is a living, breathing ,moving creature, organic in its creation, raw in its indefinable power and absolute in its realm of contention. Can one imagine the beauty, the honour of being ever being able to cross thresholds with this magnificent creation?
To view the Great White, without barrier, without restriction, to bear a lone witness to a moment in time would be the greatest privilege. To be able to begin to comprehend the mysteries, the subtleties, the interpolating emotional and physical layers the shark is composed of, would require the seemingly impossible. It would be the materialising of a dream, the dethroning of the myth that a Shark kills without distinction and without impediment. (After all it is biologically unsuitable to eat humans and in most accounts, it does not attack except when provoked. )
To sense a shark up close, to touch it, to feel it, its physical and metaphysical presence, would be an experience. After all, the ultimate predator in the ultimate setting can provide the ultimate experience.
Xin Yuan Wang, Singapore
505 words, Age Category: 15-21
Fish Rock Cave
I’ve always wanted to dive with big sharks just to experience the feeling of being in close proximity with these large animals. As a start, Grey Nurse sharks would be a good option, knowing their shy and timid behaviour, just to ensure that I have a pleasant experience and not a terrifying one.
The week I visited Sydney, diving with the Grey Nurse sharks definitely had to fit into my schedule. Known as Australia’s best ocean cave dive, Fish Rock is a critical habitat area for the Grey Nurse sharks, located in South West Rocks 285 miles north of Sydney. As soon as I landed in Sydney airport, my friends and I drove 5.5 hours to reach South West Rocks, which was quite painful especially after catching an 8 hours flight.
Considering that I normally dive in warm tropical water (28C), I knew the water was going to be cold. The boat ride was around 20 minutes and when we reached the rocks, the divemaster gave us short briefing but I could no longer wait to jump into the water, and of course, I was the first to be ready and jumped into the water.
The Fish Rock Cave dive was amazing. It was 125 metre long and the marine life inside and under it was really rich. The cave was entirely dark and the whole experience made me realize that I am not absolutely into cave diving as I wanted to get out of the cave as fast as possible, worried that I might run out of air while still stuck inside the cave. I started to calm down when I saw light at the end of the tunnel and the view was absolutely breathtaking. I started seeing the silhouette of the grey nurses and started counting of how many sharks there were but lost count as soon as I saw a MASSIVE stingray swam passed. If only I didnít have to chew on my regulator, my jaw would have totally dropped. I kept moving bit by bit, forgetting that I was recording the experience with my pocket camera, my eyes were focused on them, not wanting to lose any second of the experience. Slowly I started seeing their appearance and it was incredible. There were a group of researches feeding the sharks when we were there, so these animals were considerably more active than usual. Fishing is also allowed around the area which caused some of the sharks to have hooks in their teeth, which was quite shameful.
When we got back to the dive centre, I said thank you to the divemasters for the excellent dive and I told them I would definitely come back. I thought I was going to come back a year later, but no, I went back there 3 days later and yes, I think I am crazy too. The second time I dived the place, the visibility were much greater so it was even a far better experience.
Eunice Effendi, Indonesia
496 words, Age Category: 21-35
I was in Caye Caulker, Belize, with five friends, hoping to dive the famous Blue Hole. We woke up early, ready for a two hour boat ride and a great deep dive but unfortunately the sea was too rough to make the trip. So instead we stayed inside the protection of the reef at Hol Chan, enjoying the coral walls and watching groups of nurse sharks relaxing on the sea bottom at 21 metres, lazily allowing the current to flow over their gills. It was a typical dive with schools of reef fish and of course some fun swim-throughs.
Half way through the dive, we were queuing to swim through a particularly narrow stretch. I was positive that I was the last one through, so I hurried to catch up with the other divers ahead, but to my surprise I felt a tug on my fin from behind. I rolled onto my back to see who I’d forgotten and saw … a SHARK!
Hanging of my left fin was a one metre long nurse shark. At first I was in shock. I wasn’t afraid but completely and utterly jaw-droppingly shocked … I mean it wasn’t what I was expecting! But within seconds vanity had taken over, as I started to rehearse the heroic story I was going to tell that night over a bottle of Belkin beer. Then fear! Fear as I contemplated how the story might end.
I knew how to get it off. Kick it on the nose with the heel of my free foot. But then what? … Will it swim away terrified by my ‘Leonardo DiCaprio’ retribution, or will it see through my Hollywood-style (‘The Beach’) defence and through my neoprene suit to the tasty morsel quivering inside?
Thankfully it didn’t enjoy being kicked and swam off… as did I … only a little less gracefully, backwards in a sea of bubbles, straight into my waiting buddy. I tried to explain with dramatic hand gestures and saw the widening eyes of a man impressed. How cool was I? In my head the shark was growing in size… along with my ego.
Back on the boat, I recounted my daring tale of bravery in the face of a razor-toothed enemy to an enthralled and clearly very impressed audience but I could hear laughter coming from the other end of the boat. Walking over was our dive master. “That was Reggie, our friendly shark. I was hoping to find him”, he said with much chuckling, then suddenly serious “You didn’t hurt him, did you?” As I quickly back tracked, the full extent of my heroic exaggerations became apparent and the three metres of thrashing wild beast shrunk back to a mere one metre. The flying kung-fu kick to its head became more accurately a tentative bop on the nose.
In the bar that night my story wasn’t the daring tale of bravado I’d hoped for, but in the end the story of the “friendly-shark bite” proved much more amusing.
Chris Grant-Peterkin, United Kingdom
501 words, Age Category: 21-35
A Lucky Encounter With Hammerheads
After a long planning process, a group of 10 of us finally confirmed our trip to Layang Layang in early-April 2004, who were all after one thing: Hammerheads.
We were lucky to spot hammerheads on some of the dives, but they were never really a close encounter with a large school.
Being somewhat frustrated, one of the more eccentric divers in our group, Timothy, decided to change of our fortunes by diving only in his very small red speedos (yes, no wet suit) as a good luck charm on the last big dive of the trip, this despite the cold of the South China Sea at a depth of 30 metres.
Miraculously, not long into the dive, his sacrificial act bore results as we met with a group of over 150 hammerhead sharks only at about 20 metres’ depth, somewhat above our dive group.
Timothy, who was swimming under the hammerheads, exhaled and the bubbles spooked and split the school into 2 groups. It was a frenzy of hammerheads and divers swimming in all directions, and one breakaway hammerhead, measuring 2.5 metres in length, swam right towards me. It scared the daylight out of me as I only had a Sea&Sea camera as protection. But, it turned away at the last moment a metre away, much to my relief.
So, if anyone wants to see hammers up close at Layang Layang, red speedos do seem to work. By the way, I still have pictures of Tim in his lucky red speedos.
Leonard Tan, Singapore
252 words, Age Category: 35-50
Looking for pygmy seahorses
Way back in early 2002 my dive staff and I took a day to go and look for pygmy seahorses on the USAT Liberty shipwreck in Tulamben Bay on Bali’s northeast coast.
We were spread out the entire 120 metres length of the wreck, studiously inspecting every gorgonian seafan on the wreck (yes, it was going to take several dives to complete!).
I’m not personally known for my ‘spotting skills’ and my eyesight is not as good as I’d like it to be … and so I took a break to look out into the blue, give my eyes a rest and try to focus on something else.
Out there I saw a “shape”, a dark “shape”, moving slowly away from me parallel with the bottom of the wreck, so around 28 metres deep. My brain tried hard to make the shape into a passing Manta ray, but it just wouldn’t work.
Just as I decided there was no way I could work out what it was as it had moved too far away, I realized that “it” had turned round and was swimming back the way it had come.
I waited and there, out of the gloom, came a juvenile whaleshark! It had spotted me and turned around for a closer look – and boy did it come close, I mean: Right up and over my head! Very slowly and eyeballing me the entire time. It swam around me for a while (yes, I was unmoving and holding my breath – don’t tell my instructor!) and then moved to what it maybe considered a safer distance.
I never did find any pygmy seahorses myself that day (although my staff did) but actually, I preferred the whaleshark to be honest.
Annabel Thomas, Indonesia
292 words, Age Category: 35-50
A flash, a splash
A slick, grey shape
A shark wearing a mourning drape
What must disappear
Is the fear
Only see at least
The beauty in the beast
A million years they do exist
And soon they will be gravely missed
Hunted down for status or out of greed
They’re killed for what we don’t really need
A flash, a splash
And they are gone
Too late to cry about what is prone
Simone Gerritsen, Indonesia
70 words, Age Category: over 50