“NO GUTS…NO GLORY”
I picked up a voice message on my phone from a fisherman named Kenton at Honokohau Marina saying he’d lost his wedding ring in the water while cleaning fish.
Little did we know then – that an hour and a half later – we’d have one of our most exciting ring-recoveries to date. Kenton had already posted on our Facebook page before we’d even rinsed off our gear. He’d written:
Very thankful for the timely and professional recovery of my wedding ring from approximately 20 feet of shark infested water. The story associated with it is so ridiculous, you’d think it was a fish story so I’ll spare you the details. These guys showed and got the job done. Money very well spent!
That was the short version – here’s the long one…
We grabbed our equipment and raced to the marina trying to beat the quickly setting sun.
Kenton was there with a several fellow fishermen standing on the end of the narrow concrete pier where boats weigh and clean their fish. The head of a 700 lb. marlin sat in a pool of blood on the pier next to them. We met Kenton briefly and walked over to the pier side. He pointed into the water below which quickly dissolved from clear, tropical water to a hazy blue. Below there were rocks, boulders and … a massive tiger shark, at least 12 feet long, circling the spot hungry and fast.
I skipped a breath and Kenton exclaimed, “Oh, that’s not good.”
Tiger sharks are the second-most aggressive and dangerous of the shark world, after the Great White. We dive with them occasionally outside the marina but close encounters like this can end up badly. Had I jumped in now, the shark was so shallow I would have landed on it as he cruised just under us in broad circles.
“There was a feeding frenzy when I was gutting the marlin,” Kenton said as we watched the shark disappear, then reappear without warning. “I’d grab a handful and throw it off the pier, then suddenly my ring flew off with a handful of guts!” Turtles, moray eels, barracuda and a variety of sharks had all joined the feast. I looked into the water and wondered if the ring had survived to the bottom or was swimming around somewhere nearby in a turtle’s stomach…
Maybe we should just come back tomorrow I suggested… That wouldn’t work as there were nearby divers Kenton felt would go look for the ring to keep once the sharks had swam away. It was a family heirloom that couldn’t be replaced.
The sun was setting and the water was going dark so we had to make a plan. One of Kenton’s co-workers handed me a BBQ fork as a weapon and suggested tying the marlin’s bloody head to a line and towing it behind a dingy. Maybe the sharks would follow it to give us time to search? That sounded better than just fighting them off with a kitchen utensil, so they got the small boat and dragged the head off of the pier’s ledge into the water. Another of Kenton’s shipmates yelled out to the boat as it pulled away, “If the shark grabs it, just let it go!” The tiger shark was as big as the dingy and they didn’t want him getting pulled in.
I jumped down to a large catamaran’s pontoon and put my head underwater, upside down, with a mask on. The water was murky – but “all clear”… Kenton passed my scuba gear and Minelab Excalibur detector down to me while I stood on the pier’s rocky ledge, constantly glancing underwater to see if the sharks would return. Kenton’s co-worker yelled from around the corner that the large tiger was under his dingy.
Instead of climbing down, Sylvie jumped the five-foot drop into the water from pier-side with a splash. Unfortunately, she’d sat in a large pool of blood while doing so… Kenton passed her gear down and instead of a metal detector, gave her our long stainless steel metal detecting scoop to act as security.
My heart was beating quickly as we both scanned the now deep-teal colored and murky water. Sylvie turned her torch on. The marina was deep and I started detecting quickly as we deflated, hoping the ring had not fallen amongst the large boulders lining the decent into the marina’s center. Metal was everywhere, discarded from boats and the pier’s construction. I looked down the slope and my eye suddenly caught the small, circular shape I’ve trained to see, laying in the muck. It was dark and gray in the fading light, and I pulled myself quickly down the slope and grabbed it. I opened my gloved hand hoping – it was the ring! Sylvie stood on the bottom peering out into the marina and unaware of my find. I waved and yelled in my regulator and looked back at me. “Sharks!” I signaled, “I have the ring and let’s get out of here!!!” I pulled off my glove and jammed the ring onto a finger, afraid I’d drop it if the shark came out of the murk.
I got back up to the top of pier’s base and held my hand up for an elated Kenton to take the ring off my finger. We were pumped up and climbed out of the water once our gear had been lifted out. A hose was turned on to rinse our gear while we took photos together and excitedly told the group how we’d found the ring. The rinse water washed the remaining blood on the pier down and instantly there were two large sharks where we’d just come out from – an 8 foot gray reef shark and a 5 foot white tip. We laughed – now that we were dry – and I was so happy the large tiger shark had decided to go for the fish head while we’d been under!
It had been one of the quickest ring-finds we’d ever done – but certainly to date it had been the scariest. We told Kenton to wear an outer ring next time he cleans a mammoth fish as I’d be happy to avoid the guts and glory of another ring search here!
PS – Sylvie left the GoPro on by accident as she was getting out of the water. It’s murky and quick, but did something come out of the water in the background…?! My heart jumped when I saw it… Here’s the VIDEO…
PPS – it was shot “by accident” as this up-side-down video was shot when the GoPro was hanging by Sylvie’s belt and “rolling” as she got out of the water.
IS THAT THE 12+ foot TIGER SHARK?! Your call…!