from The Tidal Labyrinth – at Fort Fisher, NC

Check out this snippet from The Tidal Labyrinth, a short story which will be published on Naturewriting.com in the next week or so. This is one of several essays which will be released in a collection, along with many “how to” articles, which will reveal secrets and tactics for becoming an efficient self-guide, set to be complete in the next few months. I hope you enjoy!

We were continuing up the channel; probably thirty or forty yards apart when I saw it. I hadn’t had any thoughts of sharks before entering these waters. I knew they would be present; I just hadn’t contemplated interacting with them. But there I was, paddling just ten yards from the grass line, and a dorsal fin broke the surface just feet away.
I won’t write the exact wording but…
I yelled something to my brother Joey that we laughed about later. The fin was perhaps a foot out of the water, and heading towards the grass mat’s edge. I thought, that’s a ten or twelve foot shark. If that wasn’t enough, in seconds, with Joey paddling closer, pulling a camera from his bag, we saw that huge fish break the surface of the water almost entirely! Shocked at first, with the current turning me, I worked my paddle to keep pointed towards the commotion.
“Its eating Drum!” Joey yelled.
And I could see he was right. As it crashed the edge of the grass, thrashing water violently, you could see red drum scattering wildly away – exactly the species we were targeting. At that moment, I realized I wasn’t sure if it was a shark at all. But it was huge and threatening to say the least. It settled into the water and headed directly for my boat. As God and my brother would witness, that thing’s dorsal fin was fifteen feet or so from my bow when it finally sunk out of sight. Joey was snapping a few photographs, and I was unaware. I had other concerns. Then, in seconds, just a bit farther down the grass line, we saw multiple breaches again; simultaneous explosions of fish, swimming for their lives – the large predators eating what they could in the disturbance. From this new distance, and security, we could finally tell they were porpoises. I never realized how brutal their feeding could be. It was fascinating. I’d seen breaking fish crash bait, both in fresh water lakes and salt water, but never something so large, or a species I associated with Flipper. For a short period, we watched the action follow back the way we had come; short outbursts against the grass line, visible in decreasing detail at each sighting. Then they were gone.

5-29-10d
Joey Sullivan

 

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