Port Elizabeth Raggies still have what it takes to Keep Divers on their Toes by Gletwyn Rubidge

Good Reef

Mr WolfOn Sunday 9 September I was diving with Mark Jackson on a good reef off the west side of Cape Receife. The conditions were great - viz was a splendid 12 meters, 18 degrees, and light current. Mark got a 7 kg tasslefish on his first dive and informed me of three others where he shot it. Off I went down toward the bottom and scanned the reef and the sand next to it for more fish. Seeing none I dropped a little deeper to about 20 m and from the west saw a beige raggy of about 2.8 m idling effortlessly toward me. It was about a meter off the bottom and seemed to sense my presence and the sharp snout lifted in the characteristic manner of a Sand Tiger of Intent. The splendid array of teeth came into view as I moved off to his right and delivered a good hard jab with the speartip of my 1.2 Freedivers gun.

Mr Wolf the Raggie Shark

This is where the use of a longer gun makes one feel just a bit more comfortable. The raggie’s response was a drastic arching of the back followed by a vigorous snap away from my spear. The shark, hereafter referred to as Mr Wolf, then set off at a good rate toward a half meter high cave nearby; stuck its head in there and did some kind of a crazy shaking maneuver as if it was tearing a fish apart. Next it promptly turned around and came strait back at me. Again the characteristic rise toward me, my equally-characteristic jab was once again followed by the arch of his back and a big tooth-bearing snap. Mr Wolf, apparently convinced of my inedibility, headed off eastward. At that moment I spotted a bank steenbras that had been lured in by all the activity and I swam three meters toward it and got in a rushed shot as by now the need for more oxygen was becoming a priority. Upon surfacing I asked Mark to defend the flapping bank steenbras from Mr Wolf should he return. Surprisingly he had had enough for now and did not try to get the fish.

Strange Behaviour

The one part of this skirmish that was totally new to me was the way the raggy bolted off to the cave and acted as if it was tearing up a fish in the cave  much as silvertip reef sharks do. I am quite content to jab the raggies and watch their snapping as I have done it hundreds of times. On one occasion while diving near St Croix Island during a single down I jabbed the same raggie five times before it left, each jab was followed by the impressive snap. (If you want to learn exactly how to do this check out my course/mentorship on http://www.freedive.co.za.)

Now let’s get to Part B of the story. Hunting Fish

We dived on a bit with mark getting a small bronze bream fouled and me diving there and loosening it from the coral. I kept a good lookout on this dive. Later mark took a good 4 kg bronze bream and I got a smaller one. On my next dive I saw two tasslefish go into a cave whereupon I changed to my 1 m Freedivers gun and checked my landmark as to the exact position of the cave. Low and behold, on the very next decent Mr Wolf came idling past as I was getting near the cave, I stopped and watched him idle past, he began veering toward me but then steered away again and idled off to the east. Coast is clear, let this little piggy find the tassles! Down I went into a deep gully and entered the cave at the far corner with my eyes closed briefly to enhance my vision – no tassles! I pulled back and out of the cave - sixth sense alarm bells sounding!

Cornered by the Raggie

Upon turning around who should be there but Mr Wolf himself - approaching fairly quickly. I now had a shorter gun and was cornered, but worst of all the crystal clear memory of the raggie’s dart toward the cave and it’s apparent aggressive behaviour earlier when it had its head in the cave was foremost in my mind. Still, after all these years, I find the upward view of a raggie heading down toward me very impressive – there seems to be little else but teeth, sharp teeth! I was now on the sand at 23 m with a wall on each side of me and the cave directly behind – no where to go. This would prove to be interesting! I lunged forward carefully placing the jab so as to have the shark snap away from me and luckily that worked – Mr Wolf arched his round back and snapped with the usual gusto then sped off while I sped up and was stopped abruptly. The heel of my left fin struck the reef behind me and pulled the fin off. I snatched at the fin before it sank and pulled it on and eventually made off for the surface and fresh air.

So it was that I delivered three more jabs to PE raggies and Mr Wolf evidently made peace with us - I saw him twice more looking very docile over the sand some 40 m off the reef and it showed no interest in the fish I shot near it later.