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April 2017    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 32, No. 4   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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MV Thailand Aggressor, Similan Islands

where have all the sharks gone? Soup!

from the April, 2017 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Dear Fellow Diver:

Deciding to take a dive trip to Southeast Asia just three weeks before departure meant planning would be tricky, but the Thailand Aggressor had space, and Richelieu Rock, often listed as one of the world's top 10 dive sites, beckoned me. Though I knew the craft had mixed reviews, the Aggressor Fleet website offered a last-minute 50-percent-off a seven-night charter, which was too good to pass up, especially after I saw the whale shark images on their website. I was hooked.

MV Thailand Aggressor and an InflatableWhile four of us hung onto a pinnacle at 70 feet at Koh Bon, north of the Similan Islands, I thought about those whale shark images. I had been told that divers in another boat had seen whale sharks that morning, but I'd seen none, and now this was my last dive of the day. We had been drifting in a ripping current reminiscent of Palau's Blue Corner when we grabbed the rock, not an easy task without reef hooks. The current roared like a bullet train passing at full blast. But, nary a whale shark appeared, so after 10 minutes I let go, disappointed, and drifted off with my buddies. Maybe next time.

Before getting out, I made a safety stop over a huge patch of dead coral empty of fish. Though it had been 12 years since the tragic Indian Ocean tsunami hit Thailand (the Similan Islands were the initial point of impact), the coral destruction was largely caused by the 2010 ocean hot streak in the Gulf of Thailand, which bleached massive areas of coral. Dive sites were closed for more than a year to allow the coral to recover.

Earlier in the week, we dove the Similan Islands, which have fine beaches and small places to stay. Called the Nine Islands in the Yawi language, they are known by their numbers. Interestingly, many have massive boulders (about the size of a small SUV) along the shore, such as the impressive Elephant Head Rock in Donald Duck Bay (Similan Island #8). Underwater, the boulders -- some as large as a three-story house -- created a surreal topography, with nice arches and swim-thrus, but with few cracks where fish can hide. So, fish watching wasn't much. I did find a spearing mantis shrimp, a juvenile Napoleon wrasse, a giant barracuda and a striped sea snake over the course of nine dives....

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