Diving instructor Chan Ming, a Shanghai-based
advertising executive, got more than he expected
when he embarked on a five-day trip out to Mexico's
Guadalupe Island with 20 others aboard Solmar V for a cage diving experience with great white sharks.
It was October 4th. Other divers had just left the
cage, and he was alone with his camera when a large
beast, chasing a tuna bait on a line, hurtled toward
the cage and crashed through the (too flimsy) bars
to join him.
A video of the event, taken from the surface,
went viral on social media and there was a memorable
moment recorded as the huge shark thrashed
about in panic and an attempt to escape when
someone was heard to ask, "Is anyone still in the
One of Solmar V's crewmembers, thinking quickly, opened the top door of the cage, allowing the great
white to escape by breaching through it, after being
stuck for about 20 seconds, resulting in very dramatic
top-side images. Better images than produced
by Chan Ming. Evidently, he managed to escape for
a moment through the bars into the water before
re-joining the cage.
The solitary diver climbed out of the cage after
the shark had gone, both parties seemingly none
the worse for the experience.
In a telephone interview with the New York Times, Chan said he did not have time to take photos of
the encounter, and could not see what was happening
as the shark was thrashing because the cage was rattling so violently. He said he was not afraid to be
trapped inside the cage with the shark.
"Honestly at that moment I don't have time to
get afraid," he said. "Because the shark is coming, a
very sharp moment, two seconds."
Not at all put off by the experience, he continued
to dive the following days saying, "I felt so
lucky. Why would I be scared?"
Ten days after the event, the operators of Solmar
V issued a statement to explain what had happened, saying that 'shark breaches of that magnitude were
a one-in-a-million occurrence.'
They say they have since reinforced their cages
and extended the 'no bait zone' around all cages.
All Guadalupe Island operators expect to meet soon
to share ideas to minimize the dangers.
But, is this as rare as one in a million as Solmar
claims? Well, there were two similar incidents in the
Bluewater Dive Travel operations director, Katie
Yonker, was involved in a terrifying and remarkably
similar incident during September while diving
from Nautilus Explorer. A 13-foot female shark
known locally as Big Mama bit through a diver's air
hose and although one of the boat crew members
managed to open a safety valve restoring air pressure
to the hookah-style breathing system, the shark
became stuck in the cage's open balcony (upper
level), wedging itself deeper as it struggled to break
free. The divers remained trapped in the section of
the cage beneath it during its ordeal.
"It's hard to put into words the thoughts and
feelings that went through my head," she wrote on www.bluewaterdivetravel.com. "The first minute or
so felt like a horrific earthquake underwater, and I
kept thinking, 'we just need to wait this out.' But in
the back of my head, I feared the cage would break
apart, and this would be the end for me. I was calm,
but felt very, very sad."
Yonker said a female diver trapped in the top
part of the cage with the shark was able to reach the bottom section without being injured by the massive
predator. The boat crew then set about freeing the
"After a few failed attempts, they tied a rope
around her tail, lowered the cage back into the
water, and tried to pull [the shark] out backwards.
Her gills were pressed against the cage bars, so a
dive master went into the cage and pressed on her
gills, which freed the shark and she swam away," she
Baiting or chumming over or on a shark diving
cage is strictly prohibited at Guadalupe, but
some operators seem to ignore this rule. In fact,
Katie Yonker described how "the submersible cages
descend with one bag of fish chum, which entices
the sharks with its scent."
Ed Stetson, who was out on Nautilus Belle
Amie, wrote to Undercurrent, "This year, the Parks
Department is allowing 'wrangling' at Guadalupe. This is where bait is thrown out on the surface to
attract the sharks, then pulled in before they eat
it. Wrangling was prohibited for several years, but
it was still being done. It appears that the Parks
Department realized this, so decided to allow it, but
To get a wrangling permit, the boat must have a
pulpit where the wrangler and throw the bait, well
away from the cages. This minimizes the chance
of the sharks chasing the bait and hitting the
cages. The idea is good, but it doesn't always work."