July 2010, Ningaloo Marine Park, Western Australia. The largest fish in the world is swimming at about three miles per hour, but it’s hard, even with fins, to keep up with the 20-foot-long behemoth. A huge happy looking fish with white polka dots sprinkled over its expansive back, the whale shark lumbers leisurely through the cloudy water.
Occasionally, it opens its mouth to feed on plankton. A large nonthreatening interior with a noticeable absence of razor sharp rows of teeth is revealed. In fact, it almost looks like white cushions line the inside of the whale shark’s billowing jaws.
This is crazy. I can’t believe I’m sauntering along in the Indian Ocean with a whale shark. And we are swimming in some very deep open water — 80 meters (262 feet) — to be exact. In fact, I can’t look down or around. I stare at my new friend, the whale shark, and kick hard.
I fall back as the whale shark slowly shifts. Once behind the massive fish, I see them: the same foreboding, angular tail and dorsal fin that have menaced and terrified people on the big screen and the Discovery Channel for years. The tail looks like a large iron boomerang steadily moving back and forth.