“We believe that preparation eradicates cowardice, which we define as the failure to act in the midst of fear.”
― Veronica Roth
Confronting fear can be exhausting and all-consuming, but sometimes, just sometimes, it can be fun. It is a lesson I am glad I learned late one summer, many years ago.
Dr. Gruber of the University of Miami was heading a research team on the small island chain Bimini. He was a world-renowned expert in his field (MTV even featured his research on their network). So when my high school chem teacher, Ms. Schwartz, offered me the opportunity to fly out and check out his lab, I was freakin’ excited! One thing though, the good doctor’s expertise… you guessed it, sharks.
Bimini has an island that is just a couple of miles off the coast of Miami, Florida. It falls within the infamous Bermuda Triangle. And its waters are known to be home to some of the most fearsome sharks in the world, Tiger Sharks.
The flight to the island itself took no more than thirty minutes in a tiny Cessna. The flight manifest included five passengers: yours truly, another high schooler, a grad student, the all-important pilot, and the professor himself. The pilot, who I shall not name, allowed me to hold the controls for a little bit as the beautiful turquoise waters of the Bahamas came into view. I was stoked.
After the plane landed on what seemed like a dirt patch, we headed to the Shark Lab in a Land Rover. The ride was wet and bumpy, to say the least. But, we arrived quickly. The Lab, though not an impressive structure, was going to be home for a couple of days and I couldn’t be more excited.
Turns out Tiger Sharks are terribly intelligent animals and Dr. Gruber fearlessly sought to study their incredible ability to navigate an ocean. Some of us can barely navigate a city, let alone an ocean. Sure, sharks have many millions of years of evolution ahead of us, but damn! In particular, from what I understood, Dr. Gruber studied how they traveled thousands of miles from their mating grounds to their nesting place. Amazingly, they gave birth to their offspring in the same lagoon as they themselves were born. I saw the lagoon. It was tiny.
Now this guy, I mean, Dr. Gruber, has been around these creatures for a couple of decades. Moi? Never. So when he had the grand idea that we jump in and take a swim with them, in my mind he was asking me to feed them with my own flesh. The other high schooler was not even considering it a possibility. But, after learning so much about these amazing creatures, I wanted a closer look and I was not going to let death stop me.
I am writing this blog today, so you already know I made it out alive. More to the point, it was the greatest fun, and the most adventurous thing I have had the opportunity of doing. Furthermore, I would encourage anyone who struggles with cowardice to study that thing which they fear, and take the plunge. No person or thing looks as tough after you have stared down a Tiger Shark.