New England Mermaid
Hi above water friends! Admittedly, I haven’t written all summer, because, well, summer is a busy time for a New England mermaid. Today’s visit to my under water friends needed to be shared, so it got me back here at my computer. It was a wonderful dive for the most part. The plan was to focus on the sand flats looking for our flat friends and then visit our invertebrate friends along the wall on our way back. We did find flounder but the skates were away on holiday somewhere. We also saw countless cunner and black sea bass. The crabs were in mixed moods today. Apparently, it was lunch time, and the large friendly hermit crab allowed us to visit with him during his lunch, though he didn’t share – which is fine as I am vegetarian. The blue crabs chose to become, well, hermits (pun intended) when we approached their lunch areas, and disappeared into hiding. Being polite visitors, we let them be and went on our way. To say that the invertebrate wall was beautiful would be an understatement.
One experience surpassed them all, and I am sure that I will never forget this. About 35 feet down, on the sandflats, I saw something that seemed out of place. Visibility was quite poor, and everything was basically silty gray, but something just caught my eye. I did a double take, realized what I was looking at, and signaled my merman to come over. It was a small juvenile shark, some type of dogfish shark (about 16″) with its head caught in a glove of some type. My mermaid heart was sad – I feared it had already succumbed. But then a twitch. We had to save it. We couldn’t let it out of our sight, and visibility was only a couple feet on the sandy bottom. We needed a plan. Fortunately, this mermaid and merman have fairly good non-verbal communication. We knew that this was not a generally aggressive shark, and that he was just a little guy, but could be aggressive if scared (which I’m sure he was), and nobody wants even a little bite. Anybody who has ever been bitten by a chihuahua (and I have been!) can attest to that. My merman’s sensitivity to cold water paid off. While I had bare hands, he was wearing 2 layers of gloves, so he would be the one to free the shark’s face, and I would be on stand-by for any needs.
Shark senses are keen, and though he/she couldn’t see us, I’m sure he knew that there were large creatures present. He had to be scared – poor baby! He was so alone – and this type of dogfish is not solitary and usually hangs out in packs – he had been left behind given the circumstances. If sharks could think and problem solve, wishing for opposable thumbs would likely be high on the list for this situation. At one point during the process, we had a silt-out and couldn’t see anything. We had to stay still and wait for the silt to settle, concerned that he may have left us. Phew – he was still there.
Merman reached out his gloved hand to the fingers of the offending glove. Merman gently tugged. That offending glove was on snugly – baby shark moved forward with the tug. Consistent tugging for just a few seconds, and … success! Freedom for baby shark! Disoriented – baby shark swam a little erratically, looked at each of us with his beautiful eyes, apparently got his bearings and coordination back, and we watched as he gracefully swam away – as long as we could see him – all of maybe 3 seconds given the visibility. He appeared uninjured, and we hope he is now reunited with his pack.
Warning: The below picture is disturbing. And blurry. Just a quick snapshot, as saving baby shark, not taking pictures or video, was much more important.
After returning to my above water home, I did a little research and am pretty sure that this is a type of smooth dogfish shark. If this is the case, the size of newborns is 11 and 15 inches, at only about 16″, this little guy was just a baby. We took the offending glove home, and measured it to be 9″, so we estimated baby shark’s size based on that measurement in relation to the picture above. Smooth dogfish mate in May, June, and July, have a gestation period of 10-11 months (wow! Longer gestation than a mermaid!!!), and give birth to live young (as compared to laying eggs). This makes our baby shark 8 months old at the most, and as young as 5 months. As I said before, poor baby!
All of us need to be careful. Litter can kill. Even accidental litter. What a waste of life this could have been. I am so grateful to have been in the right place at the right time, with my hero merman by my side. After the dive, we went to a couple locations to sit on rocks and watch the waves. We were saddened by the amount of litter. There was A LOT of litter. We picked up a few items that we could carry and promised ourselves that we would put bags in our vehicle so that we would be prepared to do a better clean up job in the future. If you got this far, I know you care too – so thank you!
Just as an FYI – The offending glove is not a glove worn by merpeople. It is a type of work glove, and could have been used for many types of above-ground purposes, or perhaps for boating, fishing, or other near or on-water activities.