A journey to the shark-infested waters of the Farallon Islands.Illustration by Ryan Graber.
One cannot imagine how massive the Golden Gate Bridge is … until you’re beneath it. The sun is just rising on this crisp morning, and I, along with nine other adventurous souls, am heading out into open water in search of the most feared predator in the ocean. Our destination? The infamous Farallon Islands.
As a child, I had a rabid fascination with sharks, especially great whites. I flooded my tiny mind with all kinds of knowledge about this perfect killing machine -- through books, movies, whatever I could get my hands on. Finding information on the unmistakable torpedo-shaped creature that traverses the water with such elegance and power was my favorite pastime. And to this day, the hold that this animal has over me is impenetrable. Even after millions of years at the top of the food chain, the great white, with its grinning set of large triangular serrated teeth, still embodies a certain mystery that not even the most renowned scientists can pinpoint. Though most of my friends deem me crazy, these reasons alone present a curiosity that I can no longer deny. I have to see one up close.
THE FARALLONES ARE LOCATED just 27 miles off the coast of San Francisco, and most shark-dive charters depart from Fisherman’s Wharf, a popular waterfront neighborhood bustling with street entertainers, hotels, shops, and restaurants. There are several charter options available, but one of the most popular is through Incredible Adventures, a company that offers shark excursions in various spots around the world. As we board the New Eldorado III, the company’s new luxury vessel, the crew welcomes us with smiles and a comforting dose of practical advice: “If you feel sick, just let it happen,” says Gwen, our den mother and cook. “Don’t fight it, just bulldoze people out of your way and get to the side of the boat. If you try to make it to the bathroom, you’ll be a goner.”