Tahanea Atoll is a protected area with no permanent residents. Inquisitive Snappers look right in your eyes underwater and so do sharks. For the last ten days we have been the only ones diving here, and we met many innocent and curious fish. Have they ever seen a scuba diver before? How alien we must appear, with our tanks, bubbles and big cameras.

We enjoyed half a dozen dives under Magic, usually with a couple small sharks. I fed leftover rice to the fish around the boat most days, which attracted plenty of small gray reef sharks and blacktip sharks.

But larger sharks are out there. We saw a big Lemon Shark in the Tahanea lagoon, and it did something so creepy and memorable we nicknamed him Lemmy and joked about him for days afterward. Lemmy, short for Lemmywinks, was no ordinary shark. He had stalker tendencies, and followed us nearly a kilometer back to Magic.

We first saw Lemmy underwater. A two meter long, bulky Lemon Shark swam by several times during a shallow, hour long dive. Each time he came closer, and the closest pass had him only fifteen feet away, swimming parallel to us along a shallow reef at a depth of ten meters. Lemmy’s brown body undulated in the dappled sunlight, pushed along by a swishing, paddle-like tail. His face was blunt and serious. His eyes rolled around in his head, regarding us warily.

He seemed curious, not aggressive, so we hung there motionless in the water and I recorded a video as he quickly passed. We kept diving, looking over our shoulders, and did not see Lemmy for awhile. When we surfaced at the end of the dive and climbed into our dinghy, Lemmy was cruising around on the sand bottom fifteen meters below.

Our heads broke the surface of the water. We immediately gushed about how long Lemmy was, how plump, how curious. He was one of the biggest sharks we’ve seen in the South Pacific. Was Lemmy dangerous? We didn’t know anything about him. With big smiles we raced back to Magic to watch our videos of Lemmy and identify him using our fish book.

Our book showed Lemmy clearly. He is a Sicklefin Lemon Shark, can reach a maximum length of 2.2 meters and is considered dangerous. Yikes.

Later, Brian was in Magic’s cockpit when I heard him utter the uncanny words “the Lemon Shark is here.” My head felt light and empty as I ran outside to see for myself. Viewing the huge, dark Lemon Shark from above, right on my doorstep, felt like that stunning moment in the horror movie The Babadook when the book mysteriously reappears on the front porch after it is thrown away. By the way, I do NOT recommend this movie. It is well done, but oh-so-scary.

We saw sharks every day around the boat, but never Lemmy. We went diving in the calm lagoon, drifted on swift currents in the passes, and marveled at the pristine coral on the sloping walls outside the atoll. We never saw any sharks close to Lemmy’s size. Now he was boldly plying the surface of the water at the back of Magic after our diving encounter. It had to be the same big shark. We could only imagine what was going through Lemmy’s sharky brain:

“I thought I would surprise you while you’re relaxing at home, and show you how it feels.”
“I guess we’re friends now. Let the drop ins begin!”
“Now that I’ve had time to think about what to do with you, I hope you will jump in again.”

We left Tahanea the next day to meet up with friends in Fakarava. Brian went diving on the anchor, then surfaced and said “you’ll never guess who I just saw down there…”

Right away I knew. Lemmy. He was still under the boat. Luckily Brian worked the anchor loose without Lemmy “helping” and we got underway.

When a new, unidentified shark visits during a scuba dive it is pretty cool. When it’s Lemmy the stalker shark, it becomes a treasured memory. I feel such reverence for these wild creatures, the difficult lives they lead, and the mystery of their emotions and behavior.

Lisa Hackett

About the Author

Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a tall, blonde superhero and I live in a van. I do it all. I rappel big waterfalls, drive from Idaho to Alaska solo, live and work in a van in the wilderness and dodge encounters with wolves and bears. Seriously. More

One Response to Lemmy the Lemon Shark

  1. Chris Medak says:

    Bummer you did not have a buddy boat with you so you could dive the pass. It was the most amazing diving on our trip! Hope you have a chance to return someday

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


About the Author

Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a tall, blonde superhero and I live in a van and on a sailboat with my superhero husband, Brian. I do it all. I rappel big waterfalls, scuba dive with sharks, dodge encounters with bears and wolves, and work remotely as a full time computer programmer.
Read more

About the Van

Hi, I’m Vanifest. I’m a big, 4x4, off-the-grid van complete with solar panel for power. I'm a 2000 Dodge Ram Van and Lisa has had me since 2009. Read more about me here.


Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: