By Mike Daak
Another Midway Shark Story (1)
When I lived on Midway in the mid 80’s I had a jet ski. The jet ski was the absolute ultimate island experience. I could ride alongside dolphins in perfect sync at my ears. This was the older type jet ski that required forward motion to keep it on top of the water.
One day, while teaching a fellow worker (Art Robinson) to ride the jet ski, he fell down near something that made a big splash in the water. Art got the ski started again and decided to try to find whatever it was that made that big splash. He found it in no time, then drove the ski full speed straight up on the sandy beach of Area 7 – not far from the old sewage outflow pipe.
When Art arrived on the beach he was really pumped. He said he was done riding the jet ski, as he had just spotted a huge Tiger Shark. Next, I decided to go looking for the shark and it was easy to find, inside those shallow/clear waters of the Lagoon. It looked like a small submarine in the water, where everything already looks 30% larger. What was surprising to me was that it was only a couple hundred feet off shore in very shallow water. It was that time of year – the time when young Gooney birds were just learning to fly and the sharks had a perfectly timed schedule to be there for them.
For several weeks after that, we went out in a Boston Whaler to the same area and we could always find the shark. We drove the boat toward its location and snapped a few pictures with my underwater camera.
It was rare to see a shark, especially one of this size, in waters that we used for swimming – so I decided to try to catch it. I rigged up a steel tow cable (from a JC Whitney catalog) and a very large fish hook – a very LARGE hook. The hook was made for catching sharks. It had 10 inch shank with a log chain leader. I floated each end of the tow cable with large floaters and anchored each floater with steel truck wheels. I placed the large hook in the middle, baited with a road-kill Gooney for bait.
As soon as I finished putting the boat away, I returned to the Area 7 beach and found that my floaters were no longer anchored apart. I didn’t think much of it because there was plenty of surf and wind that day.
The next day was Thursday which was also Mail-Call day. My duties at the NavFac required me to carry a 2-way radio at all times. On mail-call days we switched from our normal private channel to the main base frequency so that we could hear the ‘Mail-Call announcement’. Mail-Call was a big deal on Midway, as it only came once a week.
Two Navy Sea Bees were in the boat with me – Roger Heins and Bob Will.
We made our approach to the large floaters very carefully. I had invited the two Sea Bees in the boat with me for help, in case it was needed. We had lots of fish parts in the boat, thinking we were probably only going to re-bait the hook. The water was very clear and very shallow but we didn’t see any sign of a shark, around our buoys. So, I reached out and grabbed the steel cable and began pulling it up toward the boat. There was no sign of life or resistance while pulling up the cable.
All at once the shark’s head was about 10 inches from my side. Our Boston Whalers seats were only about 10 inches from the water surface. His head was about 2 feet wide with its eyes rolled back and all white. This moment still ranks as one of the biggest adrenaline rushes I’ve ever had.
Once I noticed the shark, I threw the cable back into the water. My concern was getting our propeller tangled up with the cables and anchor system. We felt the shark could easily overtake our Boston Whaler, as it was bigger than our boat. We managed to untie the anchor lines, from the hook holding the shark. From that point on we always knew where the shark was by following the large floats that were still attached to the hook.
We decided to grab the line and loosely tie it to the front of our boat. We wrapped our nylon rope in such a way that if the shark decided to pull away, we could just let it go. As we pulled the shark in reverse, toward the shore, he snapped the rope, twice.
I reached for my 2-way radio and had forgot that it was on the main island base channel. I called for help from my coworkers. There was plenty of excitement in my voice.
I was really surprised at how many people started showing up at the beach. We finally pulled the shark to the shore. The Base Commander was there waiting with a loaded pistol. He shot the shark several times.
The University of Hawaii was coincidentally on-island and used the shark as a class training project. The shark measured 11 feet 7 inches long.
As a side note, about 1 month prior to the catch of this shark, a swimmer had disappeared from this same beach. He and another friend decided to go swimming after drinking at the bar. One fellow announced to the other that he was going to go back to his room. The other said that he would swim a little longer. He was never seen again. Boats and planes were launched but there was never found.
I’m not in the picture – I took it. The person on the left was our Base Commander. The person in the middle was his Yeoman. The person on the right is Terry Moore. Me, my Jet-Ski and the Boston Whaler are in the bottom two photos.
As an aside note – When I left the island, I sold the Jet-Ski to another co-worker. He nearly lost his life with it, when the motor quit, when he was riding inside the Lagoon. He ended up abandoning the Ski at sea and it was never seen again – another Midway story about how that happened.
Midway Island 1983 – 2002
I caught this 11 foot 7 inch Tiger Shark, close to the shores of Area 7, at Midway Island.