Environment and climate change

The oceans of the anthropocene

Feeling homesick even though you’re already at home

Andrew Macrae
4 min readMay 3, 2021

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Draughtboard shark
Draughtboard shark, by Peter Southwood, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Diving in Tasmania

The weather was good yesterday, so I went for a dive off my local beach.

We’re still in the Derwent estuary here, and the visibility varies from reasonable to pretty poor.

On Saturday, it was a bit murky. There’s plenty of life down there, though.

I saw a couple of adult draughtboard sharks cruising the weeds. These beautiful creatures have a kind of mottled camo pattern on their skin and incredible metallic copper-coloured eyes. They can grow to 1.5 m, but the ones I see are usually around 1 m or maybe a little less. They’re bottom-dwelling and harmless.

And they’re quite curious, not like the big wrasse that dart for cover as I approach, or the shy crayfish lurking beneath their overhangs.

Smooth stingray
Smooth stingray by Alpha from Melbourne, Australia, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

I saw a biggish smooth stingray, around 1 metre across, and it was definitely not shy, to the point where I started to feel uncomfortable, watching its whiplike tail beneath me with thoughts of Steve Irwin’s fate rattling through my mind …

Although it must be said, they’re not at all aggressive unless they’re startled or threatened, and this one was just checking me out. Its eyes were also metallic, like the sharks’, but shimmering silver rather than copper.

The draughtboard shark pup

Then I saw a juvenile draughtboard shark about 50 cm long writhing in distress on the bottom. It only took a second to see it had taken a baited hook in its mouth, and it must have snagged and broken the line, because it was caught up on the rocks unable to move more than a few centimetres.

My first thought was just to cut the line so at least it could swim off. I got my knife out and started hacking at the thick green nylon line. Watching the shark squirm like a puppy as I did this made me realise simply cutting the line and leaving the hook in its mouth wasn’t going to be…

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Andrew Macrae

Freelance writer and editor. Sign up for my newsletter about writing, freelancing and whatever is worrying me https://tinyletter.com/Andrew_Macrae