Bus Size Sharks and Free Diving Birds


Birds can hold their breath and swim under water.

At least, some birds can.

This may be old news to you, but apparently I had been asleep on that day of Earth Science class.

This new tidbit of knowledge was passed on to me last week while my family and I were on vacation in Florida. We had boarded a plane and taken the kids down to see Grandma and Grandpa in Cape Coral. The kids were looking forward to seven straight days of being spoiled by Grandma, and mom and dad were looking forward to some extra sleep and maybe some sunshine.

Tropical Storm Debby nixed the hopes for sunshine, and a flu bug kept us close to the bathroom for several days, but neither was strong enough to knock out a grandma intent on her grandkids. The kids had a great time.

Whenever we go to Florida I look for opportunities to go SCUBA diving. It is really the reason why I got certified in the first place: to be able to explore the warm waters of the sunshine state. Diving here in Michigan is OK, but is nothing compared to Florida. The east coast of Florida is the place to go if you are a diver. Ft. Lauderdale and Key Largo are diving meccas.

The tooth in picture at the top is a Megladon tooth I brought back. This picture is a bone from a Dugong.

However the west coast where my wife’s parents live has a diving experience I had been wanting to try for a while: Diving for prehistoric shark teeth.  There is an area a few hundred yards off the coast of Venice, Florida that is called the Boneyard. The bottom is littered with bones: mammoth bones, ancient whale bones, bones of an animal called a dugong which looks kind of like a manatee except it’s tale looks like a dolphin’s tale, and the prize that everyone is looking for — the teeth of prehistoric sharks.These shark teeth can be as large as six inches long, and came from long dead sharks called Megladons that were up to sixty feet long, three times the size of a great white. Definitely wouldn’t want to be in the water with one of those.

So while we were on vacation, after I recovered from throwing up everything I had eaten since February, I went diving. As I swam on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico looking for teeth, I realized I had some friends with me.  A small school of fish, each about 5” long was following me. Picking objects up from the bottom sent a small cloud of particles swirling into the water. The fish would swim in and eat the particles. They would hang out there munching away for as long as I sat still, just a few inches from my face. If I poked them they swam away.

After my first dive I was sitting on the boat talking to the Captain. We saw a group of cormorants, large chocolate colored birds with orange beaks swimming near one of the other diver’s dive flags. When we dive, we tow a flag attached to a buoy letting boats know we are down there. The captain explained that one of the cormorants had discovered that fish followed the divers. The bird also discovered that if he dove at the dive flag and followed the line to the bottom he would find the diver and the fish that were following.  The dive flag was a guaranteed “find dinner here” marker.

Sure enough, the bird he was pointing to swam to the flag and disappeared beneath the surface. He was under for over two minutes as he swam the 30’ to the bottom in search of food.

What amazed me was the persistence of the bird. You can’t see the bottom from the surface in this area of the Gulf, at least not when the bottom is 30’ down.  In fact you can’t see the bottom until you are 7-8 feet from it. This means that when the bird dives, he can’t see where he is going. He just keeps swimming, knowing from experience that something to eat will likely be at the end of the rope.

I began to think about a parallel between that bird, and us as we pursue God. Many times, when God gives direction, the end result of that direction isn’t immediately apparent. There will be a “dive here” marker, but once we get under we realize that we can’t see the bottom.

God did this with Abraham:

The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you.  ~ Genesis 12:1

Other times in scripture, God changed the direction of someone’s life and they didn’t have any say in the process. Joseph and Daniel were kidnapped. Mary was visited by an angel who said basically “surprise, you’re going to be pregnant even though you have never had sex.”

The trajectory of each of these lives was changed by God without the person knowing fully what was in store.

Maybe God is in the process of changing your life trajectory. Maybe it is something you seem to have a choice in. Maybe it’s the decision to adopt a foster child, or move to a new city, or pursue a new degree. Maybe circumstances have forced a trajectory change. Maybe the death of a spouse is forcing you back into the work force. Maybe you were let go from your job and aren’t sure what’s next.

Whether you feel like you are in control or not, trust the God who is going before you. Like the bird swimming down the flag trusts that food will be at the end, even though he can’t see it — just keep swimming,  trusting that the God who took care of Abraham, Jacob, Daniel and Mary is taking care of you.

One of the guys on the boat with me was named Josh. He dives Venice Beach all the time and has a YouTube channel of videos of many of the dives. This one is a “best of.” If you’re wondering what it’s like, this is a good place to start.