Dear Friends – I really did kiss a Ghost Shark and this was the pinnacle of my fascination with this beautiful animal. More about that later.
Since moving to World’s End, Klady and I have been captivated by Ghost Sharks who live in cooler waters and from what I’ve been able to understand are not really found anywhere else but in the deep south of Australian and New Zealand waters.
As you may be aware from my earlier blogs, during our daily beach visits (and swims for me), Klady is forever fossicking and searching for new and different remnants of marine life tossed up by the winter storms. When we are hit with Antarctic blasts and high southerly swells, there is little protection from the Great Southern Ocean and so our beach is easily eroded. (Fortunately, it takes just a few months for the currents to redeposit the sands and presto – a gentle sandy beach again!)
These storms also toss to the high tide mark a huge variety of kelp, sea lettuce, seaweeds, Neptune’s Necklace, the beautiful soft black velvet weed as well as the translucent green tiny Mermaid’s Necklace (Chaetomorpha coliformis) – a particular cucumber flavoured favourite snack of mine. And strangely, amongst all the seaweeds and kelp there are very few shells but occasionally, we do find real treasure in the form of Ghost Shark eggs.
Klady and I are very familiar with the world of shark eggs, having once collected enough empty Port Jackson Shark eggs to create an awesome sculpture inside a gigantic glass container, but the eggs of the Ghost Shark are truly unique.
Australian Geographic describes their unique form as being worthy of being a prop in the movie “Alien” and I feel they look prehistoric enough to be compared with the ancient Trilobites.
To tell you the truth, the first time that we found such an egg, Klady mistook it for a piece of plastic rubbish. It was only when I found a second one amongst my seaweed snack, that the penny dropped for Klady, that it was a type of shark egg – but which one? We started doing our research on sharks that live here at World’s End and were surprised to find that the strange egg belonged the Ghost Shark – also known as an Elephant Fish or Elephant Shark.
Now Ghost Sharks (Callorhinchus milii) are not at all like the scary low-rating 2013 SciFi movie which totally misrepresents this species by suggesting they are ghosts that are vindictive, vicious and evil. I know this for a fact because I met a Ghost Shark during one of our jetty fishing excursions.
Sitting on the jetty, the family next to use hooked this huge fish. The rod bent over and it took Marcus, the fisherman, more than ten minutes to reel in this big fish. When it finally landed onto the jetty, Klady and I were completely gobsmacked.
The Ghost Shark was quite slim, about 1 metre long and with a short trunk, just like an elephant. I took a sniff and heard it whine and Klady and I felt so sorry for it. I touched the trunk which it uses to search for food and found it was soft and squishy and could easily move around.
But apart from the trunk, two other distinctive features really touched my heart.
The first was the Ghost Shark’s skin; an amazing shimmering, iridescent and a light greyish, purplish blue. I went closer and touched the skin and it was incredibly soft and silky. No hard shark skin here.
The second was its huge eyes which were a beautiful deep glistening black and I know I saw tears rolling down its face.
I gave my new fishy friend a gently doggy kiss, and then Klady and I ran away not wanting to see what happened next.
While I knew we couldn’t rescue this beautiful animal from the fisherman who had just caught the family dinner, I made Klady swear that if she ever caught a Ghost Shark that she would immediately release it. I’m pleased to say that Klady immediately promised to do so and I know she will, as she also fell totally in love with this stunning creature.
So now every time we find a Ghost Shark egg, we bring it home and say a few gentle words so we never forget our lovely marine neighbour and friend.