BY MICHAEL BOROUGHS
Idling off Mexico's Guadalupe Island in the turquoise waters of the Pacific, Bruce Wight watched over the side of the 85-foot ship Horizon as dorsal fins circled past.
Wight and other passengers had caught 60-pound Yellow Fin tuna earlier in the day and strung them overboard on lines to tantalize Great White sharks.
Wight, a Shared Services project engineer in Seal Beach, Calif., climbed into an aluminum cage suspended from the boat's side. Hooked up to a breathing apparatus, Wight and the others with him could stay underwater for hours watching the 10- to 14-foot beasts devour the hang bait.
''It's amazing to be in the cage and watch the shark just eat it like it was nothing,'' Wight said, ''and these tunas are big fish. All that was left was the head on the line.''
Wight's hobby is diving and undersea photography. He became a certified diver in 1975, and he and his wife, Johanna, have traveled the world exploring the waters from Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Micronesia to the Caribbean and the coasts of Central America. The couple make as many as 100 dives a year, mostly around the Channel Islands off Southern and Central California.
In October, Wight set off on his first trip to Guadalupe Island. From San Diego, it takes 22 hours by boat to reach the targeted shark waters. Underwater visibility is about 60-80 feet, offering pristine views of teeming sea life.
While fear might grip most at the sight of sharks—with their massive teeth and jaws—closing in on the dive cage, Wight finds solace and beauty.
''You don't really get scared watching the sharks from the cage,'' Wight said. ''They are really gorgeous and are fairly slow, unless they're going after something.''
Up to four people at a time can be in each of the two aluminum cages suspended just below the surface. Once underwater, the only sounds that the divers can hear are the ropes slapping against the cage and the constant humming of the onboard generator.
''It wasn't scary for me, but I've been with hundreds of sharks,'' Wight said. ''As long as they aren't threatening, they're just big fish. Although if you were out of the cage—after looking at what they did to the tuna—you know what they could do to you.''
One shark came too close to the cage and got tangled in it, Wight recalled. Since these large open-sea sharks are unable to swim backward, it shook its head to throw off the cage. ''It's like being inside a washing machine,'' he said.
As a member of the San Diego and the Orange County Underwater Photographic Societies, Wight always makes sure his camera equipment is in hand during a dive. He used an underwater Nikonos 5 camera system and Provia film to photograph the Great White (top of page). He was able to shoot only six rolls of film on this trip because of bad weather the first couple days. He plans to return to Guadalupe this coming fall for a longer adventure with the Great Whites.
After every trip, Wight puts on a slide show for his entire department and the departments he interfaces with of ''the incredible marine animals and scenery my wife and I capture on film,'' he said.
''It helps to get to know the people whom I work with and let them know about me and some of the special places I have been privileged to visit.''
To see more pictures of sharks and underwater life, link to Wight's Web site at: http://home.earthlink.net/~bwproductions/bwsweb/HOMEPAGE.htm
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