Georgetown man takes a ride on a whale shark
“I have no idea why I did it,” said Chambers, a 38-year-old small business owner from Georgetown. “I was just, like, this (animal) is really cool. You never see anything like that. I know it’s not Sea World, and these are wild animals, but come on, something like this doesn’t happen all the time! I was, like: ‘I’m gonna ride it!’ ”
Chambers, who said he visits Port Aransas nearly every weekend on fishing trips, had the experience at the South Baker rig on Aug. 29. A friend videotaped the event, and a stranger on the rig shot photos. Since then, the video and photos have been viewed and exchanged by thousands of people in the Internet.
And yet, Chambers’ own account of the event hasn’t been told, at least not in any public way. He said the South Jetty was the first news organization to interview him.
When the photos passed along by a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend reached the South Jetty by e-mail, the newspaper ran a plea in the Oct. 8 edition for anyone with first-hand knowledge of the event to contact the paper. A witness, John Zinsmeyer, of the Austin area, called the paper, and a story based on his account ran in the Oct. 15 edition.
Later, Chambers contacted the South Jetty after hearing from a friend who had read the plea in the Oct. 8 issue.
Chambers said he and some friends were out in his 36-foot sport fishing boat, just enjoying a nice day of fishing, when they spotted the whale shark swimming along the surface of the water.
Whale sharks are the biggest sharks in the world’s oceans, but they are gentle animals that filter feed on tiny sea creatures and don’t attack humans.
Despite being an offshore fisherman for most of his life, Chambers never had seen a whale shark before, and he was enchanted.
“I saw this his huge fin come out of the water,” Chambers said. “This fin had to be three or four feet long. … I said, ‘This is crazy!’ And I’m just looking at it.”
He decided to jump in, fully clothed.
“I didn’t even tell my buddies,” he said. “I was going to do it. … I just jumped in, man!”
He swam over to the shark, climbed on and rode it for a while, to the cheers of his friends. He said he continued to hang on when the fish dove what he recalled as being about 15 feet beneath the water’s surface.
Chambers swam back to his boat and climbed in, and when the whale shark came back, he jumped in and grabbed the shark’s dorsal fin for another ride.
At one point, Chambers was astonished to see the whale shark raise its head out of the water and take both of the shafts and propellers of his boat’s twin 225 horsepower motors into its massive mouth at once.
“He didn’t, like, bite my motors, like he was trying to hurt them,” Chambers recalled. “He gummed them. He put both lower units in his mouth. He just stuck his mouth on them, like, ‘What is this?’ ”
The shark also rubbed its back against the boat, rocking the vessel back and forth.
Chambers said he wasn’t 100 percent sure the whale shark wouldn’t hurt him when he jumped in, but he obeyed his impulse to approach the animal anyway.
“I’ve always been kind of like the guy to do something, like: ‘Yeah, I’ll do that!’ ” he said.