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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Swimming With Stingrays

I never really liked the Crocodile Hunter. I never saw him as more than an overgrown kid poking his stick at nature. "Just leave the damn animals alone," I'd mutter before changing the channel. For my money, nothing beat Jacques Cousteau. When I was little, I'd watch his elegant specials with my dad and be inspired, imagining myself as a great explorer slipping over coral reefs. Watching the Crocodile Hunter only ever inspired me to think, "This jackass sort of deserves to have a bite taken out of him." (I assure you though, I may not like the character someone plays on TV but I'd never wish them dead. Call it the Ann Coulter Principle.)

But Steve Irwin's death made me think back to a few years ago, when I went swimming off the Caymans with stingrays. Nothing fancy, just went out in the middle of the ocean and hopped off the boat.
The guys who took us out gave the requisite warning: stingrays can be dangerous because of the barbs on their tails. But I thought nothing of floating underwater and letting them swirl around me. In the pictures we took under the sea that day I never stopped smiling. One guy with us got lashed on the foot, but even that was sort of treated on the hush-hush up in the boat, and I didn't get out of the water. Now, in light of Irwin's death, I wonder if I'd be so cavalier again about splashing into an unfamiliar creature's home. Maybe there are places we're not meant to go.


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