During low tide in Airlie Beach, which happens around noon (and then presumably again at some point during the night, but I wasn’t generally in any condition to investigate this) the water goes out hundreds of meters, leaving a very wide beach, tons of tide pools, and access to some small islands on foot.
At first, I was just wandering along the beach looking in the tide pools, but then I decided to brave the unknown and walk out to the island that was quite far out, but walkable at that moment. I was a bit worried that I would get out there just as the tide was rushing back in and I’d be trapped out there for the next 12 hours, but I must have read Baby Island a hundred times when I was young, and it gave me (probably false) confidence in my ability to survive alone on a desert island.
I started squelching my way out there, it got very muddy after awhile, and even though it was only about 6 inches of water, I was convinced there was one of those sharks that blend into the bottom to lure innocent fish waiting for me to step on it. Again, why someone with such a rampant phobia of sharks spends so much time around the ocean is really anybody’s guess.
I finally made it out there, with both ankles intact which was no small feat when you consider the mud I had to slog through, followed by the millions of slippery, jagged rocks that made up the rest of the path, and started to investigate, keeping an eye out for any signs of buried treasure or Tom Hanks.
As far as I could tell there was only one other person out there, a middle-aged German lady who had followed me to the island. I thought it was courageous of her to trust me, a perfect stranger in a floral print onesie, not to lead her into certain doom, but there we were.
Just as I was turning the corner beside the first mandrake, an older Australian gentleman poked his head around the tree and cheerfully announced that there was a dead tiger shark on the island, just up the way, and then continued strolling along back towards the beach.
I passed the message along to my new German friend, but instead of turning around and heading the other way, she got very excited and rushed off to find it. Even though I really didn’t want to try to find the shark (it was probably dead, if it was, in fact, on the island, but it could have been an elaborate ruse) I felt sort of responsible for her being out there in the first place, so I went along with her.
We walked all the way down to the other end of the island along the rocks, searching for the shark, but we couldn’t find it, although at one point we both noticed a putrid smell, but we couldn’t see where it was coming from. I think we were both looking for a small animal washed up right along the water.
We were about halfway back to where I’d met the man, when all of a sudden she stopped and and gasped and pointed at something wedged in the mandrakes.
It turned out to be a massive, dead shark, and also the source of the smell we hadn’t been able to place earlier. It was really scary, and also really sad.
After that my companion and I parted ways. I crept around the island a bit more, but once there are sharks in trees all bets are kind of off, so I was too jumpy to explore by myself for much longer, and I started the long, muddy journey back to the main beach, checking carefully for buried sharks before each step.