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  • Writer's pictureMako

What fish is made from steel

Updated: Jun 12, 2022

Tarpons have been around for more than 18 million years, one of the oldest

living fish on Earth. They are large, some reaching nearly 3 meters (9 feet) in

length and can weigh up to 160 kg (355 lb). They can live for more than 50 years.

Ever since my first encounter with tarpons, I have been fascinated by this big fish that looks like it is made of Japanese Tamahagane steel, the one used for making samurai swords. So, when I had a chance to revisit one of the best spots in the world for encountering these beautiful fish in shining armour, Bonaire’s White Hole, I was not going to pass up on it.

White Hole is quite small, approximately 120 meters (395 feet) by 75 meters (245 feet) in size. The bottom of the hole consists mainly of white sand that reflects sun rays and gives the hole its brilliant white light. It is well known for attracting enormous numbers of tarpons.

Although I had dived White Hole several times before, I was not prepared for the spectacle that we stumbled upon this time when we entered the relatively shallow depths of the hole. The entire hole was packed with tarpons, leaving very little room for divers to navigate the available space between these majestic fish. Their shiny steel bodies reflected sun coming from above and to me they looked like medieval knights in glistering armour, silently and motionlessly waiting for a battle. They were totally calm and unperturbed by our presence. They just hung in mid-air, occasionally casting their large eyes on us, checking us out. Were we fitting in?

I imagined that I could feel their metallic scales rubbing against my wetsuit when I slowly passed them by. They were so close that I could have touched them, but with my arms firmly folded and tucked away, I was trying to blend in and be as motionless as these fantastic, magnificent creatures.

Within the confinement of the hole and with the sun’s rays beating down on us, it felt like being in a cathedral. This was not only a visual spectacle, it was an emotional experience as well.

We stayed as long as our air lasted.

Normally, as soon as one surfaces, the chat starts. This time we stayed silent, as silent as the tarpons we left behind. After such an incredibly beautiful experience, words were redundant.


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