Near Miss by Paul J. Mila



1. Dangerous Waters

2. Whales' Angels

3. Fireworks

4. Near Miss

5. Killer in Paradise

6. Fugitive In Paradise


Larry Loggerhead Travels to the Sea Turtle Hospital

Gracie Green Turtle
Finds Her Beach

Harry Hawksbill
Helps His Friends


Bubbles Up

Basic Underwater Photography


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Paul Mila Author & Underwater Photographer
Paul Mila - Writing at his Cozumel Condo
Paul Mila - Author


Near Miss by Paul J. Mila
BUBBLES UP: Join divers Judy Hemenway and Paul Mila in the South Pacific and meet 30-ton whales eye to eye; dive into the Caribbean surrounded by hungry sharks, and turn back time as you explore a World War II Pacific wreck. Feel the thrill of an eagle ray flyby in Cozumel, Mexico, and experience the rush of a barracuda feeding frenzy. Whether you are a diver, snorkeler, or an ocean lover you will enjoy immersing yourself in these fascinating stories  

I couldn’t resist a touch and let my bare hand brush one shark as it swept past. I felt the power of pure muscle rippling just beneath its tough skin. Some sharks cruised inches above my head, and I observed rusty hooks dangling from the corner of their mouths. Evidently, these had survived encounters with fishermen.

Continuously bumped and surrounded by sharks crossing in front, over, behind and past me, I wondered, What am I doing down here? Then I pondered what would happen when the food supply ran out.

* * * * *

I spot a pair of humpbacks cruising less than 50 yards away. I duck my head below the water to get an underwater view, breathing through my snorkel. One of the pair veers toward me, so I take several deep breaths and then dive, hoping for a good underwater photo angle.

When I raise my camera and look through the viewfinder, I see the giant humpback approaching directly toward me. The whale, as big as a bus but graceful as a greyhound, spreads its long, white pectoral fins like an eagle in flight and turns toward the surface. My lungs are burning for air when I take the photo, and we surface together. I hear a strong whooshing breath behind me, but when I turn, all I see is misty spray and a fluke slipping beneath the waves as the whale dives to rejoin his partner.

* * * * *

One large eagle ray I had been watching turned and approached me. Typically, these timid animals will veer away before coming close, but this ray kept coming. I raised my camera and started shooting as it rapidly closed the distance between us, 60 feet, 40 feet, 20 feet. I watched in awe as it pumped its muscular body, beating its massive 10-foot wings. My heart stopped as it "flew" only a couple of feet over my head, so close that I could see its gills pumping water. I expected to feel some backwash as it passed, but the ray was so streamlined I felt nothing. Wow! It was the photo-op of a lifetime. I was thrilled to have captured the all-too-brief moment on video!

* * * * *

Two barracudas were barreling in from the blue at high speed, like Amtrak’s silver Acela express trains. Both Jeff and I were so focused photographing the struggling snapper that we never noticed the Death Express as it rushed in for the kill.

The first barracuda, a silver-gray blur sped through the frame like a runaway torpedo. That ’cuda missed the desperately swerving snapper, but his buddy’s aim was better! The second silver bullet hit the snapper with brutal violence, seizing its victim crossways with its razor-sharp teeth inches below my fins.