Skip to content Skip to navigation

Hennessey Part 2: Senses

Photo credit: Sharkcrew Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0
Aug 16 2021

Posted In:

Original Articles

By Anthony Palumbi and Stephen Palumbi

Hatching and moving. Seven small pups had hatched within her, squirming in the center of her belly, squirming as they grew. When four and a half feet long, they would be born into a warm ocean cove, darting away into the dim green water and the lonely monarchy of their kind. But until that day, they grew on yolk and young unfertilized eggs, crowding themselves into a tight sardine embrace.

They were now the guiding force within their mother. They defined her journey. They moved inside her, and she diverted towards the warmer shore they would soon need. But when her hunger rose, her need to feed them, she veered into the deeper cold where bigger prey usually hid. She was ever alert, ever seeking. She was a mother and always hungry.

Deep in the night, she tiptoed toward a possibility. Feeling the warm coastal waters of Long Island mix with the blubbery tang of cold-ocean prey, she turned towards a rare find. Her steady loping tailbeat delivered her closer to the vague mammalian scent. But as she approached the stark marshy coastline flaming with human lights and sounds and smells, all of her senses signaled that there was danger here.

Alerted, she stopped and drank in the sensations. Her pupils, orbs that could narrow to thin slits in sunshine, now flared large in the dim moonlight. Her hearing used her whole body, like an ear drum on which the rhythm of the oceans played. Scents in the water wrote a picture of her prey from the chemicals they left behind. In her nose, spongy tissues that only she and her ancestors possessed sensed the electric currents around her and telegraphed the fleeing heart beats of her prey. Floating motionless, she let the ocean speak.

Amid the layered confusing sensations came a possible payoff. A large object, big enough to be prey, moved through water.  A thin scent of mammal. Not the usual species. Tumbling oddly. Whatever this creature might be, whether prey or not, her senses did not know it.  The senses that detected the world at a distance failed to deliver the answer. She had only one other tool at her disposal to find out more, so she crept toward this curious mass.

Prey or not prey? To really know what this was, she had to taste it.

*****

 Jamie Brinson swam frantically against a sudden current, now lost in midnight waters that he’d rashly jumped into. In his mind, Jamie replayed the infuriating way his business partners had treated him on the big party boat all night. Goading him. The impulse came suddenly to jump into the bay and swim for his own sailboat, moored towards the mouth of the tiny harbor of Hampton Bay. But now everyone on the boat was screaming Shark!, even as the current in the bay swept Jamie further out to sea. More and more disoriented in the dark night-time waters, Jamie thrashed through the choppy waves noisily, dreading the sight of a shark fin or the jerking rending pain of invisible jaws closing.

With a whimper of relief,  he reached his little boat, and pulled himself at last towards safety. But a dark figure rose up, hidden in the boat, and the heavy boarding ladder Jamie gripped suddenly pivoted down on top of him, crashing into his head. Stunned, sinking, choking, the increasing current carried him out of the bay.

To start at the beginning of Hennessey's journey, click here.

 Photo credit: William Cho. Cropped.Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0