Almost two weeks ago at least five great whites were seen around the mouth of Chatham harbor, still fairly far from Eastham's Nauset Light Beach. My husband paddled out last Sunday and Monday and attempted to on Wednesday but it was too messy to ride. I chose to hang back. Like I said in my previous post: I'll risk one great white but not five. Personally, I think my husband was a little nuts to surf, but the reports were still saying the sharks were miles away where the big seal colony is. Until Wednesday.
That evening we drove out to Chatham again to see the seals in the harbor. The previous Friday there were a few tourists checking them out, but overall it was pretty quiet. This time there was a Channel 5 satellite truck in the parking lot and about 30 people with telephoto lenses and binoculars. They were mostly ignoring the 500 pound pinnipeds cruising within feet of them. All lenses were aimed off shore. Sharkapalooza had begun.
Apparently that afternoon at least twelve great whites were spotted in the area and, according to the Boston Globe, one of them hunted a diver who had gone in to retrieve video equipment that was used while DMF was affixing satellite tags to one of the sharks. The diver was tethered and pulled out when the shark was 100 feet away. And even more scary was the report from the spotter plane claiming a great white had come to within 100 yards of a surfer that had luckily rode a wave in and got out of the water, not even knowing the shark was there. That surfer was on a beach only a few miles from our surfing spot. The next day we left Cape Cod to return home and the shark-free northern waters near us in Gloucester, MA and Hampton, NH.
Greg Skomal, a senior biologist with the Mass Division of Marine Fisheries, did a great interview on the Today Show. It includes excellent footage of the taggings. And to read more about that amazing effort and to view even more amazing photos visit the Mass Division of Marine Fisheries website. The satellite tags will pop off in January revealing much needed data on where these guys spend their time.
Great white sharks, as well as their prey the grey seals, are protected under federal law. Therefore they can not be hunted. I have a feeling with the exploding seal population (to the left) we'll be seeing a lot more of these amazing hunters in years to come. It's important to remember that sharks have a key role in the health of the ocean. They are the wolves of the sea. Without them seal populations could spiral out of control much like deer populations in many wooded areas of the US. I like to remind myself of that every time I launch into the waves with my surfboard. But it doesn't exactly make me feel any safer....