Saturday, January 12, 2008

4m Great White shark off the New Zealand Coast

The four-metre shark appeared as a shadow in the water as Te Horo builder Gary Porter prepared to take his third dive off the southern tip of Kapiti Island on Saturday afternoon.

Mr Porter and his three dive buddies watched in awe as the shark circled their 6.5-metre runabout for more than an hour, passing close enough for them to touch its fin and putting its nose within centimetres of the boat's propeller.

The run-in comes amid a series of shark sightings around New Zealand, including a five-metre shark spotted off north Taranaki on Friday, a 2.5-metre bronze whaler caught in a fishing net off Papamoa last Saturday, and a 2.5-metre mako seen daily for the past week at Northland's Ocean Beach.

Mr Porter said the boat's skipper, Marcello Giacon, spotted the shadow coming toward the boat.
"He goes, `Stop, stop - there's a shark coming,' just as we were about to jump overboard. And the next thing that shark is circling our boat."

The men abandoned their dive and Mr Porter began photographing the shark by dipping his hand beneath the surface and snapping about 50 shots on his waterproof digital camera.

His mates even dangled him upside down, dunking his head into the ocean, in a bid to get a better photo of the shark, before trying to feed it by trailing a dead fish on a line. But, perhaps fortunately for Mr Porter, it wasn't hungry.

Mr Porter, Mr Giacon, Chris Martin and Gordy Clarke scuba dive off Kapiti Island about twice a week, usually spearfishing moki and butterfish or gathering crayfish.By coincidence, Steven Spielberg's blockbuster Jaws, which demonised great whites, was on television on Saturday night. The men got home too late to watch it.

"We've all seen it before, but you sort of don't want to watch those sort of movies when you're trying to dive," Mr Porter said.

"... You've got to come up pretty slow, and this thing's cruising around.

"They're so fast. It's amazing for that size how quickly it can move through the water. You wouldn't stand a chance really."

Mr Giacon estimated the great white weighed between 400 and 500 kilograms. "I was just about to drop the boys off and there it was. There was a lot of yahooing when we were out there. It was exciting stuff.

"It's sort of bad news for us diving, but that's tough. We're diving where it lives."

National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research shark expert Malcolm Francis said the shark was definitely a great white and probably female. "They have a very distinctive smile. It's a very nice-looking shark."

It was about four metres long - "around the size when they make the transition from eating fish to feeding on warm blooded mammals like seals". That meant the shark could be dangerous to humans, though most great white attacks were believed to be cases of mistaken identity.

"They will spot something on the surface that looks like a seal, like a surfer or a swimmer," Dr Francis said.


Post a Comment

<< Home