Sunday, August 31, 2008

Season of the Great White shark

Thefirst Great White sharks of the season have been spotted near the shoreline in False Bay and recreational sea-users are being urged to keep a watchful eye on the shark spotters who work along that coastline.The City of Cape Town said Great White sharks were present in the coastal waters all year round and people should be aware of the small possibility of encountering them at any time and should always remain vigilant when using the ocean.

"Over the past five years, the period of mid-August to the end of November has recorded the highest numbers of interactions between Great White sharks and recreational users," the city said in a statement.

"Based on scientific data, the city would like to ask people using the coast for recreation to be extra vigilant particularly over the next few months when the highest occurrence of inshore Great White shark activity is expected. "Kayakers and surfskiiers are specifically asked to be cautious of the area between Sunnycove and Glencairn Beach while surfers and swimmers are asked to be especially vigilant in the areas between Sunrise Beach and Strandfontein and in the Macassar Beach area," the council said.

People are being encouraged to use areas where shark spotters are on duty and to take the time to speak to the shark spotters on the day they visit the beach to find out about recent sightings and activity, as well as the current conditions which determine the efficacy of shark spotting.

Currently shark-spotting programmes are operational at St James Beach, Muizenberg Corner, Fish Hoek and Noordhoek seven days a week, from 8am to 6pm. From the beginning of October, the afternoon shift will be extended till 7pm.

This article was originally published on page 5 of
Cape Times on August 21, 2008

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Shark hunter comes face to face with Great White shark

A great white shark has been spotted off the shore of the Garden State.A shark hunter said he came face-to-face with the toothy predator in the Atlantic Ocean, three miles off the coast of Monmouth County."It was a female. It was in very good shape," shark hunter Rob Depietri said.The former marine biologist and two friends were fishing last week in his boat near an artificial reef off the coast."This big dorsal came up the slick, and the tail that came out, I thought at first it was a mako," DiPietri said.The crew struggled to secure a tail rope on the shark.

"The shark went insane, beat the boat up pretty good," DiPietri said.Soon, the crew realized the teeth were triangular, "which made me just like jumping up and down because then I went and looked and -- poor Rich had to hold the shark by himself -- saw that it was a great white.The shark was six-and-a-half-feet long and an estimated weight of 200 pounds.

Fishermen said the New Jersey coast is known as a nursery for great whites. It's believed that the sharks arrive in the spring and are staying later this year because of the large amount of bait fish in the area.The rare chance of an encounter was causing some swimmers to shutter."I saw all the 'Jaws,' one, two and three, and every time they went out there they got in trouble," beachgoer Ted Ferraioli said, pointing out to the waves.

"If they'd stayed over here, they wouldn't have been in trouble. But, no, they had to go out there. And when you hear that music, you never go out there.""It wouldn’t have kept me out, not at all, not in the slightest -- unless he's coming alongside me. I might leave then. After all, it is their water," swimmer Susan Luckhorst said.And now, the shark is DiPietri's unexpected and unbelievable memory."I've been so stoked for the last week-and-a-half, I can't tell you," he said.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Great White shark movie "Jaws" was based on 1916 shark attacks

"Shark, shark, shark!!!"

While such a blood-curdling call likely immediately calls to mind the 1975 Steven Spielberg blockbuster "Jaws" about a rogue great white shark off the Cape Cod coast, the genesis for that movie, and the Peter Benchley novel it's based upon, were inspired by real-life shark attacks closer to home.

A spate of shark attacks off three New Jersey towns, including Matawan, in the summer of 1916 is the original inspiration for Benchley's "Jaws" monster.

Matawan owns a significant piece of that actual shark horror story. Two townspeople — a young boy and a man — were mauled to death by a bull shark that swam from the Raritan Bay up through estuaries to Matawan Creek.

On July 12, 1916, a shark that later became known as the "Matawan Man-Eater" fatally attacked 11-year-old Lester Stillwell while he swam with a group of friends in Matawan Creek.

W. Stanley Fisher, 24, of Matawan jumped in to help the boy, but also was fatally attacked by the shark.

Today, Matawan residents commemorate the lives of those two victims with its third annual "Sharkfest" here.

Matawan's afternoon shark event also is to help raise funds to eventually build a memorial monument in their honor.

"Hopefully, we locate at Dock Street where the attacks happened to mark the location," said Robert Montfort, president of the Matawan Historical Society.

Matawan hopes to eventually amass enough money so it can build the monument by 2016 to mark the 100th anniversary of the shark attacks.

Sponsored by the Matawan Alliance and the Matawan Historical Society, "Sharkfest" runs from 5 to 10 p.m. in Terhune Park, across from the Matawan Community Center, 201 Broad St.

The event features Dr. Richard G. Fernicola, of Allenhurst, author of "Twelve Days of Terror: A Definitive Investigation of the 1916 New Jersey Shark Attacks," who, along with historical society members, will host bus tours to Dock Street, near where the Matawan Creek shark attacks originally occurred.

A memorial service for the two borough residents killed will be held at 4 p.m. at the Rose Hill Cemetery, where they are buried. The Matawan Historical Society also will present educational exhibits on the history of Matawan.

"Sharkfest" is capped off by a free screening of a Discovery Channel-produced movie based on Fernicola's book to be shown at 8 p.m. at the Matawan Community Center.

The 1916 summer shark terror actually started roughly 80 miles south of Matawan where one young man was killed by a shark on July 1 in Beach Haven. A second man was killed July 6 in Spring Lake.

However, the most dramatic attack came July 12 at Matawan Creek — 11 miles from the ocean — where Stillwell and Fisher were killed.

On that same day, a few hours later, Joseph Dunn, 12, of Brooklyn, was swimming in the same Matawan Creek where the attacks happened, just a few hundred yards away, when he, too, was mauled by a shark. He escaped serious injuries after he was pulled out of the water.

After the Matawan Creek attack, local residents tried to smoke out the man-eater with harpoons and dynamite. One possible culprit — a great white shark with human remains in its belly — was finally caught two days later in Raritan Bay.

And now, even 92 years later, memories of these horrific attacks still give today's New Jerseyans cause to shudder.

"The biggest reason is that it's very real," Fernicola said. "It's 100 percent real — it happened at our own doorstep. Not only were there definitely sharks here, but it or they mangeled five people."
"Back in 1916, nobody ever thought that a shark would do such a thing," said Montfort. "I'm sure that the boys that were dipping down in the creek, as well as the people in the town, never thought in their wildest dreams that such an event could happen."

Fernicola said the other big part of the story centers on the unlikely appearance of a bull shark in Matawan Creek's brackish waters — half fresh, half salt — that typically measures only a few feet deep.

"To find a shark in a bay is honestly not that unusual," Fernicola said. "But to find a shark up a narrow creek like that is somewhat very unusual."

Sharks strike a chord of fear with most of us, said Fernicola, because we run the chance — however small — of meeting one each time we step into the ocean.

"There is a certain aspect that relates to sharks. You are in their domain; it's almost like a dark closet," Fernicola said. "No matter how clear the water is, you don't necessarily see below you at all times."

While shark attacks still frequently make the news, Fernicola believes that there will never be the shark media frenzy of three decades ago.

"I doubt you could re-create that phenomenon that we most likely experienced when we went to the theater in 1975 to see "Jaws,' " Fernicola said. "But it's really a perpetual interest to the public."
Next year, New Jersey's 1916 shark attacks get another incarnation when filmmakers hired by the Discovery Channel will make a fresh documentary about the event.

"The intrigue just continues," said Sharen La Porta, an alliance trustee. "There's been so many films and documentaries produced on the 1916 event. It just keeps going."

Great White shark, a species amongst other sharks, in California

1. Great White: Reach more than 20 feet in length and weigh up to 5,000 pounds, and often get as wide as a Volkswagen bus. World’s largest known predatory fish.

2. Blue Shark: Reach up to 13 feet in length and weigh 300-400 pounds. Feeds primarily on small fish and squid, but can take larger prey. Blues may pose danger to humans if they are encountered in large groups. Second fastest sharks, next to the mako shark.

3. Tiger Shark: Reach 11-14 feet in length and weigh 850-2,000 pounds. Notorious for attacks on swimmers, divers, and surfers. Second only to great whites, coming close with bull sharks in number of recorded attacks on humans. Considered one of the most dangerous sharks to humans.

4. Shortfin Mako: Reach up to nine feet in length and 450 pounds. One of the fastest swimmers in the sea. Rarely seen in near shore waters. Feeds on mackerel, tuna, swordfish, and other sharks.

5. Leopard Shark: Reach up to seven feet in length. Bottom feeders, eating worms, mollusks, crustaceans, octopuses, and small fish. Hunt in groups.

6. Soupfin Shark: Reach up to six feet in length. Feed on fish, crustaceans, cephalopods, worms, and echinoderms. Also known as the school shark.

7. Angel Shark: Flattened bodies and broad pectoral fins give them a strong resemblance to skates and rays. Reach up to five feet in length. Bury themselves in sand or mud and then jump up to snap up prey, which includes fish, crustaceans, and various types of mollusks. Bite when stepped on.

8. Swellshark: Nocturnal and feeds on bony fishes, alive and dead, and probably crustaceans. Reach just more than three feet.

9. Hammerhead Shark: Aggressive predators, eating fish, rays, cephalopods, and crustaceans. Reach from 3-20 feet in length.

10. Thresher Shark: Reach from 10-20 feet in length. Feed on schooling fish, squid, and cuttlefish. One of the few shark species known to jump fully out of the water and make turns like dolphins.

11. Basking Shark: Second largest fish, after the (non-local) whale shark. Slow moving, generally harmless filter feeder. Reach from 20-26 feet in length. Sometimes mistaken for great whites.

12. Salmon Shark (rare): Feeds on salmon, squid, sablefish, and herring. Reach from 6-8 feet in length.

13. Horn shark: Reaches four feet and weigh 22 pounds. Nocturnal and appears sluggish in the daytime. It can bite if it is harassed. Feeds on invertebrates, primarily sea urchins and crabs, as well as abalone and fish.

14. Seven-Gill Shark: Reach up to 10 feet in length. Feeds mostly on bony fish, rays, small sharks, squid, and crustaceans.

Great White shark adventures!

This year, for the first time ever, Incredible Adventures is offering a two day, overnight great white shark expedition to San Francisco's Farallon Islands. The international adventure company is based in Sarasota, Florida, and has been offering one day shark diving adventures near San Francisco's Farallon Islands since 2002. For $1175, or $300 more than the cost of an $875 one-day shark adventure, participants will enjoy twice the dive time and get a taste of what it's like to live and work aboard a real scientific research vessel.

Participants will spend two full days and nights aboard the White Holly, a 133 ft high endurance research and expedition vessel. The former Coast Guard vessel sleeps 12 plus crew and provides a comfortable and stable platform for dive operations and nature viewing. A naturalist/marine biologist will accompany each expedition.

Located 30 miles off the coast of San Francisco, the Farallon Islands are considered one of the prime spots on the planet for viewing adult great white sharks in the wild. They are part of the larger Gulf of the Farallones Marine Sanctuary. While best known for its population of sharks, the Farallons is also home to one of the country's largest seabird colonies and a number of endangered mammals, including blue and humpback whales.

Great white sharks are most often seen at the Farallons during the months of September, October and November, when they migrate to the islands to prey on the local population of Elephant seals. Incredible Adventures is offering weekend expeditions from September 20 to November 16.
Dive certification is not a requirement to participate. A certified dive instructor supervises all in-water activity. The Incredible Adventures shark cage floats so cage divers essentially snorkel at the surface, breathing air from an onboard hookah system. The use of a wetsuit and onboard meals are included in the trip price.

For more information, contact Incredible Adventures at 941-346-2603 or visit

Saturday, August 09, 2008

A Great White shark has powerful bite!

Its fearsome set of gnashers would send shivers down any creature's spine.
But scientists have measured the bite of a great white shark, and calculated it to be a bone-crunching 1.8 tons.A chomp from the fearsome predator is three times more powerful than an African lion's and 20 times stronger than a human's.Nature's largest predatory fish topped the 'bite force' league compiled by researchers in Sydney, Australia using pioneering imaging techniques.

A 2.4 metre-long male shark can inflict a bite of nearly two tonnes, half the bite that could be achieved by the legendary Tyrannosaurus Rex - an estimated 3.1 tonnes.Measuring a shark bite for the first time did not require a suicidal devotion to science, but used a new engineering technique called finite element analysis.The method, which is widely used in building and car design, involves creating a 3D computer model of the shark's internal anatomy.Using tiny prisms, the researchers built up data on the passage of stresses and strains through its skull and muscles.A great white's bite is the key to its terrifying reputation, according to Stephen Wroe, of the University of New South Wales.

He said: 'Nature has endowed the great white shark with more than enough bite force to kill and eat large and potentially dangerous prey.'It must also be remembered that its extremely sharp serrated teeth require relatively little force to drive them through thick skin, fat and muscle.'But while the great white can easily overpower an adult human - which has a bite measuring a puny 80kg - it would have come off worse against a now extinct creature known as the 'big tooth'.

The 16-metre long Carcharodon megalodon, which died out 1.5 million years ago, was once the true king of the ocean, weighing an awesome 100 tons.Its colossal mouth would have produced a but force of 10.8 to 18.2 tons. Wroe added: 'Pound for pound the great white's bite is not particularly impressive but the sheer size of the animal means that in absolute terms in tops the scales.'

How the great white compares:

Shark bite - 1.8 tonnes

Carcharodon megalodon - 10.8 - 18.2 tonnes

An African lion - 560kg

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Close encounter with a Great White shark!

Surfing is probably one of the exhilarating sports that there is. Unfortunately, there are some dangerous creatures lurking in the waters specifically the great white shark.

One local western Victoria man, Aaron Seare, 31, was surfing happily when a not so friendly predator decided it was meal time.Luckily for Aaron he spotted the great white about 30 metres away."I wasn't too sure what it was," Seare said.

"I was only watching the movement for a second before it turned and came straight at me. "I felt a tug on my leg rope but a wave picked me up and washed me back to the beach. I was totally freaked out."It was only upon reaching the shore that Aaron realised that his leg rope had been ripped in two.

Great White or Sevengill shark attacked surfer!

A surfer chased by a shark off a Warrnambool beach yesterday has told of his terrifying ordeal.
The 2.4 metre shark, which may have been a great white, came within centimetres of biting his foot.
The shark then chomped his leg rope in two, its jaws less than a metre from the surfboard.
"It was the closest I've ever got to being munched," Aaron Seare recalled yesterday, a few hours after the scare.

The experienced 31-year-old surfer had paddled out on his own to the back breakers, 150 metres off Levys Beach, west of Warrnambool, about 10.30am.

"I had caught two waves and was heading out again when I spotted the shark circling about 30 metres away," Mr Seare said.

"It was about eight-foot long.

"Then it turned and made a beeline straight at me.

"I immediately paddled for shore as fast as I could.

"I felt a tug on the leg rope, but just kept going. I was freaking out."

It wasn't until he touched the beach and stood up that he realised his leg rope had been bitten in two.

Serrated bite marks indicate it could have been a sevengill or great white shark, Mr Seare said.
The realisation of how close he had come to serious injury or death didn't hit him until he reached the sand dunes.

"I had to sit down for a while when it hit me what really happened out there," he said.

The leg rope had been borrowed from a friend, but Mr Seare will be pressing to keep the yellow nylon cord as a souvenir.

Despite the ordeal he still plans to head out for a surf today, but will go with a companion.

He suspects the shark may have been hovering in the area because of a northerly breeze blowing odours from the nearby abbatoir over the ocean.

Mr Seare's theory was backed by Warrnambool Diving Services operator Bill Karoly.

"Sharks have poor eyesight but a very keen sense of smell," he said.

"Divers and surfers should get a Shark Shield, which they strap to their leg and it sends out electric signals which give a shark a zap if it comes closer than seven metres."