July 20, 2011

Shark Boards Ship Off South Africa’s Cape Unannounced

Scientists off South Africa's Cape were surprised as a half-ton great white shark jumped into their research boat with them, reports The Guardian.

The marine researchers were caught off-guard as the 10-foot-long shark leapt into their boat, becoming trapped on deck for over an hour.

The incident took place off Seal Island, near Mossel Bay, on South Africa's Cape coast.

The crew used sardines to attract the sharks, which are known for bursting through the surface as they prey on seals.

Dorien Schröder, team leader at Oceans Research, based at Mossel Bay, said that last Monday morning, after an hour of shark activity around the ship, the waters at the stern had been calm for a few minutes.

"Next thing I know I hear a splash, and see a white shark breach out of the water from [the] side of the boat hovering, literally, over the crew member who was chumming [throwing food bait] on the port side," she told The Guardian.

Schröder said she pulled her team to safety before the shark landed on top of the bait and fuel containers. 

Half the shark was outside of the boat at first, but it panicked and eventually found its way further aboard, cutting the fuel lines and damaging equipment before becoming trapped.

Schröder poured water over the shark's gills to keep it alive until a second boat arrived to help put the shark back into water.

The second boat attempted to help get the shark off the boat, but failed.  The researchers then towed the boat to the port with the shark still on deck.

A hosepipe was placed on the shark's mouth to ventilate its gills, before it was lifted off the boat with a crane and lowered back into the water.

Enrico Gennari, an expert on great white sharks and Oceans Research co-director, said it was the first time he had heard of a great white shark jumping onto a research vessel.

Gennari believes the shark would have had to leap about 10-feet out of the water to be able to land on the boat.

He said in low-visibility water, the shark could have mistaken the ship's shadow for prey, or been disturbed by another shark close by.

"It's all speculation," he told The Guardian. "But sometimes a shark breaches the surface when it feels another shark underneath it. They [move] like a flying fish and end up several meters away."


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