Massachusetts beaches, already beset by Manowar jellyfish incursions this summer, had some new visitors this weekend. Yesterday while I was on my way to Salem, reading Jaws in the backseat of our car, Scusset Beach played host to a 12- to 15-foot long basking shark. Initially there was a great deal of panic and speculation, as the Cape Cod Times reported:
...when lifeguards saw the fin cutting within 10 to 15 feet of the shore at about 11 a.m. yesterday, they called everyone out of the water.The beach was closed for two hours, until state specialists arrived and determined that the beastie was in fact a basking shark, as opposed to the great white which so many beachgoers associate with the sharp silhouette of a fin above the water line. Basking sharks are generally friendly and toothless, as they like to munch on plankton as opposed to tasty swimmers. Mmm!
''It was just like being on the movie set of 'Jaws,''' said Lisa Champagne of Bourne.
''The lifeguard yelled, 'Everyone out of the water!' And everyone started running, tripping over each other,'' she said.
Then fear transformed to fascination.However, the news was not so good in Chatham, where witnesses reported a terrifying scene from offshore:
Bathers and boaters waded as close as possible. The creature obliged by weaving close to shore.
''I live in the Berkshires, so this was pretty amazing. It's a nice treat to see nature on Cape Cod,'' said Alisa Blanchard of Pittsfield.
On Lighthouse Beach, witnesses said they saw a 15-foot great white spring from the water and devour a seal swimming about 50 feet off shore. Officials could not confirm that a shark had entered shallow waters.In Maine, while uncommon, the great white is not unheard of. According to the Gulf of Maine Times, "the great white shark is considered a rare visitor to the Gulf of Maine [an 18-foot great white was entangled in a spiny dogfish gillnet and landed in 1996, and a three-foot juvenile was caught and released two years ago, both off Massachusetts."
But for a handful of people who saw the attack, about 1½ miles from the lighthouse, there was no doubt.
''Somebody screamed, 'Shark!''' said E.J. Corb, 15, of Chatham, who works at Chatham Beach Company surf shop. ''I saw the fin and the back tail. And it just took down the seal.
''Three minutes later, the seal carcass just popped up again."
Other large sharks populate Maine's waters in addition to visiting great whites. On Science Daily's site, there is footage of a rare encounter 3,000 feet down in the Gulf of Maine with a Greenland shark (also known as a sleeper or glurry shark). Click here to go to the article and video link. The thresher shark is another local, with a very dramatic profile because of their threshing tail, and very dramatic tendencies including jumping fully out of the water, much to the joy of photographers nearby. Check out a neat photo or two here on Captain Tom's page about them.