July 10, 2012
Walter Szulc Jr., in kayak at left, looks back at the dorsal fin of an approaching shark at Nauset Beach in Orleans on Saturday. Photo: AP
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water... the sharks are back off Cape Cod.
At least two great whites have been sighted off the US East Coast, not far from where the terrifying shark attack film Jaws was filmed.
While authorities are urging caution, some tourists are travelling to the area in the hope of seeing the predators.
On the weekend, New Hampshire resident Walter Szulc Jr was snapped being followed by a shark, believed to be a great white, in his kayak.
He told Associated Press he immediately "paddled very fast" and was grateful when he reached the shore.
"I saw the fin out of the water ... I looked down and saw the body and realised that part of the shark was underneath me, and I just proceeded to paddle," Szulc said yesterday, adding it all happened very fast and his response "was just instinct — paddle and head out of there."
The photo of Szulc, with the shark's dorsal fin rising behind him, has been widely shared on the internet.
Szulc said he was about 50 metres from shore when he saw a man on a paddleboard hold up his paddle and point it at him.
"I figured he was trying to tell me something," Szulc said. "I looked back and saw the fin and the body of the shark right behind me."
Nauset Beach, among the most popular beaches on the lower portion of Cape Cod, was closed briefly on Saturday after Szulc's encounter with the shark.
The town of Chatham in the affluent Massachusetts beach resort has barred swimming within 100 metres of seals, a favorite food of the predators.
Chatham harbourmaster Stuart Smith said his office has been notified of seal carcasses apparently attacked by sharks found along the eastern shore.
"At this time, the town of Chatham is not closing our east-facing beaches to swimming in its entirety, but simply suggesting that beachgoers, mariners and swimmers pay close attention to their surroundings while in the water and to not venture too far from shore," Smith said in a statement to local media.
The Cape Cod Shark Hunters, a group that conducts research with scientists from the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, said it had spotted two sharks on July 3.
Photographs showed one of them swimming in shallow waters just off the coast. The group sighted at least three other great whites the previous week.
But the researchers stressed that despite their huge size and razor-sharp teeth, the white sharks are not the blood-thirsty beasts Hollywood makes them out to be.
"Contrary to popular belief and Hollywood folklore, the white shark is not a mindless juggernaut recklessly swimming around with its dorsal fin cutting through the surface," the group said on its website.
Shark spotters saw at least half a dozen sharks in the area last year alone, and several Chatham beaches were closed last year as a result.
Jaws, the 1975 Steven Spielberg film about a small New England community terrorised by a great white shark, took home three Oscars but also contributed to an outsized fear of sharks in the United States.
For now, though, the big predators appear to be tourist bait in Chatham.
"It is very good for business," Keith Lincoln, who operates the Monomoy Island Ferry-Rip Ryder, told NECN television.
"That is the craze right now, everybody wants to see the great whites."