A group of marine scientists researching sharks off South Africa got an up-close and personal look at their subject when a great white shark leaped out of the ocean and into their boat.
Oceans Research field specialist Dorien Schroder and six crew members were collecting data on sharks Monday off Seal Island in Mossel Bay, a coastal town located approximately 250 miles east of Cape Town. Chumming the water with sardines, the scientists had gathered data from about four sharks when the activity around the vessel ceased. That's when the 9-foot, 8-inch white shark leaped out of the water and landed in the boat.
Schroder describes the incident on Oceans Research blog, Shark Chronicles:
"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 crewmember who was chumming on the boats portside."
Luckily Schroder didn't hesitate, and pulled the crewmember quickly away towards the stern of the boat’s platform into safety as the white shark, estimated to weigh 1,100 pounds, crashed onto the top of the fuel and bait storage containers.
The predator had landed with only half of its body onto the boat, and Schroder and her team hoped that as it thrashed about it would make its way back into the water. But instead the shark worked itself into the vessel, where its twisting and turning on deck destroyed equipment and cut the fuel lines.
When that didn't work, the crippled boat was towed back to harbor, where the shark was lifted back into the water with a crane. But, unable to orient itself out of the harbor, the animal beached itself half an hour later.
Thankfully, all's well that ends well. Gennari and Johnson then tied ropes to the shark's tail and pectoral fins and slowly towed it out to sea, where, Gennari said, "the shark began to regain its orientation and strength and as the ropes were cut the shark powerfully swam away."
"When working with animals this large you have to take every precaution possible to ensure the safety of the scientists and sharks," said Gennari. "However, it is impossible to predict everything that can happen. What is important is how you respond to such situation. No one was injured and the shark survived, this is a credit to our team, the port authorities and members of the community who assisted."
-- Images of great white shark in the research boat and Enrico Gennari with the shark are courtesy of Oceans Research