Great White Shark Breaches Off Nantucket; Residents Unafraid

Beachgoers and fisherman on Cape Cod have had several close encounters with Great White Sharks over the last few years, but perhaps no meeting between shark and human is as spectacular as Steve Cavanaugh's.

According to local channel WHDH, Cavanaugh was fishing with friends about 100 miles off of Nantucket when the group was treated to a scene straight out of the discovery channel; a great white shark breaching behind their boat.

Crew members aboard the "Salty C's" told Cavanaugh that the shark was most likely attempting to catch a marlin that the boat had hooked. Great whites are notorious for engaging in the behavior, which involves them attacking from the bottom at high speed to catch prey unaware. The shark's velocity often propels the predator out of the water in a spectacular display of primal energy.

"It looked like a small whale and it busted right in the water, right around where a marlin was," Cavanaugh said, adding "When we went back and played the footage, you can see the shark in the air like Air Jaws on the Discovery Channel."

Cavanaugh isn't the only resident to have a run-in with a great white over the last few years, however. According to NECN, New Englander Desmond Curran observed nature in action when he witnessed a great white attacking a seal off the coast:

"I see a seal and I see a fin… And I said, 'am I going bananas?' The suns just coming up, and I see, literally 10 seconds of commotion, and that was it."
Curran nevertheless said he's not afraid of being attacked by a white shark, arguing "I think there's a better chance of me crashing on the way home today." Another beachgoer told NECN"I think it's a hysterical thing. I think that they belong out there and we're not swimming out there."

Seal numbers have been growing in New England over the past few decades. "In the last 15, 20 years we really started to see a lot of them," coastal resident Karen Vite explained. The animals provide a ready food source for great whites, and their abundance is one factor that a recent NOAA study pointed to while explaining a resurgence in the population of white sharks.

Cynthia Wigren of the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy explained that sharks are hardly a concern on beaches, although she pointed out that the "biggest thing" for beach goers is to listen to lifeguards and pay attention. "Sharks do live in the ocean. So when you go out in the ocean you take the chance of sharing the same water is a shark," she said.

The White Shark Conservancy made headlines last week when they spotted the first great white of the season off Cape Cod. Nicknamed "Ping" by researchers, the female great white was observed for an hour, and her distinctive markings were recorded for inclusion in a three to five year study that the conservancy is currently engaged in.

According to The Inquisitr, this past weekend, a swimmer in California was attacked by a white shark in one of the first incidents of the summer. Shark attacks are exceedingly rare, happening only 106 times since 1916, 13 of which were fatal. A fisherman on Manhattan Beach pier reportedly antagonized the great white shark prior to the California attack.

[Image via WHDH]