This year has been an eventful one for researchers studying great white sharks off Cape Cod, but one of those predators just took the season to a new level by etching a strange sign into a sandbar off the coast.
The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy has been studying great whites off the cape since 2012, yet this summer has been one of their most memorable. Dr. Greg Skomal managed to record the first white shark breach attack ever filmed off the cape, while three different sharks became stranded in the area (only one survived, unfortunately). The conservancy was aided in their mission by spotter pilot Wayne Davis, who has recorded stunning images of the region’s white sharks from the air, and as this summer’s season draws to a close, he managed to take yet another one-of-a-kind photo.
Our spotter pilot Wayne Davis often sees white sharks creating trails in the sand. This time, a heart shaped trail! pic.twitter.com/vahcuOEOAY
— Atlantic White Shark (@A_WhiteShark) October 3, 2015
The image, posted to the conservancy’s Twitter feed, depicts a trail left along a sandbar by a white shark, with the silhouette of a great white floating nearby. On their Facebook page, the conservancy noted that the image was taken near Wellfleet. They pointed out that Davis often sees white sharks inadvertently leaving a similar trail when they swim close to the bottom, yet in this instance the outline appeared in the shape of a heart.
The unusual image is just the latest bit of data collected during a remarkable summer for the conservancy. As Dr. Skomal noted in a recently released video, the influx of white sharks to Cape Cod has given researchers predictable access to the species for the first time in the northwestern Atlantic, and they are taking advantage of it. Last year, the group identified 68 individual white sharks that had migrated into the region, drawn by seasonally warming currents and one of the world’s largest seal colonies (situated on Monomoy Island). This year, the conservancy has identified more than 80 different great whites, with several weeks left to go in their research season.
One of the largest white sharks (15-16 feet) of the season was spotted near Nauset Inlet on yesterday’s research trip pic.twitter.com/p3iWAIhO5G
— Atlantic White Shark (@A_WhiteShark) September 16, 2015
Of those white sharks, three animals found themselves in dire straits over the summer, stranded upon sandbars from which there was no easy escape. The first of those sharks was kept alive by beachgoers, and pulled back into the sea by a response team that included representatives from the conservancy. The great white was eventually revived and swam away, and his rescuers opted to name him Jameson. The shark has since been detected multiple times by acoustic receivers in the region, proving his survival.
— Atlantic White Shark (@A_WhiteShark) September 27, 2015
Early in September, another white shark washed ashore, and a similar rescue was attempted. Despite the efforts of beachgoers, that animal unfortunately died before it could be returned to the ocean. Last Saturday, a 12-foot-long great white shark was discovered on Pleasant Road Beach in Harwich, as the Boston Globe reported. By the time beachgoers stumbled upon the animal, it had already expired. No signs of trauma were evident, and Dr. Skomal (who performed a necropsy on the great white) admitted that the true cause of the shark’s death may never be ascertained.
Dr. Skomal was also able to film a unique incident that transpired earlier in the season, as a great white launched itself from the water, chasing a seal in a breach attack. Though researchers have long ascribed this behavior to white sharks in the northern Atlantic, it has never been filmed off Cape Cod before this year, as National Geographic reports. Davis was able to photograph the same attack from the air, adding to an already stunning collection of images that depict the great white sharks which have made Cape Cod their home this summer.
[Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]