Archive for the ‘sharks’ Category

Wait until the end.  You know it’s gonna happen, and it does.


He doesn’t know how lucky he is.

Would I try to hand-feed a hammerhead from the boat?

Not on your life!

Read Full Post »


More about him here.

Read Full Post »

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

A British man has been mauled by a shark while swimming in South Africa, authorities said.

The 42-year-old man is fighting for his life after the attack by a great white at Fish Hoek beach in Cape Town.

Reports said the man, who is believed to live in the city, was rescued by a bystander after he ignored shark warnings to go swimming.

National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) spokesman Craig Lambinon told the South African Press Association (Sapa): “It appears he was rescued from the water by a bystander who left the scene before we could identify him.

“On arrival, a 42-year-old man was found on the shore suffering complete amputation of his right leg, above the knee, and partial amputation of his left leg, below the knee.”

Mr Lambinon said the victim was believed to live in the suburb of Plumstead.

He was stabilised at the scene and then airlifted to Constantiaberg Medi-Clinic in a critical condition.

Mr Lambinon said: “The man was conscious when paramedics attended to him on the beach, but was sedated on-scene by paramedics in their efforts to stabilise the patient.”

The city of Cape Town told Sapa that, when the man entered the water, the beach was still closed. A shark flag, indicating the presence of a great white, was flying.

A shark spotter stationed on the beach was warned by a spotter on the mountain that someone had entered the water.


The shark spotters tell the authorities to warn everyone.

Everyone gets out of the water.

This man goes in.

Shark eats his legs.

Maybe he thought they were like dolphins.





Read Full Post »


The documentary is in German, but I don’t know where this was filmed.

Tiger sharks and blue whales are both wide ranging species.

This is not a big blue whale. It’s only about 60 feet long!

Nature isn’t always so nice.

This would be like a human being eaten alive by pack of weasels.

Not a great way to go.


Read Full Post »

basking shark

This video purports to be footage of a white shark off the coast of Cornwall.

Although it is possible that a white shark could show up there, this specimen is not one.

It is a basking shark. Now, it’s very easy to mistake the two species. Indeed, Kipling’s “The White Seal” claims that Kotick survived attacks from the “basking shark.” Kipling most likely meant the white shark, but in those days, it was not uncommon for people to refer to basking sharks and white sharks as if they were the same species.

They are not. Basking sharks are similarly built, but they can get substantially larger than white sharks. In fact, it is very likely that reports of huge white sharks are actually misidentified basking sharks.

Now, how do I know this is a basking shark. Location tells me a lot. White sharks are very rare north of the Bay of Biscay. (Check out the range map) It is possible that one could make it to the coast of southern England. Location is a good hint, but it is not foolproof.

Now, it is well-known that white sharks try to avoid boats. Jaws is mostly fiction mixed in with some out of date biology. If a boat approached a white shark, it is very likely to swim quickly away. It is unlikely to stay unless some food source or potential food source was the water.

Basking sharks tend to ignore boats and lazily swim along as they filter feed. It seems to me that this is the behavior that this shark is exhibiting.

Now, behavior is also not fool-proof. Sometimes white sharks do things you don’t expect, and it would not be unreasonable for one just swim around really slowly, even if a boat approached. It is not normal behavior, but it is possible behavior.

The best way to tell that this is a basking hark is the fin is too rounded.  (Compare the fins). White sharks have a more pointed fin than basking sharks do. In fact, basking sharks have very rounded fins compared to other shark species.

So Britain doesn’t have its first killer shark after all. It’s just another basking shark.

Read Full Post »

Sandbar shark

I’ve been spending a few days at my relatives’ beach house in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina– a place I call “West Virginia’s coast,” simply because so many people from West Virginia come here on holidays.

Now, I am far from the typical beachgoer.

I don’t like spending hours sitting in the sun. I’m very fair-skinned, and I have to put on very high-powered sunscreen. And I actually don’t like swimming in salt water.

But I am a nature nut.

And I love to go on long nature walks.

Here, I have to walk three or four miles before I get beyond all the resorts and into the open beach, where I can see all sorts of little shore birds. I have yet to see any dolphins or porpoises here, but I know that if I’m going to see any of those, it will be away from the crowded beaches. That’s why I’m willing to take such long journeys away from the beach house.

I did, however, see something quite amazing this week.

On the Outer Banks of North Carolina,  I have seen many dolphins and porpoises, and from the shore, I’ve seen a few blacktip sharks and bonnetheads. I certainly wasn’t expecting to see those animals. The female sharks whelp just off the coast where I used visit in North Carolonia, and in June, the fishermen would catch scores of young blacktips and bonnetheads from the shore.

But I’ve never seen anything like that here.

But as I was walking along, I noticed a brown triangle poking above the foamy wayes. As I walked closer, a distinctive shark tail appeared behind the triangle. I knew instantly what I was observing. It was a sandbar shark. it was only about 3 or 4 feet long, and it was probably chasing small bait fish that it had chased into the surf.

What amazed me was the shark was only about ten feet from the beach in about 18 inches of frothing water.

Now, I’ve always been fascinated by sharks. My grandparents took me to the beach when I was about two, and according to my grandpa, he took me on a beach combing expedition, when we came across a ghastly sight. A large hammerhead, which could have been a bonnethead, had been caught by a fisherman. It had been fileted, and the rest of its body was left to lie there on the beach.  According to him, I was so fascinated by the creature that he knew that the next thing to do was to take me to the local aquarium. And so fascinated was I by all the fish at the aquarium that he had to take me three times a day on that particular vacation.

To see that sandbar shark rise from the surf took me back to that time. I long for that childlike sense of wonder, back when I was a fully subjective human being without all of this rationality to cloud my thinking.

I saw the sandbar shark for only a few brief seconds. Then the waves crashed down upon it, and it swam back into the depths. But for a brief moment, I was a child again.

Read Full Post »

Megalodon hunting juvenile blue whales. White sharks don't get this big. The Megalodon may not have reached this size either.

Megalodon hunting juvenile blue whales. White sharks don't get this big. The Megalodon may not have reached this size either.

I’m sure everyone has seen  Jaws, along with all the cheesy sequels. They are rather like bad rip-offs of Beowulf. Just when the large white shark is killed, another even bigger one shows up, probably its mother out to avenge the death of its offspring.

But how big do white sharks get?

That is something of a debate.

The one in Jaws was 25 feet long, which is actually not much larger than the species gets according to official sources. In one of the cheesy sequels, the shark is 35 feet long.

But how big do they get?

Officially, their record size is around 20 feet. The largest on record was caught off the coast of Cuba. It was 21 feet long, just slightly smaller than the shark in Jaws.

However, there are reports of white sharks exceeding 30 feet in length. These must be taken with a grain of salt.


Well, there is a somewhat similar species of shark that does attain those lengths. Today, we know them to be very different from the white shark. I am, of course, talking about the basking shark. Basking sharks can reach lengths approaching 40 feet, and if one is seen swimming in the water, it looks something like a white shark. But it lacks the rows of sharp teeth, for it is a filter feeder. To make things even more confusing, different authors refer to the white shark as a “basking shark,” including Kipling in his short story “The White Seal.”

The supposed largest white shark was taken in herring weir in New Brunswick. It was said to be 37 feet long. However, the largest basking shark was caught in the Bay of Fundy, not very far from where this supposed white shark was captured. It was caught in a herring net, which does suggest that the animal in both cases was the basking shark.  Herring and basking sharks eat the same plankton, and it would be reasonable to find herring and basking sharks in relative proximity to each other.

White sharks also avoid boats. They seem to know that people are forever gunning for them, so if they see a boat, they usually try to avoid it. A basking shark will ignore the boat and continue slowly swimming. That means that the basking shark is more easily taken by fishermen than the white sharks are. And it would make sense that such large sharks wound up captured by herring fishermen.

So we can dismiss the New Brunswick giant white shark as a big basking shark.

But are all of these animals misidentifications?

There is always this Megalodon hypothesis that pops up now again. Supposedly, there is a relict population of Megalodon stalking the depths of the world’s oceans. It is most likely poppycock.

The Megalodon is thought to be a close relative of the white shark, and some taxonomists place it in the same genus as the white shark. It is believed to have reached a length of over 50 feet. And its diet was mostly whales and other marine mammals. It most likely became extinct 1.5 million years ago.

It may have been in the same genus as the white shark, and it is thought to have looked a lot like the white shark, just much larger. My guess is that the oceans of today simply do not have enough marine mammals to even support a relict population of this species. During its halcyon days in the the  Miocene and Pliocene, there were many more species of whales and other large sea mammals. The numbers of these creatures dropped off in the Pliocene, and those that remained migrated to the polar regions, where the shark could not survive.

So it is very unlikely that the supposed giant white sharks are actually Megalodons.

So how big do white sharks get?

Well, we have some numbers based on authenticated records.

We have three recent reports of 23 foot white sharks. These have been met with scrutiny, and one of them has been disproven. In 1987, a supposed 23 footer was caught off the coast of Malta, and that same year, another alleged 23 footer was caught off the coast of Kangaroo Island, South Australia. The one in Malta was later analyzed based upon its photograph to be no more than 18 feet long. The one in Australia has not been verified. However, another was caught in 1997 in Taiwan, it was also said to be 23 feet long, but again, no one has verified its size.

The official world record length for the white shark is 21 feet, which was captured off the coast of Australia. There have been several reports of 20 footers, including one that showed up in Prince William Sound, Alaska, were it tried to steal a Pacific hailbut from the line of sport fishermen.

19-21 feet seems the most likely maximum size for the white shark. It is possible that larger fish existed long ago. After all, one thing ichthyologists have noted is that fish specimens have decreased in size. over the years. This reduction in size has been observed in so many species, some of which were taken as trophies by sport fishermen and others were taken for their meat. Large sharks were probably taken because of the supposed threat they posed to swimmers. Like ridding the forests of wolves, bears, and big cats, man believed that removing large predators from the ecosystem was a duty. It has only been recently that we have realized the error that was made.

So maybe there really were 23 foot white sharks.

Read Full Post »

Imagine seeing one of these swimming around in a Midwestern lake.

Imagine seeing one of these swimming around in a Midwestern lake.

The question of how far up a river a bull shark can live has often brought debate. Although one was found over 2,000 miles  up the Amazon in Peru, it is thought that bull sharks cannot survive very far up North American rivers, and they certainly could never be found in the cold rivers and lakes of the Northern tier of states. Or could they?

It is well-known that bull sharks can tolerate fresh water. In fact, their tolerance for fresh water has resulted in taxonomists naming them after the rivers and lakes they frequent. In Southern Africa, the species is called the Zambezi shark.In Australia, it is known as the Fitzroy creek whaler, and in Lake Nicaragua it is called Nicaragua Shark. In all of these cases, it was thought to be an endemic river species. Now, we know them all to be bull sharks.

Several species of true river sharks can be found in Asia and tropical Australia. These are in the genus Glyphis. The most famous is the Ganges shark, which is quite endangered. It is often considered quite dangerous and is blamed for attacks on Hindu pilgrims. However, it is very likely that this species is taking the blame for bull shark attacks.

Now, in North America, the only river shark we have is the bull shark. It is the species that is most likely responsible for the shark attacks that happened at Matawan Creek, New Jersey, in 1916. It is likely that a great white was preying on people on the Jersey Shore at the same time, for a great white was caught in in Raritan Bay with human remains in its stomach. It is also possible that the shark had been feeding on corpses lost at sea. After all, the First World War was raging at the time, and great whites have been known to swim vast distances across the ocean. However, there were shark attacks on the coast during that time period. These could be attributed to a great white, which are known to hunt in the surf.

Because they happened at roughly the same time as the shore attacks, the attacks in Matawan Creek were blamed on the same shark. However, great whites cannot swim up freshwater estuaries. They cannot regulate their salt content in that sort of water, and they die. Bull sharks, however, can swim up fresh water rivers rather easily. Most experts believe the Matawan shark was a bull shark.

Officially, bull sharks have made it up the Mississippi as far as Illinois. In the town of Alton, Illinois, which is above St. Louis, two commercial fisherman caught a bull shark in the river. This shark had been raiding their fish traps, and they decided to catch the culprit once and for all. They set a big trap, one that would catch the biggest muskellunge or pike.  They were certainly shocked to find that it was a shark raiding their traps.

Now, there is another interesting story that should be added. Although now official record of it exists, a man was supposedly attacked by a shark in Lake Michigan in 1955. This attack supposedly happened at one of the beaches near Chicago. The shark may have traveled through the Illinois River and then took a trip up the Michigan and Illinois Canal. However, the canal was disused and parts of it had already started falling in. It could have made it up the St. Lawrence Seaway and into the Great Lakes system. How it made it through the locks and dams on the St. Lawrence is a very good question. Further, bull sharks have been found only as far north as Massachusetts. None have been reported in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where they could enter the river and seaway.

This story may be an urban legend.

However, I have found a more recent story that might add some credence to the Lake Michigan shark legend.

In the winter of 2006, sharks were documented in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Yes, you read that correctly.  Not only are both of those state quite far from the ocean, they are also known for their less than temperate winters. The Mississippi’s source is in Minnesota, and Minnesota and Wisconsin are the first two states it passes on its way to the Gulf of Mexico.

Our story begins in Minnehaha creek, not far from the city of Minneapolis. There, a ten year-old girl named Laura Zimmerly found three shark’s teeth. She brought the teeth to Minnesota DNR biologist Dan Marais. Marais’s first reaction was that these were fossilized shark teeth. Fossilized shark teeth were not uknown in the Upper Mississippi region. However, two of the teeth were rather obviously not fossils. They looked like they had just fallen from a shark’s jaws.

The two teeth were sent to the fisheries department for further analysis.

The teeth were those of a juvenile bull shark.

Now, that was in the autumn of 2005. The two teeth were interesting, but because they were of a juvenile, no one really got excited about them. The case of the Minnesota shark teeth was classified, and no one made a big deal about it.

Then in Februrary of 2006, a pickup truck went through ice in Lake Pepin. Lake Pepin is a widening of the Mississippi between Wisconsin and Minnesota. It is also a lake with its own lake monster, known as “Pepie.” (Now that first photo looks hoaxed). However, when that truck went through the ice, a real live monster made sought refuge within the vehicle.

Salvage divers reported a shark that had moved into the vehicle. Now, it could have been a sturgeon, so Wisconsin’s DNR sent biologists to go check it out. In about 18 feet of water, the biologists discovered a five foot-long bullshark resting within the truck. It was comatose and near death. The cold water and the lack of trace elements in the Mississippi River water were taking their toll upon the creature. It had sought out the truck as a place of safety.

Now, the story of the Minnehaha shark teeth suddenly became of importance to the authorities. Minnesota’s DNR sent a team of researchers who used electric current to stun the fish of creek. Among the fish that were stuned were two very small bull sharks. These baby sharks were christened “Frankie” and “Lenny” (from the movie Shark Tale). They were sent to the Minnesota Zoo, where they were reacclimatized to salt water.

Now, it is thought that the five-foot in Lake Pepin and these two juveniles in Minnehaha Creek swam up the Mississippi becaus of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The storms washed large amounts of pollution into the Gulf of Mexico, which killed off lots of prey species for the bull sharks. Bull sharks tend to live very close to shore, and they also tend to live near river mouths. With the temporary extirpation of typical prey species, these sharks swam up the Mississippi. Because the locks and dams were being opened to prevent flooding, the sharks continued to swim up the river until they were very far from their typical range in the Mississippi.

However, the teeth that Laura Zimmerly found were tested for their age. The DNR tested the tannin stains on the teeth. Tannin is the residue from leaves that drop into the river. The longer the teeth were in the creek, the more stain they would have. The teeth were found to have been in the creek for seven years. That means that bull sharks have been occasionally frequenting the Upper Mississippi for a really long time. It also means that bull sharks are coming up these rivers with far more frequency than had previously been assumed.

Minnesota authorities banned swimming and diving in Minnhaha Creek below the famous Minnehaha Falls that summer. No one wanted to be the first Minnesota shark attack victim.

Now, closing down the creek below the falls to swimmers sounds rational, but I have to offer this caveat. The bull sharks of Lake Nicaragua are only able to enter the lake the lake through the San Juan River, which has fast flowing rapids and falls. The sharks were once thought to be trapped in the lake. However, the sharks never seemed to be reproducing in the lake. It was later found that the sharks were jumping the rapids  on their way into the lake. I doubt that the bull sharks could jump Minnehaha Falls, but it was also doubted that they could ever make it that far up the Mississippi.

Now, I have not read of any sharks making it up into my neck of the woods. The rivers in my area all drain into the Ohio, which drains into the Mississippi. Bull sharks have been found in the Ohio, but they have not been found outside the Lower Ohio drainage.  As far as I know, no sharks have been found in the Upper Ohio or its tributaries. But if a shark could make it to Minnesota, it certainly could make it to West Virginia, and it might be able to survive a little longer in the winter. In fact, if the winter was a very mild, it might be able to survive.

However, if there is going to be a shark in West Virginia, it is more likely to be found in the Potomac drainage system. The Potomac is much closer to a body of salt water (Chesapeake Bay), and the sharks have been seen in the Potomac as far up as Washington, D.C.

Now, things wouldn’t be so bad if bull sharks weren’t known for their very high levels of aggression. In fact, most shark attacks in the world are probably from bull sharks. Bull sharks have very high levels of testosterone. In fact, they have higher levels than bull elephants in musth. These high levels might make them more aggressive than other species. Further, they are typically found only in shallow water near river mouths. Those are the same sorts of areas where people swim and fish.

So bull sharks can turn up just about anywhere. However, I doubt that Minnesotans will be ice-fishing for them any time soon.

And they definitely won’t . Please read this post before leaving ANY comments that call me an idiot. I’m a fibber in this case, not an idiot. Remember, I’ve been reading Montauk Monster conspiracy theories for a week, so I thought I’d try my own hand at some “grade A bull-plop,” as “Mr. X” (Homer Simpson) once said.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts

%d bloggers like this: