Posts Tagged ‘white shark’

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.





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This is excellent:


Warning: It includes that graphic scene where Quint gets eaten. If you’ve not seen it before, I wouldn’t watch it here.


On a related note: Bruce, the star of this film, has been rediscovered.

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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.

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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.

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