Friday, August 8, 2008

Shark Chronicles 022 - A hunting Great White Shark

One of the most magnificent sights to witness in the natural world is a great white shark breeching on and successfully killing a seal. Successful predations by white sharks are not as common as you might imagine, so it is quite a treat to be able to watch the entire event unravel in person. We were lucky enough to see one of these acts of predation on August 6th whilst chumming off the southeastern side of Seal Island.
We had departed the harbor before sunrise and were at anchor as the sun was peaking up on a rare overcast day in Mossel Bay. Whilst in the midst of setting up for regular chumming business, Ryan shouted that he had just witnessed an attempted predation. We all froze and glued our eyes to the spot being pointed out, but apart from James and Ryan, we had missed everything but the splash. After watching for a minute or two, we saw another attempt by the shark on the same seal. At this point, we quickly hoisted anchor and sped towards the action to go find out what was happening. As we approached the area, we saw a dorsal fin circling the remains of a seal that was missing its head and the hind part of its body. Intestines were spilling out of the seals butchered body and the head seemed to have been severed clean off. Then we saw the shark, and it was massive. It wasn’t just that the shark was almost four meters long; it was the girth of the shark that really surprised us.
We drifted up to the carcass and watched for a few minutes as the giant circled its prey and were surprised when we recognized a second, smaller, shark circling the carcass along with the first one. After about ten minutes of the sharks making close passes to the carcass without touching it, the smaller shark came up and grabbed what was left of the seal in its mouth. It, then dove with the seal carcass and didn’t appear again. We tried to tempt the larger shark back to the surface, but it would not show itself again. Disappointed, but still excited about what we had seen, we returned to the island and resumed our chumming for the day. Needless to say, we will all remember the sight of those two sharks circling the headless body of that seal.

Justin Silbernagel (SAMPLA intern)

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