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Close Encounters
There was a young lady from Guam
Who said, "The Pacific's so calm,
I'll swim for a lark."
She met a large shark . . .
Let us all sing the 93rd Psalm.

—Anonymous
Human engagements with sharks have ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous, from the titillating to the absolutely terrifying. Below, culled from various sources, we offer a range of real-life stories about close encounters—both good and not so good—with the seas' most feared and fascinating predator.



Great White Shark Great White Shark

Engine of Death
While eating lunch, the bow of one mako reared up and started to shake. Bob was at the center console and held on, catching his buddy who was sliding aft. In a moment they got collected enough to look around and were staring at the head of a giant white shark, which had the entire rear of the mako and the two 55 hp Johnson motors in its mouth. The guide had his hand on the shark's nose to keep from sliding aft. As they watched, the guide pushed off from the nose, grabbed the console and with one hand turned on one engine and then the other, which both fired right up, and he threw them in gear.

Great clouds of meat, cartilage, teeth, and blood shot all over the men, the boat, and the water. The boat surged up and forward. It stopped almost immediately with one engine mangled badly and the other still partly operable. When the fishermen and guide got some of the blood and meat off them and could see again, they looked for the shark and found it sinking slowly, while quivering, through the deep blue, very clear water.
Dr. Ray McAllister, Professor of Ocean Engineering (Emeritus) at Florida Atlantic University, tells this story about a great white attack off the coast of Panama at http://www.oceanstar.com/shark/mcallist.htm.





Nurse Shark Nurse Shark
Nursing a Wound
In April 1998, a 16-year-old boy, Kevin Morrison, was bitten by a shark. This occurred in Florida. The incident was reported around the world, including Australia. It was listed here in a newspaper report under the heading JAWS UPDATE. It was unfortunate, but the report failed to mention two important points (why let facts get in the way).

The first point was that the shark was only 24 inches long and a nurse shark, not a maneater. The second point was that the shark was harassed by the boy. In fact, it wasn't until the boy grabbed it by the tail that it decided to defend itself by latching onto his chest. The boy could not get the shark to release its grip and came back to the boat with the little fellow still attached. The shark finally had to be surgically removed at the hospital. The shark died. The boy lived.
posted anonymously at http://members.ozemail.com.au/~bilsons/Sharks6.htm#shark defends itself against stupid kid




Tiger Shark Tiger Shark

Keeping Your Head
Even more extraordinary was the escape of Iona Asai, a pearl-diver who was attacked while working the Great Barrier Reef from the lugger San in 1937. When Asai, swimming in about 30 feet of water, turned to confront his assailant, his horrified eyes saw a massive tiger shark heading straight for him only six feet away. He had no time to avoid the onrushing killer, which seized his head in its jaws . . . Asai went for the creature's eyes and squeezed the luminous orbs until the crushing grip on his head was released. Pulled into a boat, Asai was rushed to hospital, where nearly 200 stitches were needed to suture his hideous wonds. He survived, however, and the identity of his would-be assassin was confirmed three weeks later when surgeons had to open an abscess on his neck; it was found to contain the tooth of a tiger shark.
from Sharks of the World, by Rodney Steel (Facts on File, 1985).





Silky shark in bait ball Silky shark in bait ball.
What Won't They Eat?
In other sharks caught at other times and places were found six hens and a rooster; 25 quart bottles of Vichy Water bound together with a wire hoop; a nearly whole reindeer; a ship's scraper; six horseshoe crabs; three bottles of beer; a blue penguin; a piece of bark from an oak tree; parts of porpoises; a 100-pound loggerhead turtle; a handbag containing three shillings, a powderpuff, and a wristwatch; sting rays; a full-grown spaniel; seaweed; a Galapagos seal pup; orange peel; squids; a 25-pound lump of whale blubber and seven strands of whalebone; paper cups; a yellow-billed cuckoo.

Lastly, there is this citation in Jerome Smith's 1833 Natural History of the Fishes of Massachusetts. "In the records of Aix, a seaport in France, in the Mediterranean Sea, is the account of a shark, taken by the fishermen, 22 feet long, in whose stomach, among other undigested remains, was the headless body of a man, encased in complete armor."
from The Natural History of Sharks, by Thomas H. Lineaweaver III and Richard H. Backus (Lippincott, 1970).

Continue: Size Matters


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