Shark That Ate 600 US Sailors


The-whitetip-shark-is-notorious-for-targeting-shipwreck-survivorsThe whitetip shark is notorious for targeting shipwreck survivors

As the shark swam closer to the boat, seasoned skipper David Bond noticed the beast was about 14ft long and probably weighed more than 1,000lb.Then, just as silently as it had appeared, the giant predator sank slowly back into the deep.

The close encounter happened on Wednesday near Looe, off the southern coast of Cornwall. It was just one of a number of sightings last week that has prompted fears a great white shark may be ­lurking off the south-west tip of Britain.

While one maneater is enough to chill the bones of even the saltiest ­seadog, on Monday the respected Angling Times reported that a 10ft ­oceanic whitetip is also patrolling our waters.

The whitetip is notorious for targeting shipwreck survivors, most notably the unfortunate ­sailors who clung to wreckage of the USS Indianapolis after it was torpedoed during the Second World War in the Pacific Ocean.

In the hit 1975 film Jaws, ­Robert Shaw’s character Quint famously reveals he survived the USS ­Indianapolis frenzy and had hated sharks ever since.

Shark, Cornwall, sailors, 600, fishing, fishermanTerrorising the shores of Cornwall, fishermen say this is the largest they’ve seen
Angling Times said scientists in the UK and US had studied a ­photograph of bite marks on a blue shark caught off Falmouth and concluded a whitetip was the culprit.Shark expert David Turner believes the warm summer has attracted sharks not normally seen in British seas. He said: “The water temperature is higher than it normally is on account of the decent weather we have had this year. That could have attracted large predatory sharks that are not usually found off our coast.

“This summer has definitely seen more shark sightings than previous years but we are not quite sure why.”

The first of the latest sightings this summer of a suspected great white came on Tuesday when a giant shark swam alongside a ­lobster boat for a few seconds.

It was the briefest of glimpses but the fisherman on board said he had never seen a shark that size before.

A day later, Mr Bond and Ian Harbage aboard the shark fishing boat Mystique were scanning the sea when the giant fin broke the water. An ominous dark shape appeared twice, about 75 yards from the boat, before slipping away. By the time Mr Harbage had gone to fetch a camera, it was too late.

Later that afternoon a third fishing crew were stunned to see a huge fish breach the water and as they got closer they ­estimated the fin to be easily six or seven feet away from the tip of the tail.

In all three cases, the skippers discounted a harmless plankton-eating basking shark, regular giants off Cornwall in summer. They all believe a great white is a possibility yet, perhaps worried about being teased back in the pub, will not say so.

The only other explanation is that it could be a big porbeagle or a mako, relatives of the great white, but they very rarely exceed 10ft on this side of the Atlantic.

Mr Turner, 66, said: “A great white has to be a serious ­contender. David and Ian said they got the impression from the fin that what they saw could have been an enormous porbeagle but they didn’t see the fin in profile only at an angle and, to me, it sounds far too big to be a porgie or a mako shark.

shark attack, whitetip shark, USS IndianapolisThe doomed USS Indianapolis, pictured in 1942 [GETTY]

Fishermen say they have never seen any shark nearly as big before

David Turner

“Another skipper who saw both fin and tip of the tail said the two were at least six or seven foot apart, meaning the total length of the shark must have been 13 to 14ft. He said it ­probably weighed about 1,000lb.“All the reports last week were from around Looe and within a couple of days. In one case it came ­alongside one of the boats but the skipper couldn’t identify it.

“Shark fishermen are very wary of reporting great whites, as they are concerned they won’t be taken seriously. Yet all who have seen this monster, and they have been fishing these waters for years, say they have never seen any shark nearly as big before.”

As the Sunday Express revealed last week a number of blue sharks have been caught over the past couple of weeks with strange bite marks. Cornish fisherman, Nigel Hodge, caught a 60lb blue but watched in horror as another shark, described as being about 10ft in length attacked it off the coast of Falmouth.

The attack was initially thought to have been by a great white or a larger blue shark but photos of the bite marks were shown to UK and US experts, who believe it to be an oceanic whitetip.

They were branded “the most dangerous of all sharks” by famed oceanograper Jacques Cousteau and although normally found in warmer waters, but one was caught in 2004 off the western coast of Sweden.

Recalling his battle with the shark, Mr Hodge told Angling Times: “I played it for a while before pulling it alongside my boat where I got a good look at it before it broke free. I pulled the smaller fish aboard and took photos so we could find out what attacked it. If you were a carp angler it would be like reeling in a ­specimen fish and it getting snatched by a ­crocodile.”


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