“I can typically find a Great White within two minutes…”
Two days ago, a swimmer was disappeared by a Great White while swimming off the southern end of Port Reyes in Marin County, thirty miles from dirty ol San Francisco in Northern California.
First responders said the ocean was red with blood.
“It’s pretty unusual…when swimmer is attacked and just completely disappears,” Dave Elbert, the director of San Jose State’s Pacific Shark Research Center told CBS News. “From predator standpoint it’s a good hunting time. You have young, inexperienced elephant seals and sea lions going in the water.”
Attacks by Whites ain’t new or a rarity in northern California.
Shaper Ben Kelly’s death by White a few years back still hits hard. They don’t call Marin County to Monterey County the Red Triangle for nothing, although as the writer Lewis Samuels once told me, he believed Nor-Cal Whites were less prone to fatal hits than the Australian and South African versions.
Lew, y’see, has five pals who’ve been attacked by great white sharks. One, Royce Fraley, has been attacked… twice. Lew was there for one of ’em.
“We were really far out to sea, literally, about a kilometre out to sea. It took 45 minutes to paddle out,” says Lew. “Out of the corner of my eye there was this explosion. And as I turned around, I saw the shark breeching out of the water with him in its mouth. Then they fell down in an explosion of whitewater, like when a whale breaches. Fifteen feet is as big as a car and they’re a lot fatter in person than you’d think they would be. And he was in the fish’s mouth and there was this fucking impact in the water and then there was nothing there, gone, like a fucking whirlpool of displaced whitewater where he’d been. There was no one else near him, just another friend way up the line, and so when the attack happened, what are you fucking going to do? You’re not going to leave your friend out there.”
Meanwhile, a few hundred miles south, swimmers, paddle-boarders and surfers are co-existing with the renowned man-eaters, although in this part of the world they seem anything but, the 2008 hit on a triathlete in Solana Beach notwithstanding.
If you swing over to the remarkable account of Scott Fairchild, you’ll find a San Diego swimmer being followed by a smallish, a relative term of course, juvenile Great White who eventually tires of the game and shoots off.
It’s one of dozens of peaceful interactions with a fish that, in southern California, seems mostly docile.
“It’s important that people realise the truth and that we protect these amazing and vital animals,” Fairchild told Oceangraphic. “I’m very direct with saying that my images are not allowed to be used unless it’s a shark positive piece…I have literally filmed hundreds of hours of footage and watched an incalculable number of encounters with great white sharks swimming right next to swimmers, surfers, stand up paddlers, and so on. This is the truth, the norm, the day-to-day reality of what happens in the ocean. Yes, bites tragically do happen but they are incredibly rare considering the hundreds of thousands of interactions around the world and the millions of possibilities if sharks really wanted to hunt humans.”
He also said, “I can typically find a Great White within two minutes…”
Oddly enough, I find Fairchild’s account wildly reassuring, a reminder that only in the rarest instance would a Great White consider me a sweetmeat.
Others might feel the opposite.
Where doth you sit?
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