On the last Sunday of the summer season, on a warm beach on Cape Cod, swimmers and beachcombers made the most of the tiny bit of vacation left. Boogie boards, lounge chairs and bright blankets dotted the landscape while the last of Summer 2015 ticked away.
In the 1977 movie Jaws, the scene was much the same. A holiday weekend, a small beach town and happy swimmers completed the picture of an all all-American holiday. Then a shark showed up, swimmers ran for their lives and the calm of a seaside town was shattered. On Labor Day weekend in the town of Wellfleet MA, a Cape Cod resort community 100 miles from Boston, it seemed as if life was imitating art. Except for one thing. Rather than racing out of the water, swimmers and bystanders rushed toward the water to aid a Great White shark that had beached itself on the sand.
Shortly after 8am on Whitecrest Beach, the shark, approximately 14 feet long, came up on to the sand. Immediately a crowd began to gather around the stranded animal and police as well as experts from the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries were summoned. In what looked like an incredibly well organized effort, swimmers and beachgoers began to form a trench around the shark, where water could flow in and perhaps keep it afloat and breathing. Many of the bystanders on the beach formed a bucket brigade, dousing the shark in seawater before it could be dragged off the sand.
When the huge animal was put back into the ocean, one man tied a rope around the tail and then swam to a small powerboat moored a few yards offshore. The boat was able to pull the shark out to deep water, but it’s likely the sea creature had died on the beach. Once away from the shore, the shark turned belly up revealing blood-tinged skin that could indicate there had been injuries and internal bleeding that resulted from the shark’s weight crushing down on the sandbar.
Jack Cohen, who was on the beach at the time, said in an interview published on Boston.com
“I’ve been going to that beach my whole life and I’ve never seen a great white that close up. But it’s sad. As much as we can be afraid of them, we do want them to be alive and healthy out in the water.’
While this incident was dramatic, it was not the first time a shark had come this far up on shore on Cape Cod. In July, on South Beach in Chatham a young male shark about half the size of the one in Wellfleet beached itself. Again, a crowd of swimmers and sunbathers kept the shark covered in water until the Chatham harbormaster arrived. The animal was towed about a mile out to sea and did survive, swimming away under his own power. The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy tagged it and has since encountered the shark further offshore, safely away from area beaches.
Take a look at the video to see the rescue attempts.
I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.