Monday, August 11, 2014

Shark Week: The Submarine

It's that time of year again, folks.  Time to discuss all things shark.  Only here on this blog, we don't make up stuff and pass it off as fact to raise our ratings.

The Malta Shark
Several months ago, I came upon a story about a shark that supposedly lived off the coast of South Africa that the locals dubbed "The Submarine".  It was said this shark was 30+ feet in length and was blamed for several attacks on boats and people in the 70's and 80's.  While there have been reports of Great Whites growing to 7-9 meters (22-29 feet), there is no actual documentation.  Research of large Great Whites revealed squid parts in their stomachs rather than seals indicating that they live far offshore and far away from public view.  It's possible this is the reason why there is no documentation of a 22-29 foot Great White even though there have been sightings and reports of them.

The average Great White grows to around 5 meters or 16.5 feet length.  There have been larger Great Whites captured.  One was caught off the coast of Malta, Italy and measured 6.8 meters (22 feet) long.  It is the largest captured Great White that has been accurately measured and recorded.

After doing a little research, I came to the conclusion that The Submarine was probably not 30 feet long.  Out in open waters it would be extremely difficult to judge the length of a shark, especially if it's swimming or attacking.  In fact in the Daily Mail there was an article with the headline "Tourist Killed by 'Dinosaur Sized' Great White Shark Off South African Beach".  One witness to the attack referred to the shark as "dinosaur huge" and "larger than a mini bus".  But another person judged the shark to be about 5 meters (16.5 feet) long which is really the average full size of a Great White.  Nothing dinosaur about it.  This just proves that people either exaggerate or don't accurately judge the size of something, and I think the stress of witnessing an attack would add to this issue.  Further research into The Submarine revealed that some local reporters in South Africa were discussing the gullibility of their readers one evening and hatched the plan to test their theories.  They made up a story about a large shark and people immediately started reporting sightings.  And thus, the urban legend of The Submarine began.  Was there a large shark causing problems in the 70's and 80's that could have been a real "Submarine" definitely yes, just not a 30 foot shark.

So, with all this talk about sharks in South Africa, you're thinking you don't have anything to worry about in Virginia or the Chesapeake Bay.  Aren't you cute.

Last year a 12 foot Great White was caught at the mouth of the Bay and a 15 foot Great White was caught in Coastal Waters by the Bay.  Earlier this year, several dolphins were found with large chunks missing.  A professor emeritus with VIMS (Virginia Institute of Marine Science) concluded is was a Great White bite and that the shark was about 10 feet in length.  And Mary Lee a 3.500 pound Great White fitted with a Ocearch surveillance tag was recorded hanging out in the Hatteras Inlet and the mouth of the Bay. 

Happy swimming!

1 comment:

  1. Hey, I make stuff up and pass it off all the time---not for ratings though. Thankfully you're there to provide all the facts, which I appreciate. (Never mind that I forget those facts and then ask the same questions year after year....) Anyway, these are very interesting shark facts. And rest assured I'm going to think twice before jumping into the bay anytime soon. Not in any hurry to lose large chunks of anything, thank you very much.