Great white clears the decks of research boat

SOME marine researchers yesterday received the shock of their lives when a three-metre great white shark breached onto the deck of their boat Cheetah. Fortunately for the six researchers on board who were collecting shark data at the time, no one was injured by the incident which occurred near Seal Island, in Mossel Bay, South Africa.

“Activity around the boat ceased for about five minutes and all was pretty quiet at the stern,” head researcher Dorien Schroder told the Cape Times.

“Next thing, I hear a splash and see a great white breach out of the water from one side of the boat hovering, literally, over a crew member chumming on the port side.”

The 500kg shark landed on the boat’s fuel and bait storage containers – with half of its body onto the boat, she said.

The team hoped the shark would make its way back into the water, but watched horrified as it panicked and became stuck and thrashed around, damaging equipment and cutting fuel lines.

Schroder helped the researchers to safety while other team members rushed towards a safe area on the boat. Shark scientist Ryan Johnson and Oceans co-director Enrico Gennari were radioed to assist, while Schroder began pouring water over the shark’s gills.

Attempts to return the shark to the water included tying one end of a rope around its tail and the other end to the side of another vessel, which tried to pull the shark back into the water. After the attempts failed Cheetah was towed to Mossel Bay harbour where a crane was used to lift the shark off the boat.

Water was hosed into the shark’s mouth to ventilate its gills while ropes were secured to its tail. The shark immediately began to thrash as soon as it hit the water and was then seen swimming towards the harbour mouth before beaching itself on a beach half an hour later.

Johnson and his team then attached ropes to its tail and behind the pectoral fins and a boat slowly towed it about a kilometre out to sea, where it was released and swam away powerfully.

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