Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Unexpected Sightings

Yesterday was one of the warmest days of September, and we decided to give swimming a try. I've mentioned that there have been shark sightings on the Cape over Labor Day Weekend. That was more than two weeks ago, but still we chose a beach that was not one of the beaches where the shark sightings were reported. We went to the large and popular Marconi Beach, a beautiful ride from the place we are staying. Well, it looks like we have sightings of our own to report.

Here is a lovely seal, whom we saw once again very close to the shore (different beach than last time). This time I captured him on camera. There were surfers and swimmers in the water very close to the seal, reaching out to him and cooing.

And shortly thereafter, we saw this:

Definitely not a seal.

Yes, it's what you think it is. I have many photos, albeit from a 30-ft distance. The beachgoers began shouting "Fin! It's a fin!" ...and hurrying to grab their cameras. It circled around for a while, while the local children continued to wade in the shallow water. We didn't much feel like swimming after that, but this is the first time I saw a shark this close, so it was a pretty exciting trip to the beach nonetheless.

So... If you are planning a late-season visit to Cape Cod this fall, it is probably not a good idea to swim at any of the beaches along the National Seashore. Just a heads up...

13 comments:

  1. dukiebiddle said...

    Oh pshaw. Just pick a beach with lots of weak children and old people.

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  2. Good rule of thumb that where there are seals, there are sharks...
    I'm not sure I'd want to swim in the FREEZING cold water anyway.
    The Scientist went deep sea fishing with his lab and a 12' shark jumped out of the water after a fish that was being hauled up, he said it was terrifying to see it so close- they're so powerful.

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  3. I've always gone swimming in the the bay, which seems like it'd be a lot calmer. Of course when the tide goes out it's a long walk to the water.

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  4. ". . .we chose a beach that was not one of the beaches where the shark sightings were reported."

    Protip: Sharks are mobile.

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  5. OMG. I am so glad this is sept and not august or I would be pissing in my pants and sad that I would not be swimming. Crap. I finally got to the point of swimming in the water without imagining a fish ( yes, just a plain old fish) in front on me. My ocean animals phobia is back in full force.

    I had a huge set back years ago when a sun fish came swimming along the quiet and chill beach we swim at. this summer I even got brave enough to go in without glasses or contacts. No more no more.

    ok- enough freaking out.

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  6. Let me tell you about this fin. When it first appeared in a distance we thought it was the head of a seal, since they surface everywhere. But the fin kept moving where the seals quickly dive back and resurface 50-100 feet ahead. It was moving slowly across the beach at first 100 feet away, bobbing and circling, eventually getting 30-50 feet from the surf line. It gets deep quickly at Marconi beach and I estimate the water depth was around 10 feet where the owner of the fin was swimming. It was really wild, no doubt about that!

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  7. cycler - Seal sightings are actually quite common on these beaches, so here it is not necessarily an indicator. These are the first (official) shark sightings this close to the beach in decades. The water on Marconi beach was swimmable yesterday, so it would have been nice to enjoy it! The Co-Habitant did go or a short swim before the sighting and I went in thigh-deep.

    Interestingly, people on the beach did not seem disturbed and kept doing their thing. Having grown up around New England beaches, I know that locals do not like to report shark sightings, because then the officials close down the beaches and it is annoying. The idea is, that sharks do not attack people, so why make a fuss? If you see a fin, just get out of the water. And don't go swimming at night. Heh.

    Vee - Try Old Silver Beach in Falmouth next time you are on the Cape. The water is very warm and it is in a cove type area that is probably the least likely to have sharks.

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  8. Yipes! If that had happened at a NC beach, it would have been pandemonium. I like the calm Cape Cod reaction :)

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  9. Sadly Falmouth is just too far from my usual haunts. I only go there for triathlons! ( and even not that anymore- I'm doing Hyannis next year) I swim Wellfleet bay. I am going to assume that these guys will be gone by next summer looking for prettier waters and tanner legs!

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  10. MV- according to newenglandsharks.com, the "Boston area is white shark territory," so they are not leaving Cape Cod any time soon. It's the increase in seal numbers that brings more sharks our ways, according to things I've read online. What to do? Don't swim with seals or alone, keep an eye out for what's going on. Perhaps go to less shark-infested waters, but where?

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  11. Today we saw spotted (baby?) seals at the Woods Hole aquarium. It's part of the marine biology lab and has several dozen displays of various fish and other ocean life. The seals are stationed outdoors in a small pool where they swim in circles; I think they go in somewhere larger for the night.

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  12. Oh, and how could I forget?! There is a large seal colony in Chatham and we saw them lying on the sand, sunbathing and occasionally going in for a swim. Too bad I left my binos at home.

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  13. After some research and helpful diagrams at the Woods Hole Aquarium, I now know that the seals we saw are Gray Seals (these can be identified by their "horse-like" heads) and the shark was definitely a Great White. Fun facts!

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