Close Shark Encounters

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photo: Mauricio Handler/ handlerphoto.com/solent

It's almost Shark Week, and, coincidentally, there's been a spate of human-shark interactions already this summer.

The first happened near Isla Mujeres, Mexico. During a feeding frenzy for more than 600 whale sharks, Maine-based photographer Mauricio Handler caught a heart-thumping moment on film, as another photographer came close to getting sucked into the jaws of a hungry whale shark.

With its 5-foot wide mouth gaping open, the shark was aiming to catch plankton, not people. Even if it had ended up with a human snack, it would have likely spit the swimmer out, according to the Daily Mail. Whale sharks are notoriously docile. They also have terrible eyesight.

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Luckily, this snorkeler managed to get away just in time. The picture offers a great sense of how massive these animals are.

  Photo: A 3-meter great white shark after landing in a research vessel. Credit: Oceans Research

Meanwhile, in South Africa, a 1,100-pound great white shark jumped into a research boat.

A blog post about the event describes Field Specialist Dorien Schroder’s reaction:

Activity around the boat had ceased for about five minutes and all was pretty quiet at the stern. Schroder describes the incident; "Next thing I know I hear a splash, and see a white shark breach out of the water from side of the boat hovering, literally, over the crewmember who was chumming on the boats portside." Schroder automatically sprang into action and pulled the crewmember quickly away towards the stern of the boat’s platform into safety. The crewmembers all jumped towards the stern of the boat as the 3m, 500kg, shark landed on the top of the fuel and bait storage containers. The shark had landed with only half of its body onto the boat and Schroder and her team hoped that as it thrashed it would make its way back into the water. But instead the panicked shark worked itself into the boat getting stuck in between the 1.5x2m area behind the container and boats stern. The shark began thrashing around, destroying equipment and cutting the fuel lines as it twisted and turned on the boats deck.

 Using ropes, a crane and a hose to keep the shark hydrated, the team managed to get the shark safely back into the water. All sharks and people mentioned in this post emerged unscathed and, perhaps, with greater respect for each other.