Deep Sea Salvor Encounters Potentially Deadly Shark Swarm
Tarpon Springs, FL, November 21 2012 -- Salvaging cargo from a commercial shipwreck in international waters off the Carolina Outer banks, diver Robert Mayne was suddenly surrounded by hundreds of swarming Sand Tiger Sharks.
Over the past several months the Research Vessel (RV) Aqua Quest and crew divers have been engaged in the recovery of a cargo of copper ore lost off the capes in 1922. Captain Robert Mayne has been commercial diving for thirty-five years and has encountered a ‘shark or two’ in his career, but never a school of this size and magnitude. Sand Tigers are considered an over-fished and endangered marine species. Mayne also knew that the Sand Tiger species are potentially dangerous and there have been several dozen unprovoked Sand Tiger attacks in the past.
Mayne stated that ‘he had just entered the water to descend to the shipwreck site at 120 feet when he was surprised by the sharks. ‘I was only down about twenty feet when a nine foot long ‘Sand Tiger’ shark approached me and rolled over as it swam toward my left swim fin. – When you see a potentially dangerous shark of this size, getting that close, your heart rate increases, and you know you better get out of the water.’
Mayne captured his initial shark footage on a ‘GoPro’ underwater camera affixed to the top of his dive mask. ‘I recorded the first approach by the shark and that’s my swim fin in the picture – this was truly a once in a lifetime encounter.’ Mayne’s videos are now running on YouTube, and the Aqua Quest International corporate web site and Facebook.
When the curious shark swam off Mayne decided to swim to the bottom and ‘prep’ equipment for the continuing excavation. ‘That was a mistake’ Mayne said, ‘as soon as I reached the bottom I looked around and the lone shark was now part of a growing school of Sand Tigers, then when I look up there were literally hundreds of sharks between me and the Aqua Quest.’ When another shark swam in for a ‘closer look’ Mayne fended off the shark with a swim fin, then decided to abort the dive and head for the surface. As Mayne made his way to the surface he observed that the ‘Sand Tigers’ were feeding on the schools of small fish that inhabit the shipwreck site – ‘My fear now was that one of the feeding sharks would take a bite out of me and ‘chum up’ the water – I wasn’t on the bottom long enough to need a decompression stop – but if I had a serious shark bite, I could possibly ‘bleed out’ before the Coast Guard could get a ‘chopper’ out to get me to a hospital.’
The GoPro footage shows the magnitude of the shark swarm as Mayne picked his way through the sharks to the surface. Back on board the Aqua Quest, Mayne lowered a ‘GoPro’ camera on a cable back into the water to capture more of the shark swarm on video. The four-plus hours of video shows the sharks – estimated at a thousand - swimming and feeding between the Aqua Quest and the shipwreck site. Mayne stated that ‘the sharks were acutely aware of the ‘GoPro’ camera and made countless passes at the camera, rubbing up and bumping the camera but never biting the intruder.
Over four daylight hours and into the night the camera captured the schooling sharks and their unique behavior. The Aqua Quest crew could hear the sharks as they broke the surface and continued to feed and perhaps breed. Captain Mayne believes that the footage will be of interest to Marine Biologists, particularly to the Mote Marine Laboratory shark experts in Sarasota, Florida. Mayne believes that he and his crew observed behavior that may be unique to this shark species; the crew recorded as much information as they could in the time available – in the face of inclement weather in the wake of Hurricane Sandy the Aqua Quest was forced to break off their investigation and head for port in North Carolina. Mayne was particularly impressed with the behavior’ exhibited by the sharks” ‘They behaved almost like dolphins exhibiting ‘breaching behavior’ – coming almost full body, and half jumping out of the water. We believe that this behavior may not have been observed in this magnitude by the ‘Sand Tiger’ species.’
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