Richard Jernigan -> RE: Palau's National Marine Sanctuary Signed Into Law (Nov. 2 2015 0:24:01)
Most sharks are not very scary. Almost all fish that live long enough to get big are very cautious. The only exception I have personally witnessed are big manta rays. Once they get six or eight feet in wingspan, they don't much care about humans nearby.
Great whites and tiger sharks are said to be fearless when they get big. I have never seen a great white or a big tiger under water. The only tiger I have seen in the water was a baby, about six feet long. It was very cautious.
But tigers bite and sometimes kill surfers in Hawaii. Usually they spit them out once they realize it's not their usual prey. Great whites kill surfers in the "bloody triangle" along the central coast of California. Same deal there, usually when the great white realizes the person is not a seal or a sea lion, they spit them out. But the encounter can still be fatal.
There is a well known account of a great white shark killed by an orca near the Farallones, just off the coast at San Francisco, California. Apparently the orca killed it by holding it belly up in the water for several minutes.
Normally a good deal of great white activity is seen around the Farallones. After the orca incident, they seemed to disappear. At least one white shark equipped with a tracking device left the Farallones and traveled nonstop to Hawaii.
One of my friends was an underwater photographer during a career of more than 20 years in the U.S. Navy. He said that in the late 1970s people still believed that orcas were extremely dangerous. He told me, "The way it went back then was, if you saw one in the water, you were dead." He was doing a working dive at San Diego when he was approached by an orca, which just seemed to be curious about what he was up to.
Two friends of mine had a business making educational underwater videos which they sold mainly to schools in the USA. They wanted video of a shark feeding frenzy. We recommended a spot less than a mile from where I lived on Roi-Namur, which almost always had a sizable pack of 50 or more grey reef sharks, up to six feet long. Using bait, it took them ten attempts to get the sharks going so they could film them.
By far the greatest number of human fatalities due to sharks was due to the oceanic white tips that killed hundreds of seamen who abandoned sinking ships in the Pacific during WW II.
However, even the normally cautious grey reef shark can be dangerous on extremely rare occasions. Bill Curtsinger, the noted National Geographic photographer, was bitten by a grey reef. He has spectacular scars along his left arm and back. All he would ever say to me was that he was free diving in the open ocean, "in the western Carolines" when he caught a motion out of the corner of his eye. He barely had time to get his arm up when the shark hit him. He could offer no explanation for its behavior.
One day I was waiting for the commuter flight from Kwajalein to Roi-Namur. I fell into conversation with four visitors, members of a band hired by the Army to entertain the local American workers. I was wearing a Roi-Namur Dolphins Scuba Club polo shirt, so they asked me about diving. Two of them had 20 or 30 dives, the other two were brand new.
One of the newbies asked, "Are there sharks here?"
"What do you do when you see a shark?"
"Take its picture if it's close enough."
"Don't you do anything about safety?"
"Almost never. The grey reef sharks are territorial. Maybe once out of 300 dives, they will let you know it's time to leave. Otherwise, you do nothing."
"If you can see the shark, it can bite you before you can move. The visibility here is more than 150 feet on a good day."