What to Do When a Great White Shark Jumps in Your Boat


Let's say you're cruising around the ocean in your boat, the Cheetah, maybe off the coast of South Africa, chumming the water with sardines to conduct population dynamics research for the Mossel Bay Marine Lab. The water goes quiet for a few minutes. Too quiet.

Suddenly, Dorien Schroder, the field specialist running the show, saw this:

"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.

Dang! Suddenly, the aft deck looks like this:


What would you do? The lab's Oceans Research team found out that while it's bad to have a 10-foot, 1,000-pound shark stuck on your boat, getting it off is even worse.


Being shark-loving researchers, they had to keep the beast alive by constantly pouring water over its gills. With such a heavy animal, they realized they needed help, so they signaled to the Marine Lab, which sent out a boat full of people to assist. Once the Lamindae arrived on the scene, the fresh crew *tied a rope around the shark's tail* and tried to tow it off the boat. That didn't work, so they gave up after a couple of attempts.

Meanwhile, the shark was still lying there and they had to keep water moving over its gills. It was not the safest situation, one imagines. The shark's thrashing had cut the fuel lines of the Cheetah, so the Lamindae towed the Cheetah and shark back into the harbor.

Once there, the Cheetah sidled up next to a fishing boat, which had a water hose they used to get the shark more water. The fishing boat also had a big lifting hook, which they tied to the shark's rope and used to safely lift the beast into the water.

Or so they thought.

Half an hour later, they found the shark beached in the harbor. All the excitement had apparently gotten the animal turned around about which way the exit was. At that point, the researchers knew they'd have to do something that seems crazy: attempt to orient the shark by walking it through the water! What is walking a shark through water? See below.


Even that effort was not enough. After a valiant effort, the shark still couldn't orient itself properly. Finally, they tied the shark to the larger boat and towed it back out of the harbor. After a little more than half a mile, the shark "began to regain its orientation and strength," so they cut the ropes and it swam away.

So, that's what you'd do if a great white shark leaped into your boat. Just FYI.

Via Geoff Brumfiel.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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