A Cape Cod woman and her family saw more than just fireworks on July 4.
They witnessed a whole other show: a great white shark feasting on a seal swimming just off Nauset Outer Beach in Orleans on Monday.
Kim Reilly, 52, was celebrating Independence Day with her daughter Teagan Szymanski, 11, and husband Mark Szymanski, 51, when they spotted the predator thrashing around in the water, a pool of blood forming in the ocean as it chomped on an unsuspecting seal.
Her daughter and other children had just exited the water moments prior, Reilly said. The family lives in Orleans and frequents the area, also known as Nauset Spit, throughout the summer.
“I have never seen it myself in person. So it was literally like watching National Geographic. It was surreal,” said Reilly, who caught the last part of it on video. “We swim there all the time. It’s what we do. But the reality is a little more real now.”
Just as they were eating dinner in their beach chairs with friends around 8:30 p.m., the shark was having a meal of its own near the north side the beach, which stretches several miles down to Chatham.
“We literally didn’t have to get out of our chairs, like the whole shark was out of the water,” Reilly said. “All of a sudden everybody started screaming and swearing.”
And while Reilly, a professional photographer, is accustomed to shooting portraits and scenes of nature, the predation she captured on her phone was far from the norm. But the 45-second clip she filmed is one memory she will be keeping in her camera roll forever.
“Oh my gooooood,” the party shouts in union in the video.
Seconds later, a friend of Reilly’s warns the kids that they “are not going in the water.” The children had been waiting, ready to dive back into the ocean prior to the shark eating the seal.
The Atlantic Shark Conservancy confirmed the shark sighting on its Sharktivity app, which is used to crowdsource data points to reduce shark “encounters and promote safety.” The nonprofit has already logged more than two dozen white shark sightings in the past month alone, including at Head of the Meadow Beach in Truro last Tuesday, which prompted the beach to close for an hour.
The entire incident lasted about 10 to 15 minutes, Reilly said. The shark returned after it had finished eating, she added, “literally only three feet from sand,” fumbling around to find “the rest of the [seal’s] body.”
Experts with the conservancy said last week that the outer Cape and parts of Cape Cod Bay are where great whites are most often seen, especially during peak season, which lasts from August through October. The latest research indicates that the sharks spend nearly half their time swimming in shallow waters, patrolling for seals to munch on.
But for Reilly, who has lived on the Cape with her husband since 1985, seeing a white shark up close for the first time will not deter her nor the rest of her family from returning to the beach. Her husband is a surfer, she added, and ever since she has known him, he has always said “the only thing he wants to see is a shark.”
“Mark has been waiting for this day his whole life,” Reilly says of her husband in the clip.
And although he is “a little nervous now” about waxing down the surfboard and paddling out with their daughter, who tags along with him, both intend on getting back out there, she said.
“It’s the reason we live here. It’s so beautiful. We have a camper. We camp in August. We wake up on the beach, and we’re in the water all day, every day,” Reilly said. “I guess you don’t really ever get used to it, but it’s just part of our life here now. Just respect the ocean. It’s their home and we’re sharing it with them.”