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Drone video shows shark eating seal off Cape Cod beach

Julia Cumes for the Boston Globe/file 2015

Great white season is in full gear along Cape Cod.

By Globe Staff 

In his 10 years as a photographer and videographer, it was by far “the craziest thing” Chris Palermo had ever filmed: a large great white shark enjoying a meal in its natural habitat off Cape Cod.

“I’ve filmed a lot of crazy and ugly instances over the years,” said Palermo, who once worked in the news industry. “It’s one of the most memorable things, for sure. Definitely top five.”

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During a visit with family in Orleans recently, ahead of the Fourth of July holiday, Palermo was on Nauset Beach when he spotted a commotion in the water. Soon after, he said, the ocean turned a reddish color.

Palermo, a New York resident, said he quickly launched his drone and sent the device hovering out over the water to inspect what was happening. At first, he saw a half-eaten seal on his handheld screen as he navigated the drone. Then, the shark arrived.

The clip, which Palermo shared on Instagram on Friday before it was picked up by the nonprofit Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, shows the great white circling the dead seal before eventually sinking its teeth into the animal and thrashing its meal back and forth.

“My hands were definitely shaking. I couldn’t believe I was filming what I was at the time,” Palermo, 27, said in a phone interview. “The whole time I was thinking, ‘Don’t mess this up, don’t mess this up.’ ”

Great white season is in full gear along Cape Cod.

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On Monday, the first great white shark of the season was tagged a quarter-mile from the sands of Truro by state marine biologist Greg Skomal and his research partners from the AWSC.

The tagging followed several sightings up and down the coastline this month, from Nauset Beach to Provincetown. Skomal and the conservancy are in the final year of a five-year population study of the sharks.

When Palermo posted the video Friday, he asked viewers if it was a great white that he had indeed captured on film. Officials from AWSC answered the query.

“White shark indeed,” the conservancy wrote, before asking whether it could use the footage to see if the shark was new to the region, or perhaps an apex predator they have documented before.

While seeing a great white close to shore — it was about 500 feet from the beach — may have worried some people, Palermo said the experience didn’t keep him from enjoying the rest of his vacation. The following day, he went back to the beach and took a swim.

“You can see the seals, they pop their heads up all the time,” he said. “As long as you stay closer to the shore than they are, I think you’ll be all right.”


Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com
Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.