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‘It came right up, and opened its mouth’: Great white shark breaches water below boat

Great white shark breaches water below boat
It was enough to make even the shark expert himself jump backwards a bit. (mark gartsbeyn)

It was enough to make even the shark expert himself jump backward a bit.

State biologist Greg Skomal got an up-close look at a great white shark during a recent excursion off Cape Cod when one of the apex predators that researchers had been observing breached the water right beneath him, exposing its large teeth.

RELATED: Shark sighting clears Wellfleet, Plymouth beaches Monday afternoon

“Did you see that?! Did you see that?!” Skomal can be heard saying in a video posted by the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy Monday morning. “It came right up, and opened its mouth right at my feet!”


In the video, Skomal can be seen standing on the research boat’s pulpit, as the captain closes in on a shark. Skomal was using a long pole with a GoPro camera attached at the end so he could dip it into the water and capture footage of the shark. That’s when it suddenly breached the ocean’s surface.

“Oh!,” the boat’s captain, John J. King II, can be heard saying. “Holy crap! It dove right out of the water.”

RELATED: Shark breaching water not typical off Cape Cod, expert says

Standing at the boat’s bow, Skomal, a senior biologist with the state Division of Marine Fisheries, seems more excited than he does alarmed.

The conservancy, which is in the final year of a five-year study of the regional shark population along with Skomal and state officials, said in a statement that encounters like this — where a shark comes up out of the water — happen. But seeing it, and capturing it on video, is rare.

“This video shows that they’re certainly possible,” the conservancy said. “White sharks are wild and unpredictable animals. This is a good reminder of the importance of not becoming complacent and always staying vigilant when in or on the water.”


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The encounter was recorded last Monday, off Wellfleet.

This isn’t the first time that researchers have had the pleasure of seeing a shark breach the water. In 2015, the nonprofit shared a video it had captured of a shark coming up and out of the water while trying to sink its teeth into a seal. The seal, which also broke the water’s surface, got away — but just barely.

RELATED: 2017: Watch a shark turn the water red off Cape Cod as swimmers scramble nearby

That encounter marked a first for both conservancy officials and Skomal, who had never before witnessed a great white breach the water during a hunt.

Cynthia Wigren, president of the conservancy, said in a message to the Globe that “in all the time we’ve been on the water, this is only the second [time] to get it on video.”

RELATED: How I survived a shark attack

Steve Annear can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.