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Another shark gets uncomfortably close to the state shark expert

Image of a 9-foot, female great white shark leaping out of the water under Greg Skomal during a recent research trip.
Image of a 9-foot, female great white shark leaping out of the water under Greg Skomal during a recent research trip.John J. King II/Atlantic White Shark Conservancy/Atlantic White Shark Conservancy

Cape Cod’s great white shark population doesn’t seem to enjoy state shark expert Greg Skomal as much as he enjoys the apex predators.

For the second time in as many years, a great white shark breached just below Skomal as he stood on the pulpit of a boat during an ocean expedition to study the presence of the sharp-toothed animals in the region.

In a video posted by the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy to YouTube and social media this week, a large shark is seen approaching the research vessel as Skomal tries to capture underwater footage with a camera attached to a pole.


When the shark gets close enough, it lifts part of its body out of the water, directly below Skomal’s feet, causing him to jump in place.

“Jesus Christ!” Skomal, a senior biologist with the state Division of Marine Fisheries, can be heard saying, after the shark goes back underwater.

Someone else in the background then says, “Inches. Inches, Greg,” describing how close the shark came to the bottom of the pulpit, the long, metal walkway that extends from the boat’s bow, where researchers can stand. The approximately one-minute video shows the interaction from several angles and in slow motion.

According to the conservancy, a nonprofit that works with state officials to tag and track great whites on the Atlantic coast and in Cape Cod Bay, the footage is of a 9-foot-long female shark. Conservancy officials said Skomal had been “gathering underwater GoPro footage of the shark” off Nauset Beach on Nov. 11 when the encounter unfolded. The shark was later tagged as part of Skomal and the conservancy’s ongoing studies.

“While out on research trips, we’ve seen white sharks breach and we’ve received multiple reports of breaching white sharks in recent years from fishermen and boaters,” the conservancy wrote. “While encounters like this one are rare, this video shows that they can occur.”


They said white sharks are “wild and unpredictable animals,” and the incident “is a good reminder of the importance of following safety tips and always staying vigilant when in or on the water.”

Although most people packed up their belongings and left the Cape back in September as summer came to an end, great whites are still lingering in the waters and hunting for seals and other prey.

“We know as the water starts to cool in the fall, the majority of the sharks head south, but there’s a fair amount left,” John Chisholm, a shark biologist working with the state’s Division of Marine Fisheries, said earlier this month. “We will have sharks into December.”

Researchers had a record season this year and tagged 50 apex predators with tracking devices during their various daylong trips between July and November.

This wasn’t Skomal’s first shark rodeo. While standing on the pulpit during a research trip in July last year, a shark came dangerously close to Skomal’s feet when it leapt out of the water and toward the metal walkway.

“It came right up and opened its mouth right at my feet!” Skomal said at the time, in a video released by the conservancy.

In a Facebook comment on Skomal’s latest run-in, someone wondered if perhaps there’s a reason he’s now been twice lunged at by a great white while on the pulpit.


“Amazing,” the person wrote. “Does . . . Skomal wear seal scented boots?”

Watch the full video below:

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