Jan 07 2014

Great White Shark Visits Edisto Beach

There are two types of people out there: those who know sharks are in the water and carry on with life as usual, and those who know sharks are in the water and never get in deeper than their ankles.

Seeing as the water that laps at the shores of Edisto Beach is the Atlantic Ocean, it would be foolish to think that there are no sharks in the water. It would be even more foolish to let those sharks stand in the way of having fun.

Now, I’m not saying one should ever be reckless and decide to swim with a shark… or go swimming with a nearby chum bag (which is something that has happened to me, unknowingly)… but the sharks shouldn’t ever pose much of a threat.

Most of what swims right off the shore around Edisto are young sand sharks. Deeper water is home to hammerheads, makos, tiger sharks, and even great whites.

Recently, the island was abuzz with talk of the great white shark that was visiting the Atlantic right off the coast of Edisto. The shark was tagged by international non-profit research organization OCEARCH, which is dedicated to the conservation of great white sharks.

The organization named the 16 foot, 3,456 pound female shark Mary Lee. She was tagged off of Cape Cod in Massachusetts back in September 2012.

Each time Mary Lee’s dorsal fin broke through the surface of the ocean a ping sent by satellite determining her location would be registered with OCEARCH. In November, Mary Lee pinged right off the coast of Edisto and nearby Otter Island. She also spent some time in the waters near Hunting Island State Park and Beaufort County.

While there were no attacks or Jaws-like moments brought on by Mary Lee’s visit, many residents and visitors were concerned about what Mary Lee could do…. If she had the mind to.

Great white sharks are one of the top predators in the ocean. Their enormous size and strength make them almost impervious to attacks from other ocean-dwellers, including other sharks. The only real predator that the great white shark has is humans.

With that in mind, the great white feeds primarily upon fish, dolphins, seals, sea lions, turtles, and other sharks. Great whites (and other sharks) will feed upon humans, but the prevalence of shark attacks worldwide is rather low considering how often people are in the water.

Many times when a great white does attack a human it is because the shark is using its mouth to identify what the swimming object is.

According to an article by National Geographic, great whites use their teeth the way humans use their hands. Biting a human or man-made object is a great white’s way of investigating an unfamiliar object. They also have very good eyesight, which blows the myth about sharks eating surfers and surfboards because they mistake them for seals. That means when a shark bites a surfer or someone on a boogie board, the shark is most likely trying to identify the item.

Often times, when a shark bites a human, they spit the human back out. That doesn’t mean the human lives, after all, a bite from a 3,000-pound animal is bound to do a lot of damage, but it does mean that great whites don’t necessarily crave human flesh.

It’s a safe bet that Edisto-lovers won’t ever encounter a great white shark. It’s also a safe bet that they won’t encounter any other type of shark. But it’s always important to remember to respect the ocean and all the things it contains.Edisto Island Baptist Church

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Bob Hart Author

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