(MA State Police photo)
Sharks are common off of Chatham, but Duxbury?
Duxbury Beach was closed today after a massive Great White Shark was spotted by a State Police helicopter. The beaches were kept closed for 2 hours until Mr. Shark moved on (SE, perhaps towards the Cape Cod Canal), but his presence will be felt long after his departure. He was first spotted at 2 PM.
The shark, which was about 100 yards off the beach, was roughly between the Bath House and the northern, residential part of Duxbury Beach. He was initially reported to be 26 feet long, but calmer estimates put it in the 12-15 foot range.
No, he didn't eat anyone.
Duxbury Beach is the extreme northern border of Cape Cod Bay, and we consider it to be in our coverage area. Stephen, my co-author, is a Duxbury Beach kid, and is very familiar with the history and fauna of the beach.
Duxbury Beach is 6 miles long or so, and has a viable seal population. It's not Chatham, which has whole herds of seals hanging around, but it is not at all unusual to see seals come ashore in Deluxebury.
It is an ominous development, even though sharks have been off of Duxbury for all of eternity. Up until today, sharks were Cape Cod's problem. Today's sighting takes a big, uhm, bite out of that theory.
Sharks are now a problem for any Massachusetts town with a coastline. Duxbury Beach makes a lot of money off of tourists. Town residents nearly revolted last year over piping plover-driven beach closings. They won't be happy if ol' Mr. Porker there decides to take up a summer residency in Deluxebury.
I probably should mention that this shark has a 50% chance of either arriving or leaving via the Cape Cod Canal, although I'd bet that he swam over from Provincetown. If he made it to Duxbury, there is only one thing stopping him from making an appearance off of Sagamore Beach.... nothing.
- The last shark attack in Massachusetts was off Truro, a few years ago. The last fatal one was in the 1930s, off Mattapoisett. The last fatal one before that was a bit before the Civil War, off Scituate.
- The shark in the Scituate attack swamped a small boat that a man had taken out to go fishing in. The man was consumed before help could arrive. His family swore vengeance on the fish, and went out hunting for it the next day. They found and killed two sharks, one of which was big enough that they were initially unable to boat it or tow it. They eventually got it ashore, and charged people a nickel to look at it.
- A similar swamp-a-small-boat attack did in a fisherman a few decades before the Revolution, in Boston Harbor.
- We blew an interview with Dr. Gregory Skomal, one written earlier this summer which was full of Duxbury Beach shark questions. He's an activist at heart, and activists get sort of funny when the "So, if I hooked a shark to a chain attached to my Jeep, could I beach it?" questions start flying out of me.
UPDATE: We heard from Dr. Skomal this morning, our email was just lost in the mix, he's a busy man, but we just may get that interview done yet.
- Duxbury is run by a board of Selectman, does not have a Mayor, and definitely doesn't have a Mayor Larry Vaughn. Duxbury closes the beach for Plovers. Therefore, Dr. Skomal will not be urged to consider that this shark sighting may instead be a boating accident by a smarmy man in a suit with little anchors on it.
- Cape Sidebar #1: The fictional Dr. Hooper was from Woods Hole.
- Cape Sidebar #2: If you zoom in on Chatham's shoreline on Google Maps, you can see seals all along the coastline. If you zoom in on the coordinates of 41.607531, -69.966619, which is off Monomoy, you might just be looking at a seal predation caught on satellite.
It probably isn't one, but if that is the case, it is the only place where seals beached en masse nearby, and it is the only large splash visible for miles in the shot. There is a very real chance of a Courtney Love-found-the-plane to this theory of mine, but I'm going to print with it.
If the coordinates fail you like they did me, look for the cluster of seals onshore, then go a few hundred yards south and look for the splash.
- Duxbury Beach is where Daniel Webster once saw a sea serpent.
- Bourne is two towns south of Duxbury along the same coast.
- This shark was caught in a gill net off of Duxbury in winter, 1938. Posing with an apex predator you just killed while smoking a Lucky Strike rules so hard it can demand Primae Noctis with your bride.
Duxbury residents offer some sage advice to the ghetto bird, below:
(MA State Police photo)
State Police helicopters are patrolling the coastline. I don't know how many helicopters they have, but if the answer isn't "one per mile," then they are very interested in a stretch of water off of Cedarville, where a copter was flying back and forth over the water in front of White Cliffs Country Club.
White Cliffs is adjacent to Sagamore Beach. Don't say that we didn't issue a very cryptic warning to you if you get munched. We're not sure if this shark likes People Food.