Posted by: dharmabeachbum | January 28, 2014

Tigers of the sea mystify me

While hunting the high side of the high tide line on Monday, shuffling through foreshore sands blown dry by recent heavy winds, I found a small tiger shark tooth and was reminded of an experience last summer.

Schools of fish headed south in the surf and I stood facing the horizon in water no deeper than three feet. There was little wind and the waves were nearly non-existent, so standing without bobbing like a cork was easy. Globular dark patches in which smallish fish amassed passed one after the other and it was enjoyable watching the fish scatter and occasionally break the surface.

The tooth on the upper left had barnacles on the back of it. These sand tigers are the best in my collection.,

The tooth on the upper left had barnacles on the back of it. These sand tigers are the best in my collection.,

One of those schools headed straight for me. The problem with little fish swimming parallel to the coast is that bigger fish are usually following them and sharks follow those bigger fish. I stood still as the school neared.

Beneath the glob? Well, that was a bit worrisome. A six-foot sushi swallower shadowed the school and its coloring was all too familiar. Grayish brown with dark, vertical stripes along the sides. My perception may have been distorted by the sun’s surface-piercing rays, but I’m 95 percent sure it was a tiger shark. A pup, really.

It lurked beneath the school, nearly stationary. Sea tigers have a distinctive snout. Wide and blunt. But I wasn’t concentrating on its grill. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t getting closer to me. It was no more than 15-feet away at one point. What a treat for a shark-aholic with no desire to recover.

Tiger sharks are among the requiem shark family. They’re migratory, live-bearing sharks that prefer warm waters. The loners’ wide-ranging diet includes seals, fish, squid, sea snakes, dolphin and turtles. And, yeah, they do visit here during warmer months.

A couple old salts told me on the Springmaid Pier that they saw them from time-to-time. Anglers caught a 14-foot sand tiger three miles off the coast last year. In June 1964, Walter Maxwell landed a 1,780 pound tiger shark of roughly the same length while fishing from the Cherry Grove Fishing Pier. I believe that’s still a world record.

I’m not trying to scare anyone in writing this. Just the opposite. All kinds of sharks swim off the Grand Strand. There’s never been a fatal attack here to my knowledge and your chances of being bitten by the smallest of sharks are very slim. Stay clear of fish schools and enjoy the surf when visiting.

Spring will be here before we know it and I can’t wait to go for a swim.

Sources: postandcourier.com and Wikipedia.org

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Responses

  1. Cool writing but YOU have scared me! Hobo

    • I was afraid I might scare my readers. I actually considered shelving the blog for that reason. But I’ve been in swimming a thousand times and never came close to being chomped (Not that I know of, anyway). I’ve actually watched sharks from fishing piers and have seen them come close to people. One of the sharks was seven or eight feet long and it darted out into deeper water as soon as it came close to the woman and her child. About a 90 degree angle. Even surfers have told me that shark encounters are in the back of their minds, but pure passion wins out. Peace, my friend.

      • wow so close to sharks! I am afraid of goldfish-really I am-my closest encounter with the sea was a Portuguese man of war and tons of regular jelly fish stings in the English Chanel- do you have jelly fish on your beach?
        p.s. any fish sticks? hobo

      • Hey, Hippie. Thanks for visiting. We do have jellyfish here, but they pack little punch. I’ve grabbed them from time-to-time to demonstrate to tourists that there’s no need to be afraid of them. Maybe I’m just immune to them now, but they just leave a slight tingling in my red fingers. Now, Man of War. That’s different. Fortunately, they’re rare around here. It’s been years and years since I’ve seen one. Yeah, I’ve had several encounters with sharks. What some people refer to as attacks are largely just the sharks mistaking humans for prey. Mostly, I just leave the marine creatures alone, but I did pet rays once when they were amassed near shore for feeding or breeding. I was standing in shin-deep water with a couple and we just stayed still other than touching their wings. Not one of them tried to sling their tails at us. Nevertheless, once is enough for me. I was just in one of those moods. LOL.


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