Great white sharks are one of nature's most fearsome predators, big and deadly and always on the hunt -- and filming them in their natural habitat doing what they do best has become big money for some photographers and filmmakers. Discovery Channel's annual homage to the shark, with a considerable portion of the programming dedicated to just the Great White itself, is testament to that very fact. Huffington Post reported Aug. 6 that just in time for this year's shark infestation that accompanies "Shark Week" each year (take a look at programming on other cable networks and see how many dedicate "bandwagon" hours to shark movies, documentaries, and specials), Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has released videos that capture -- sight and sound -- the horrific attacks of the massive beasts.
Captured on the REMUS SharkCam, an autonomous underwater device equipped with cameras and sensors for monitoring biological aquatic traffic, sharks can be seen moving in and biting into the mobile vehicle. They can also be heard. And if the idea of seeing a gigantic maw opening and coming at you with hundreds of teeth terrifies you, then the addition of hearing the same teeth bit down will undoubtedly increase your terror manifold.
Ever heard of a SharkCam? It's not a novel idea, given that scientists, videographers, and anyone with some duct tape or some twine has strapped or tied a camera to animals for years. But it was an excellent idea when developed into the underwater mobile device with six cameras constructed by Woods Hole. As explained on the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution site, it was the centerpiece of a research project on the predatory nature of sharks, the videos from the shark attacks show that the REMUS SharkCam was often a target of the predators, giving scientists plenty of material to work with.
The footage was taken in waters off the western coast of Mexico around Guadalupe Island and provides an excellent window into the moments that lead up to and include that dreadful instant when a shark bites into its target. Researchers filmed the shark attacks beginning in 2013, their mission simply to film acoustically tagged Great White sharks, the sharkcam simply homing in on the target fish.
But, as the video captions: "The hunter soon became the hunted."
The video shows several confrontations with Great Whites. Some bumps and scrapes and terror-inspiring bites on the sharkcam itself were described as "territorial" attacks. But a couple attacks in particular stand out, especially the first, where the viewer is given no warning that the toothsome monster will appear from beneath and latch onto the sharkcam. However, the second encounter is prefaced by the explanation that Great White sharks use clear water to help in their hunting, swimming low and rising quickly from the depths to snatch their prey. It is how they hunt seals. It is also believed that it is why humans on surfboards are attacked as they are, because to he non-discriminating shark's eyes, the paddling shadow above it likely resembles a seal.
Authorities in South Africa believe that is what led to the Great White shark attack this past week that saw a young surfer hit from below and hurled ten feet through the air with his surfboard. But being rammed wasn't enough and the shark actually sank its teeth into the legs of the unfortunate surfer. And yet, the victim survived due to some quick thinking by some fellow surfers who tied a tourniquet around his legs to staunch the bleedingl long enough to get him to hospital for treatment.
The Woods Hole sharkcam project has an association with "Shark Week." Extra footage from encounters with Great White sharks can be seen at Discovery Channel's "Shark Week" website, where it is given the more commercial title of "When Jaws Strikes Back Cam." The researchers' trip into the waters off Guadalupe Island will be featured on the second night (Aug. 11) of "Shark Week" on "Jaws Strkes Back."
The REMUS SharkCam has opened up the research world to other endeavors where marine animals can be viewed within their natural habitat. Next up: Using the system to track and collect visual as well as numberical data on other large marine animals like sea turtles.