The 14-foot great white shark washed ashore on a crowded Whitecrest Beach in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, after apparently failing to navigate the shallows, shark expert Greg Skomal told the Boston Globe.
The great white shark immediately drew a crowd of beachgoers, who turned into would-be rescuers. People started digging a pool of water for the shark as others doused it with buckets of water. More beachgoers began digging a trench to the ocean in which to pull the great white shark back into the water.
CNN iReporter Stephan Werk captured the amazing rescue effort by about 100 people that included police, lifeguards and wildlife officials along with the beachgoers:
Once the trench was built, a rope was tied around the great white shark’s tail and the massive crowd pulled the shark off the beach and into the water. A witness told the Boston Globe that the other end of the rope was fastened to a boat to pull the great white out to sea.
Alas, the great white shark went belly up as soon as it hit the water.
“There’s only so much you can do — it’s a fish out of water,” Skomal, of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, told the Globe. “They’re basically drowning.”
Skomal performed a necropsy on the great white shark at the Chatham Fish Pier and reported that it was a healthy specimen. The injuries visible to the underside of the estimated 2,000-pound shark appeared to be the result of the beach stranding, as the shark began bleeding internally under its own weight, the Globe reported.
Skomal said it is “very unusual, to say the least” for a shark to beach themselves and that it was probably hunting for food and became trapped in the shallows. It was the second great white shark to beach itself on a Cape Cod beach this summer.
In a similar rescue attempt, a 7-1/2-foot shark was pulled back into the water and survived, as the tagged shark has been seen several times offshore.
In light of recent calls in Australia to cull sharks to protect surfers and ocean swimmers, it was refreshing to see a concerted effort to save an ailing great white shark.