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Shark Week Comes to Cape Cod

Last Sunday, the Discovery Channel kicked off its annual Shark Week programming with Jaws Comes Home, an hour-long documentary about the recent shark phenomenon off of Chatham. Filmed in summer 2010, the documentary follows Greg Skomal, shark expert with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, and crew as they patrol the waters off of Chatham and Monomoy Island to tag white sharks and to gain an understanding of why they come here.

Cape Cod Life readers may remember Skomal from “Great White? Nope,” a feature story we ran in the early months of 2009 about the region’s fixation on great white shark sightings. With the surfeit of shark sightings that arrived off of Chatham later that year—likely a result of the boom in the grey seal population, the experts say—what was once a set of I-swear-I-saw-it anomalies is nowa bona fide phenomenon.

Skomal at Naushon Island in 2004. Image courtesy of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.

The hour-long program is a great introduction to the new realities of white sharks off of Chatham: harpooning dorsal fins with satellite tags to track sharks’ paths down the East Coast, watching grey seals cluster on sandbars off of Lighthouse Beach and bay in a dissonant chorus, talking with the fishermen who barely tolerate their existence, the beach closings, and the authentic excitement that consumes the researchers when they put their eyes—and tracking devices—on the apex predators. It was both a solid introduction to what’s happening off of Chatham and an illuminating experience for sharkophiles.

And it was rounded out with a few heart-stopping moments. It’s worth watching for yourself, so I won’t spoil it for those that didn’t catch the first run. Let’s just say it involves climbing into a shark cage and, courtesy of an 18-foot great white, having a few problems climbing back out. Check out the preview video below, and catch a re-run of the program this weekend.

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Jeff is the Managing Editor for Cape Cod Life Publications.

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