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Wild Cape Cod Notebook: Winter Approaches

October 21, 2015

Our work with the Massachusetts White Shark population study is winding down with only a couple of weeks to go to the end of the field season. The air and water temperatures are dropping and with the onset of autumn the weather in New England has added some drama to our trips when we can get out. The work continues to be exciting as we have observed changes in the shark behavior and especially in the size of the sharks that are in the area. Larger sharks, both male and female seem to be patrolling the coast now and once again the grey seal herd is beginning to congregate in southern part of our study area on Monomoy. Even though we have been challenged with tough sea conditions and low temperatures the action observing very large white sharks hunting seals in shallow water has been amazing to watch. The image below taken by Wayne Davis tells a perfect story of the change of the mood of the ocean at this time of year. Shorter days and lower sun angles make spotting more difficult especially from the boat. But the seascapes are stunning in autumn light.

 

Aleutian Dream (photo courtesy of Wayne Davis)

 

 

 Rare glimpse of a Minke Whale as it breaks the surface feeding on sand eels near Monomoy.

 

 Fin Whale spotted feeding (one of four) just east of the North Chatham Inlet.

 

 Dunlins in flight off of "Shark Alley" otherwise known as South Beach south of the cut.

 

 Dr. Greg Skomal in his full winter working "kit" aboard the Aleutian Dream.

 

On October 16 we were introduced to one of the largest white sharks of the 2015 season. A 16 ft female estimated to be 3000 lbs hunting in the area near Shark Cove. The image below was captured by Greg Skomal and then "cleaned up" by John Chisholm to reveal this magnificent female. Pam and I were given the privilege of naming her and Pam chose the name "Monomoy" in honor of our family's ancestors who have inhabited this land for hundreds of years AND to honor the young people of Chatham and Harwich who selected the white shark as their mascot a few years back. Now they have one for their very own. We were able to place an acoustic tag on this beauty so scientists will be able to follow her return visits in the years to come through our listening "receivers" deployed on the outer Cape.

 

White Shark "Monomoy" - note the markings on her second gill plate.

 

 

 Wayne Davis captured this magnificent image of white shark "Monomoy" near the land which inspired her name.

 

 Captain Nick Nickerson works with a film crew off of Monomoy in less than ideal conditions.

 

 Working with a film crew off of North Chatham inlet.

 

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