“Yep, that’s a shark alright!” said Dr. Bill Hanshumaker, Oregon Sea Grant Chief Scientist, Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport.
By Brian Cameron
After reviewing the recent photo, courtesy of the Tillamook County Sheriff’s Department, just off the breakers near Pacific City, Dr. Hanshumaker is convinced that it is indeed a shark of some kind, and that it bares a strong resemblance to a White Shark. Though he did seem a bit confused as to what it was doing here this time of year.
“Usually Whites will venture this direction around June,” said Handshumaker. “They will coincide their timing with the pupping season for seals and sea lions.”
According to Hanshumaker it’s the pinipeds (seals and sea lions), and their respective cycles that often course the general behavior of White Sharks when they’re around. Though he was quick to point out that it is generally not the season to see Whites along the Oregon Coast, however it’s also not unheard of.
Hanshumaker mentioned that he himself has only taken part in one White Shark autopsy; a 13 footer that he said was just barely out of juvenile stage.
“A ten foot shark is essentially still a child,” said Hanshumaker. “I dissected a thirteen foot shark and its claspers were still flaccid, which are the general way to determine whether or not the shark has undergone adolescence.”
Just over a year ago a Portland area man had an unusual and lucky experience with a similarly sized White Shark, just two hundred yards from the sandy shores of Indian Beach at Ecola State Park near community of Cannon Beach.
“I was leaning pretty far out from the board when it happened,” said Joe Tanner, surfer and shark attack survivor. “It grabbed me by the upper leg and the only thing I could see in front of me were the shark’s gills.”
That’s when Tanner’s fight or flight mechanism went into effect and he resorted to the only tools available to him at the time; his fists.
“I went through all of the things one is supposed to do, they say go for the eyes or the nose,” said Tanner. “But when it came down to it those options weren’t available to me so I went with the only thing I could see, the gills.”
After pummeling the animal with his hands it let go of Tanner’s leg and disappeared into the surf, leaving Tanner badly injured and a good distance from the shore.
“I was a good ten-minute paddle from the shore and to me that was the scariest part,” said Tanner. “Hollywood always fictionalizes shark attacks so the first thing in my mind was that my blood was going to bring it back.”
According to Tanner when he reached the shore it was as if everyone just came to him to help, and he mentioned that if the attack had been on anyone else its likely they would have immediately gone into shock, Tanner is a trauma nurse at Legacy Emanuel Hospital in Portland.
“I knew what I was feeling should have made me go into shock, I’m really lucky it happened to me, I knew how to assess the severity of the injury,” said Tanner. “But I just walked everyone through what they needed to do, we used my board-leash as a tourniquet and had them load me onto my board to carry me to the parking area where Lifeflight had already been called to.”
Since the incident Tanner has been swimming in the ocean but as far as getting back on a surfboard he mentions it’s something he’s planning on doing but for now its no the highest priority to him.
Local attack history
According to statistics with sharkattackdata.com, since Sept. 1974 there have been 28 recorded shark attacks along the Oregon Coast, all of the incidents were listed as unprovoked and none were fatal, though the injuries sustained to victims varied widely from damage to their surfboards and actual physical injury and in some cases, like Tanner’s, a one-on-one interaction with the famous fish.
Dr. Hanshumaker had one bit of advice for anyone who may be fortunate or unfortunate enough to see one of the amazing pelagic predators.
“My best advice is to get out of the water,” said Hanshumaker. “If you see a shark it’s probably not the best time to be surfing or swimming in the ocean.”