Shark Wrangler Recalls Possible Megalodon Encounter
Big Sharks and Tall Tales
For a little while the show Shark Wranglers from the History Channel was one of the most interesting programs on television. If you get a chance you should check it out. It’s an entertaining series, and if you’re not careful you might even learn a thing or two. In a nutshell, the show follows a team of shark researchers on a ship called the OCEARCH as they capture, examine, tag and release different shark species.
The information they gather helps to better understand how sharks are faring in the wild, and how human influence is impacting their well-being. Some of the best footage is of the team reeling in massive great white sharks, which they guide onto a hydraulic lift in order to pick them up out of the water for study.
Despite some harrowing close calls, the research team, led by Chris Fischer, does a great job of gathering the information they need without sacrificing the safety of human or shark.
In an episode called Monster of Bird Island the team interviews a group of young fisherman off the coast of South Africa who speak of a local white shark as large as their boat. They don’t say how long the boat is, but it appears much bigger than any great white shark, possibly 40 foot or so. Fischer writes it off as a case of exaggeration, but later a member of the team tells an interesting personal story.
Brett McBride is captain of the MV OCEARCH, and a main player in the handling of captured sharks. He’s a guy who has spent a lot of time on the ocean, and he recounted an experience he had as a teenager.
According to his story, he was harpooning swordfish off the coast of California from the deck of a boat when he and his shipmates heard of a white shark nearby and went to investigate. Their ship had a 42-foot plank where the harpoon man would stand, and as the ship passed the great white they marked its length from nose to tail by that plank.
They measured it later to be thirty feet!
Thirty feet is twice as large as the average great white. Could this creature have been something else? The Megalodon shark is an ancient predatory shark thought to have gone extinct thousands of years ago. The largest ones reached up to 60 feet in length.
Did Captain Brett encounter a Megalodon shark all those years ago?
How Large Do Great White Sharks Get?
Let’s be clear about a few things. The OCEARCH crew, including and especially Captain Brett, is a group of serious researchers who are doing great things to further the understanding of sharks in the wild.
At no point did anyone on the team suggest this was a Megalodon sighting, and at no point did anyone even use the word Megalodon. Still, there’s no doubt that cryptozoologists watching at home sat up a little straighter upon hearing such a detailed and trustworthy account of a 30-foot great white sighting.
There have been some outlandish size claims over the centuries. For a long time the Guinness Book of World Records listed 36 and 37-foot great whites as the largest on record, but researchers have cast serious doubt as to the validity of those numbers.
The largest great white shark ever caught and officially documented was just over 21 feet. Of course, some fisherman claim to see larger sharks out there, but without a specimen to examine there is no way to be sure.
Average adult white sharks range between 13 and 16 feet, and any shark approaching 20 feet is a true monster. Some researchers claim that many years ago there were more large sharks in the world, as the human impact on their ecosystem was not so severe, and that’s most likely true.
With fewer hooks in the water, and fewer humans to mess with their food sources, it was probably much more possible for a great white to top 20 feet a couple of hundred years ago. These days, places where you can find great white sharks are scarcer and their numbers are fewer.
But even back in the olden days, was a thirty-foot great white shark really a possibility?
The OCEARCH Team in Action—Amazing!
30-Foot Great White Shark or Something Else?
What did Captain Brett see? This is a guy who knows the sea and knows sharks. It’s unlikely that he misidentified a whale shark or some other animal, so that leaves two possibilities. Either Captain Brett gave an account of the largest great white shark ever, or he ran across a living Megalodon.
Of course there is also the chance that he and his buddies miss-measured, but let’s assume Captain Brett was on the ball even back then.
Does such a creature still exist? Captain Brett, at the time of the show, was 43 years old. This means his encounter probably occurred in mid-1980s, around 25 years ago. A lot can happen in two and a half decades, and whatever this thing was it could have been the last of its kind.
Let’s hope not. If it really was a Megalodon shark it would be fascinating for a live specimen to show up somewhere long enough to be documented. If it was a massive great white shark, well, that’s cool too. A 30-foot great white would doubtless be almost as interesting to serious shark researchers.
And what about the South African fishermen? These men, who are on the ocean and see sharks every day, claimed to know of a shark in the area apparently measuring between 30 and 40 feet. Was this a case of fisherman’s exaggeration, or were they too seeing either a massive great white or a Megalodon?
If either is out there, perhaps Captain Brett and the crew of the OCEARCH will be the ones to pull it on deck and capture it on camera. Their ongoing research has already revealed mountains of data on a diverse array of shark species, and the discovery of a living Megalodon or a record great white shark would be one more feather in their deserving caps.
Update: After holding out hope for longer than it was probably logical, I have accepted the fact that there does not appear to be any new seasons of Shark Wranglers expected any time in the future. But OCEARCH continues their mission of shark education, study and conservation today.
Whether there are really 30-foot great white sharks out there somewhere or not, sharks are an important part of the ocean ecosystem. The work done by OCEARCH helps us to better understand these amazing creatures, and act as smarter stewards of our planet.
Visit the OCEARCH website and learn more about great whites and the conservation of one of the most incredible animals on our planet.