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Nantucket Hammerhead Sharks of 2022

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Every July for the last 25 years my family and I have enjoyed a summer vacation on the island of Nantucket, MA. People go to Nantucket for many worthy reasons. The historic downtown with its cobbled main street has preserved the look and feel of the 19th century whaling prosperity. Dining, shopping and accommodations are world class not to mention the harbor and amenities at the Boat Basin.

All of which is great but, I’ve been going to Nantucket for 25 years for the south shore beaches. Almost 14 miles of white sandy beach reaches from Madaket to Siasconset and almost all of it is accessible to the public.

I’ll spend all day on the beach but I’m not a beach sitter. You’ll find me in the water surfing, SUP surfing, trolling or casting from a paddle board for fish or maybe trying to flyfish the shore break.

Of the last 25 years I’ve been surfing the Cisco area of the island, I’d never left the water because of a shark … until this year.

Occasionally one of the many beaches along the shore would close due to a “fin” sighting. Sometimes it would be a small shark chasing a food source and sometimes it’d be a mola mola (the giant sunfish “a baby whale ked” if you know what I mean).

This July, the five days between 7/27 – 7/31 there were over 43 fin sightings and corresponding beach closures. Surfing on the 31’st twice I was called in by Lifeguards frantically trying to get everyone out of the water. Turns out a hammerhead shark was feeding on bluefish in the shore break at the next section of beach (Ladies Beach). (the bottom Reel includes footage of the hammerhead)

This link from Nantucket Current includes the opinion of a local shark expert on the unusual presence of these sharks. Unusually warm water (mid to high 70’s) brings an abundance of food source (fish) that sharks follow.

It seems that there are no recorded unprovoked shark attacks on humans on Nantucket beaches. According to Michael Bonner, as of 2019

“The first documented incident occurred in 1751 in Massachusetts. There have been 21 unprovoked incidents involving people and sharks in New England since that time, including one in Rhode Island last month (July 2019).

Sharks have caused seven fatalities. The most recent came last year (2018) when a Revere man was killed while boogie boarding on Newcomb Hollow Beach in Wellfleet. It was the first shark-related death in New England since 1936, according to the data.”

As a surfer I accept that there are sharks in the ocean and we’re playing in their home. Though small hammerheads are not thought to be aggressive toward humans, mistakes are made. I felt pretty safe surfing a paddle board but would always respect the call of a lifeguard trying to do their job and keep everyone safe.

Below are 2 Reels I posted on Instagram from “Shark Week 2022” on Nantucket.

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