Outdoors, action, adventure

Category: Shark attacks

U.S. led the world in shark attacks last year

Great white shark prowls the waters near Guadalupe Island off Baja California.

The U.S. led the world again in the number of shark attacks last year, according to a University of Florida report released this week.

Worldwide, 79 attacks occurred in 2010 -- the highest number since 2000 (80) -- with 36 reported in the United States. Australia was second with 14, then South Africa with eight and Vietnam and Egypt with six each.

While Florida led the nation with 13 reported attacks, this total was significantly lower than the state's yearly average of 23 over the past decade.

"Florida had its lowest total since 2004, which was 12," said George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File at the university. Florida typically has the highest number of attacks worldwide, but 2010 marked the state’s fourth straight year of decline, Burgess said. "Maybe it’s a reflection of the downturn in the economy and the number of tourists coming to Florida, or the amount of money native Floridians can spend taking holidays and going to the beach."

Of those attacks in the U.S. outside of Florida, five were in North Carolina, with four each in California, Hawaii and South Carolina. There were single attacks in Georgia, Maine, Oregon, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

Surfers were the victims of slightly more than half of the incidents reported worldwide in 2010, nearly 51% of the cases. An economic downturn will usually influence tourists but not necessarily surfers, whose sport is relatively low-cost, Burgess said.

Swimmers and waders were the second-largest group affected, accounting for nearly 38% of the shark attacks internationally.

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Study suggesting sharks are color-blind could help prevent attacks

Shark New research on how sharks see suggests that the predators are color-blind, a discovery that may help prevent attacks on surfers, swimmers and other ocean-sport enthusiasts.

Using a technique called micro-spectrophotometry -- which measured the light-sensitive cells in the eyes -- the joint study, conducted by researchers from the University of Western Australia and the University of Queensland, looked at the potential for color vision in numerous shark species caught off Queensland and Western Australia and concluded that they have only one type of cone photoreceptor in the retina.

"Humans have three cone types that are sensitive to blue, green and red light, respectively, and by comparing signals from the different cone types we get the sensation of color vision," Nathan Hart, associate research professor at the University of Western Australia, said in a news release. "However, we found that sharks have only a single cone type and by conventional reckoning this means that they don't have color vision."

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South African teen surfer killed in shark attack

Fin A 16-year-old surfer died after being attacked by a shark Saturday at Second Beach, Port St. Johns, on the Eastern Cape of South Africa.

Zama Ndamase, a surfer for Border Surfriders Assn., was surfing with his brother and other members of the local surf club when the attack occurred, according to a report in the South Africa Daily News. It is not known what species of shark was involved.

According to reports, Ndamase managed to catch a wave after being bitten and attempted to reach the shore but bled to death in the water before he could be reached by lifeguards and rescue craft.

"He was a young guy, full of spirit and always ready for a laugh. He was always willing to help his teammates and enjoyed giving the younger surfers encouragement and advice," said Border Surfriders Assn. spokesman Malcolme Logie. "Border was looking to him to play a leading role in our team this year. His passing leaves us numb and with a huge sense of loss."

Ndamase was the fifth shark-attack victim at the beach in the last three years, four of which have been fatal.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: the dorsal fin of a white shark. Credit: Caterina Gennerao


Outposts looks back at 2010: Passings

With the year ending, it is worth looking back at memorable posts of 2010. Each day this week through Friday, Outposts will recount some of the records broken, the achievements reached, the notable passings and the downright unusual during 2010 in the outdoors, action and adventure world.

Three-time world surfing champion Andy Irons, 32

Andy Irons Legendary surfer Andy Irons died at the age of 32. The three-time world champion passed away during a layover in Dallas en route from Puerto Rico to his home in Hawaii. His body was discovered in a hotel room Nov. 2, after he failed to respond to a wake-up call.

Irons, who was raised on Kauai, became ill during an ASP World Tour event in Puerto Rico. He was apparently suffering from symptoms similar to those associated with dengue fever.

Photo credit: ASP

Capt. Phil Harris, 53, of 'Deadliest Catch'

Capt. Phil Harris Phil Harris, the hard-talking captain of one of the crab-fishing vessels featured on the Discovery Channel series "Deadliest Catch" died Feb. 9 after suffering a stroke Jan. 29 while in port offloading his boat, the 128-foot Cornelia Marie. Harris was 53.

Harris captained the Cornelia Marie for 18 years and had two sons, Josh and Jake, who worked as deckhands on the vessel.

Photo: Discovery Channel


Extreme skier Fredrik Ericsson, 35, falls to his death scaling K2

Fredrik Ericsson Fredrik Ericsson, one of the world's leading high-altitude skiers, fell to his death Aug. 6 while attempting to scale and then ski from the 28,251-foot summit of K2. Ericsson was 35.

Featured in a June Outposts item, the extreme skier was on a quest to ski down the three highest peaks on the planet -- K2, on the border between China and Pakistan; the Himalayan peak of Kangchenjunga; and Mt. Everest, on the border of Nepal and Tibet.

Photo: FredrikEricsson.com


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Funeral, memorial service and ocean paddle-out to be held for Lucas Ransom; shark identified as great white

Lucas2 The family of 19-year-old shark-attack victim Lucas Ransom will hold a viewing, rosary and funeral Mass Wednesday at 5 p.m. at St. James Catholic Church, 269 W. 3rd Street in Perris.

On Thursday, a separate memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. at Evans-Brown Mortuary, 27010 Encanto Drive in Sun City, just south of the family's home in Romoland.

And at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, family and friends will gather at the south side of the Oceanside Pier in Oceanside, where a paddle-out will be held to scatter flowers into the Pacific Ocean in Ransom's memory.

All events are open to the public.

Ransom was attacked by a shark and died from his injuries Friday while body-boarding with a friend off Surf Beach at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

On Monday, California Department of Fish and Game officials said they are all but certain that the attack was likely by a great white shark.

"It would be highly surprising if it was anything else," Fish and Game marine biologist Carrie Wilson told The Press-Enterprise. "Typically when these things occur, it's a case of mistaken identity. These sharks really don't have much interest in humans. We're too skinny compared to seals and sea lions," Wilson said. "They want the blubber and high meat content."

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Surf Beach, site of Friday's fatal shark attack, reopens

Board Vandenberg Air Force Base's Surf Beach, which was closed Friday after the fatal shark attack on 19-year-old Lucas Ransom, reopened to the public at 8 a.m. Monday.

A statement issued by the base said that during the three-day closure period, which included nearby Wall and Minuteman beaches, base conservation law enforcement officers increased patrols of the beaches and that there were no observed or reported shark sightings.

In addition to existing signage identifying no lifeguard on duty and outlining beach rules, officials said they will post additional signs at the beaches reading, "Warning: recent shark attack -- swim, surf at your own risk."

Minuteman and Wall beaches, accessible only to base personnel, remain closed as part of an order halting all outdoor recreational activities in order to facilitate events related to Vandenberg's two-week operational-readiness and unit-compliance inspections, which began Sunday.

Ransom, a UC Santa Barbara student, was in the water with a friend about 100 yards offshore Friday morning when a shark bit his left leg off. His friend brought Ransom to shore, but his injuries were too severe and Ransom bled to death.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Lucas Ransom's bodyboard shows the shark bite. Credit: Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department


Body boarder fatally attacked by shark in Santa Barbara County; area beaches closed [Updated]


Body boarder fatally attacked by shark in Santa Barbara County; area beaches closed [Updated]


A 19-year-old man was fatally attacked by a shark while body-boarding north of Santa Barbara on Friday morning.

[Updated at 3:04 p.m.: The victim has been identified as Lucas McKaine Ransom of Romoland in Riverside County.]

The attack occurred between 9 and 9:30 a.m. at Surf Beach, west of Lompoc at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Officials ordered the closure of Surf, Wall and Minuteman beaches for at least 72 hours due to the attack.

A base spokesman told L.A. Times staff writer Andrew Blankstein that Santa Barbara County coroner's investigators were at the beach and that the investigation is being handled in conjunction with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department.

The Santa Maria Times reports that the victim, a UC Santa Barbara student, was in the water with a friend about 100 yards offshore when a shark bit part of his left leg off, according to Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown.

The friend brought the victim to shore, but his injuries were severe and he bled to death, Brown said.

Federal and State Fish and Game officials are working to identify the type of shark, which was described as being 14 to 20 feet in length.

-- Kelly Burgess


Photo: Airmen 1st class Daniel Clark, left, and Staff Sgt. Keri Embry post a sign warning surfers of a shark attack Friday at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Credit: Spencer Weiner / Associated Press

Fish and Game Q&A: Will painting my kayak scare away great white sharks?

Shark images 008 In support of the California Department of Fish and Game and its effort to keep hunters and anglers informed, Outposts, on Thursday or Friday, posts marine biologist Carrie Wilson's weekly Q&A column. NOTE: This is Carrie's column from last Thursday, when I was on vacation and unavailable to publish it:

Question: I bought a former scuba kayak and have retrofitted it into a fishing kayak. I transformed the underside into what appears to be the underside of a killer whale (orca) because I figure if I’m going to be spending lots of idle time fishing, I don’t want, in any way, to attract the attention of great whites! The underside was totally white but now the outer edges are black with a small black patch at the rear so that it looks just like the characteristic underside of a killer whale. I also rigged up my two fins to drag out the back in case I ever found myself in dire need.

My reasoning here is killer whales and great whites are natural enemies, so if I paint the bottom like an orca, any great white within several hundred yards will take off. As I thought more about this aspect though, I now wonder if while I’m sitting in this thing for long periods of time, will I be more apt to be a target rather than a threat? Has there been any evidence of great whites attacking dead killer whales just like they attack dead regular whales? I’m wondering now if I am a soon-to-be "dead duck" instead of a brilliant kayak engineer! Please advise. Thanks. (Mark)

Answer: Well, I can safely say I’ve never gotten a letter and questions quite like yours, but it’s a refreshing change from the many regulation questions! I applaud your kayak engineering prowess. However, I’m not sure painting the hull of your kayak to resemble the underbelly of an orca, along with attaching fins that mysteriously drag out the back, will spook a white shark or prevent an attack.

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'Shark Week' is back on Discovery Channel beginning Sunday


It's time once again for "Shark Week" on Discovery Channel, and this year's lineup looks to have some teeth.

The series kicks off its 23rd season Sunday at 9 p.m. with "Ultimate Air Jaws" and a return to the coast of South Africa, where great white sharks are known to breach with almost no warning, pulling sneak attacks on the seals that congregate there.

10 years ago, Discovery Channel premiered "Air Jaws," which explored this phenomenon -- an episode that still remains the fifth most-watched of the series. This year, producer Jeff Kurr returns to the scene to investigate the aerial attacks, this time armed with state-of-the-art equipment, including an HD camera that shoots in super slow motion -- 2,000 frames per second, which is 20 to 30 times slower than "typical" slow-motion footage.

Kurr and shark expert Chris Fallows slow down the footage of a breaching shark from 1 second in real time to almost a minute. The amazing resolution provides so much detail that you can count every tooth in the shark’s mouth. Fallows and Kurr also employ a submarine and remotely operated helicopter to capture this incredible footage.

Other episodes this week are sure to inform and amaze, including getting up close for a shark bite, where viewers literally end up inside the jaws of sharks; shark attacks and how best to survive one (including interviews with six people who did); and a look at the 2008 shark attacks which took place along the coast of California and Mexico, when sharks mistook four people for prey.

Hopefully the series will shed some light on this often-feared and mysterious predator of the deep, informing viewers about threats currently facing plummeting shark populations and inspiring them to help with shark conservation efforts.

The "Shark Week" series schedule and episode descriptions are after the jump.

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U.S. registers sharp drop in shark attacks last year


Surfers and other ocean-sport enthusiasts might find solace in the news that shark attacks in the United States declined in 2009, according to a University of Florida report released Monday.

"The big story is that the number of attacks in the United States dropped dramatically from 41 in 2008 to 28 in 2009," said George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File at the university. "Considering there were 50 attacks in 2007, we may have a bit of a trend, but only time will tell."

One possibility for the decline of attacks in U.S. coastal waters may be that fewer people visited the shore due to the recession.

"Florida's population hasn't gone down, so I suppose the economy could have had an effect on how many times people can afford to put gas in their cars and go to the beach," added Burgess.

Worldwide is a different story, however, with attacks edging up ever so slightly, from 60 in 2008 to 61 in 2009.

"More than half the attacks -- 33 out of 61 -- were surfers and this continues a trend that we've been seeing for quite awhile," said Burgess.

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South Africa lifeguard killed by shark as horrified beachgoers look on

Beachgoers at Port St. Johns Second Beach in South Africa could do but nothing but watch in terror as a lifeguard was pulled from his paddle board by a shark and killed.

The 22-year-old was paddling ahead of fellow lifeguard Abongile Maza when the attack occurred, reports the Daily Dispatch.

"I could not believe what I saw with my own eyes because it did not seem real," said Maza. "It was a surprise attack that has left the surfing and lifeguard community shocked."

This is the fourth fatal shark attack in two years at the beach and the second this year.

National Sea Rescue Institute station commander John Costello said water conditions at the time were murky and flat with a slight swell -- ideal for a shark to attack.

"Witnesses I spoke to said they saw his hands in the air for a short while before his whole body disappeared under the water and a red pool of blood was seen on the surface," Costello said. "Only his knee board washed ashore."

Costello added that the shark species cannot be identified because an analysis is impossible without seeing the bite marks. The victim's body has yet to be found.

-- Kelly Burgess

Cape Cod great white shark episode thankfully is minus 'Jaws' hysteria

A great white shark patrols waters off Cape Cod in 2004.

News item: Beaches around Chatham, Mass., remain closed because of shark sightings made in the Cape Cod area before the busy holiday weekend. Reports of the sightings and closures -- as well as the tagging by scientists of two great white sharks -- make national news.

Reaction: I might be naive in saying this, but the fact that very few of the reports tried to turn this into a real-life "Jaws" scare seems to indicate how far society has come in terms of appreciation toward the marine realm's most notorious and misunderstood predator.

Dangling like bait were the sharks themselves, the last busy summer holiday along the shore and small-town  politicians wrestling with how to deal with the situation. Among the most notable missing elements: a giant mechanical shark bent on killing humans, blood and holy terror and a savage shark hunter named Quint.

At least one media outlet took the bait. Contact Music, quick to grab the Steven Spielberg connection, posted a story with this lead paragraph:

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About the Bloggers
Outposts' primary contributor is Kelly Burgess.