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Diver videotapes extremely close encounter with shark

October 28, 2010 |  8:39 am


A scuba diver got an unexpected and shocking surprise Saturday while diving near Eastport, off the eastern tip of Maine, when a porbeagle shark apparently mistook his camera equipment for food.

Scott MacNichol, 30, was uninjured but definitely shaken up by the encounter (you can hear him screaming), which he caught on video.

MacNichol saw the shark swimming above him while he was filming the ocean floor and taking samples from empty salmon pens at Broad Cove as part of an environmental assessment for Cooke Aquaculture.

"That shark wasn't there for the salmon. There were no fish, no food," MacNichol told the Bangor Daily News. "It circled me two times and then began jabbing at my camera."

MacNichol estimated that the shark was 8 feet long and weighed 300 pounds.

"I've seen plenty of sharks around here chasing mackerel and herring. That's not uncommon," said MacNichol, who has been diving for 17 years. "But this is the first time I've seen one while diving. And the first time one came after me."

Porbeagle sharks are a large, cold-temperate coastal and oceanic species that have a similar body shape and tail to mako and great white sharks and can grow to longer than 11 feet and weigh up to 450 pounds. They feed predominantly on mackerel, herring and other small fish.

Chris Heinig, owner of MER Assessment Corp., hired to do the environmental assessment, was on the dive boat.

"When Scott surfaced, the shark was literally draped over him," Heinig said. "This was incredibly unusual."

Heinig, who has been conducting underwater assessments for 20 years, surmised that the shark was probably drawn to MacNichol by the camera's light, batteries and silver casing.

"Sharks are very sensitive to electrical fields," Heinig said, adding that "this was not at all an attack on a human. It was a matter of the shark trying to figure out if the camera was lunch. The shark probably thought the camera was one nice morsel."

-- Kelly Burgess

Video credit: Associated Press via YouTube