23 Jul 2011

Great white shark too close for comfort

7:40 am on 23 July 2011

Marine scientists in South Africa have come face to face with a great white shark.

The three-metre shark leapt out of the sea and landed on the deck of their boat in Mossel Bay.

The BBC reports the research team was conducting a shark count when the incident occurred on Monday .

Team leader Dorien Schroder said they were throwing ''chum'' into the water around the boat to draw sharks closer so they could be identified and counted.

''I heard a splash and looked back to see a shark pretty much mid-air hovering above one of my interns,'' she told the BBC.

Ms Schroder said she pulled her colleague to safety in the stern of the ship. By then, the shark already had half its body on board, head first.

It hauled itself entirely onto the boat and became wedged between the engines and some containers.

The crew initially tried to drag the shark off the boat, but eventually decided to return to port so it could be lifted off by crane. It weighed 500kg.

Once back in the water, the shark had to be rescued a second time after it beached itself, before it was hauled out to sea.

Great whites are known to fully jump out of the water while hunting prey like seals, but the BBC reports it was not thought to have attacked the boat deliberately.

''This must have been an incredibly stressful experience for the shark,'' said Ryan Johnson, who was involved in the rescue. ''These sharks belong in the sea, they don't belong on land.''

The researchers resumed their work counting sharks the following day.