Great White Shark Jumps On Research Boat

Originally published on July 21, 2011 9:12 pm

Michele Norris speaks with Dorien Schroeder, a team leader with Ocean's Research, who lived a Jaws-like moment when a great white jumped on deck of her team's research boat after they threw fish into the water to lure sharks closer. This all happened off the coast of South Africa.

Schroeder says the shark was three meters and it managed to curl up in the back part of the board, seemingly unharmed.

The research team released the shark back in the water and it swam away.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

Dorien Schroeder joins me now by phone from Mossel Bay, South Africa, to tell me what happened. And Dorien, what in the world did happen? Can you take us back to that moment when you're on the deck, and all of a sudden you've got another passenger?

DORIEN SCHROEDER: Luckily, she stepped aside and I could pull her away from the shark right before it actually landed in the boat.

NORRIS: My goodness - thwack, just landed right there on the deck?

SCHROEDER: And, of course, they were in shock, as well, saying, oh my God, what just happened? So I asked them to be quiet so the shark wouldn't be too stressed out by all the noise.

NORRIS: Now, you're talking about how stressed out the shark is. I imagine you're pretty stressed out in this moment, too.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SCHROEDER: Actually, of course, the moment that I saw is right before it actually landed in the boat, I had a moment where I thought, oh my God, what am I going to do now? But right after that, my instincts took over, and when all my interns were safe and the shark calmed down, I thought, okay, now I just need to get a live shark out of the boat.

NORRIS: Ms. Shroeder, do us a favor. How big is your boat? And how much space did that shark take up in the boat? Because in looking at the pictures - and I really invite our listeners to go online and see this because you really should see what this looks like - it doesn't look like you had a lot of space yourself to maneuver around on the deck.

SCHROEDER: No, we didn't. Our boat is about eight meters in length, although the part where the shark actually ended up in is about two meters by one-and-a-half meters. And she was herself a three-meter shark. So in the end, she kind of managed to curl herself up in the back part of the boat.

NORRIS: And this shark was between nine and 10 feet. You say it eventually calmed down. It's curious that it didn't go into some sort of attack mode.

SCHROEDER: And I think because we were pouring water over the gills for the whole time it was out of the water, that's the reason it survived this.

NORRIS: Is a viewing of the film "Jaws" in your future?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SCHROEDER: Well, it wasn't really like "Jaws." I mean, clearly this was just a mistake of the shark. I think he got scared maybe by another shark swimming underneath her, but the thing is she just happened to jump onto a boat full of people that love white sharks with all their heart, and we just - as soon as she landed, we knew we had to do whatever we could to get her off alive. And I'm so happy that we managed to do that.

NORRIS: Dorien Schroeder, thanks so much for your time, all the best to you, and we hope that you're able to keep track of that great white that goaded your boat.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SCHROEDER: Thank you very much.

NORRIS: That's Dorien Schroeder. She's a team leader with Oceans Research. She was studying great white sharks off the coast of South Africa when a half-ton shark jumped out of the water and straight onto her boat. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.