white shark, Carcharodon carcharias
Notice how close to the pectoral fins the dorsal fin is. Also notice the white showing on the
bottom side. A basking shark would have its dorsal much farther back from the pectoral
fins, and would not show as much white along the sides and bottom.-------Pete Duley photo
June 21, 2005 - A North East Fisheries Science Center flight investigating a report of
a floating whale carcass about 20 miles SE of Block Is., discovers a white shark
approx 16 feet long and photographs it from the air.
So what about white sharks today?
Because white sharks have become more numerous in New England, and many white
sharks have been recently tagged at Chatham Mass., I have put into this website
another page dealing with present up to date white shark info that can be accessed at
page 12 or by the recent white shark info on the links below.
Twelve Days of Terror by Richard G. Fernicola, M.D. is a fantastic book on the
fatal 1916 New Jersey shark attacks. It has great insight into the attacks, and the
people and attitudes of that time period. The book is thoroughly researched.
The true story of these sensational attacks is more interesting than anything
Hollywood could imagine. You get a good picture of life in America at the turn of that
century and how a marine event could change the lives and habits of Americans.
Welcome to NewEnglandSharks.com
Links to other pages are at the bottom of each page.
Whites are a protected species - release them unharmed
White Shark, Carcharodon carcharias
Fully grown 16-19 feet and a weight of 2,500-5,500 lbs.
That was the common name used for centuries to describe the shark species, Carcharodon carcharias.
From the 1975 movie "JAWS":
Mayor Vaughn: "And what did you say the name of this shark is?"
Hooper: "It's a Carcharodon carcharias. It's a Great White."
The 1975 Movie JAWS made the words "great white" and “white shark” popular with the public, and
“man-eater” is rarely used today. That common word change from "man-eater" to "great white" or
"white shark," helped in getting Carcharodon carcharias to become a protected species. It’s a lot easier
to get support to protect a “white shark,” than it would be to protect a “man-eater”.
The other common names used to describe this species such as “white shark," “white pointer,” “great
white shark" and “white death,” seems to have come into popular usage because Carcharodon
carcharias shows so much white on the belly and sides. The white on the sides abruptly changes to the
topside color without the usual transitional area seen on many other shark species.
In the past, books and articles on sharks attributed a white sharks maximum length to be 30 feet or
more. Those claims have been debunked by using today’s methods of investigation. The largest of the
whites are generally 16-19 feet long over-all, and would weigh between 2,500-5,500 pounds. Today,
estimates still persist of whites around 26 feet long based on bites taken out of whale carcasses.
Although claims of whites that size have been made, no whites anywhere near 26 feet have been verified.
Realistically, 22 feet is about maximum for this species. Thats an incredibly large shark.
Whites are worldwide, and tolerate a wider range of water temperatures than most other sharks, They
function in water temperatures between the lower 40s and 80 degrees- so a hardy specimen could be here
in mid -winter, as has happened in the past, when a white was gill netted in February 1938 off Plymouth,
Mass. The whites tagged at Chatham Mass. from 2009, thru 2012 mostly wintered off Florida .
Larger whites eat marine mammals, in addition to eating fish. They will also scavenge whale carcasses
on the surface and on the bottom. Whites are considered to be primarily daytime hunters.
Biologists tell us white sharks can go more than a month between feedings-if necessary. I am sure if the
pickings were easy, like they are at some seal colonies, the white sharks would eat more often than that.
I decided to check on the white shark feeding interval, and here is an e-mail exchange between me and
others on a shark list.
My question is, "What is the shortest time between SUCCESSFUL feedings of an individual white
shark have you witnessed?" - Tom
I got this answer from Sean R. Van Sommeran, Executive Director/CEO, The Pelagic Shark Research
Foundation in California. (ANI is most likely Sean's abbreviation for Ano Nuevo Island, in California.)
"There is one shark we know from ANI that was involved in at least 3 seal predations within a span of
less than 30 days, mind you this 30 day window involved an observer and site presence (boatbased) of
about 4-7 hours per day (sun up til it gets choppy/windy) and a few days were scrubbed due to rough
spells during this time frame. The shark is an adult female est at 5meters, we saw her feeding on all
three occasions. taking 3 to 8 bites respectively,(30-80lbs?).
Sean's observation above, is backed up by recent data: - John Johnson, Newser Staff Mar 21, 2013
(NEWSER) - Great white sharks are a lot hungrier than scientists realized, a new study suggests. The
old line of thinking, based on research done in the 1980s, is that a great white could snack on, say, a
60-pound seal pup and go six weeks without another meal. As it turns out, it's more like two weeks, max,
say researchers at the University of Tasmania, reports AFP. In fact, the sharks are likely to be feeding
every few days, not every few weeks.
The 1975 movie “JAWS” portrayed the white shark as a terrifying creature. It caused anxiety among
many of the movie goers-especially those who swim in the ocean. The public was told the inspiration for
"Jaws" was the series of real-life fatal shark attacks in New Jersey in 1916. Books and articles came
out after the movie describing those gruesome New Jersey shark attacks. The combination of "Jaws",
it's sequels, and the details of the 1916 attacks, especially the last two fatal attacks which occurred in an
unlikely place, a salt water tidal creek at Mattawan, New Jersey, made anxious-people feel they weren’t
safe from a white shark attack anywhere in salt water. -Tom
Any mention of white sharks brings to mind shark attacks.
Here is info on several fatal shark attacks in our New England waters.
Fatal New England Shark attacks.
The top three shark species involved in fatal attacks around the world are the white,
Carcharodon carcharias, the tiger, Galeocerdo cuvier, and the bull shark, Carcharhinus leucas.
Two of those species, the white and tiger, are definitely in New England waters. Bull sharks
would be a rare visitor to southern New England. Claims of bull sharks being caught in southern
New England have turned out to be dusky sharks.
Besides the tiger and white, we have other shark species in New England capable of inflicting
serious wounds on people, such as the blue shark, Prionace glauca, and the shortfin mako,
Isurus oxyrinchus, and a few more; but the white would be the first suspect in a fatal-attack
anywhere in New England, especially one occurring close to shore.
---First a little background that illustrates the lack of knowledge about sharks that persisted
well into the 1900s - actually not much was learned about sharks until after WWII.
Along the New Jersey coast in 1916, four swimmers were killed and another swimmer was
injured in shark attacks on July 1st, 6th, and 12th. Those attacks are purported to be the
inspiration for the movie JAWS.
The shark experts in 1916 should have worn dunce caps when they made public
statements about those shark attacks. They just didn't know much about sharks.
Prior too, and after those attacks, some of the leading experts didn’t believe
sharks would make an unprovoked attack on people, or that sharks had the jaw
strength to do the damage those victims suffered. They also believed that shark
attacks would not happen in the cooler water north of Cape Hatteras.
The 1916 shark attacks were initially blamed on other sea creatures; a turtle, tuna, killer whale
and swordfish, before it became painfully obvious they were in fact, shark attacks-a conclusion
a Kansas farmer who never saw a shark, or the ocean, might have reached quicker than the
so-called shark experts of that day. The experts of that day were just clueless.
Whites range throughout New England, albeit in small numbers, but they are definitely on the
increase. The northernmost East Coast shark episode resulting in a death was up in northeast
Nova Scotia, near Fourchu, Cape Breton Island. It happened July 9, 1953. A shark estimated to
be about 12 feet long, knocked lobstermen John MacLeod and John Burns overboard; and put
a hole in their dory, and then swam away. John MacLeod survived by clinging to the swamped
dory. John Burns drowned while trying to swim to shore. A tooth fragment imbedded in the dory
planking identified the shark as a white, Carcharodon carcharias.
1700s fatal shark attack, Boston Harbor
I thank Charles Stockler for e- mailing me info on this attack.
This attack in the 1700s pre-dates the founding of our country.
A fatal attraction in the 1700s. Here is the basic story:
In Boston there was and still is, a well know family, the Shattucks.
Rebecca Shattuck married Alexander Sampson around the year 1724, when she was not quite
14 years of age-he was as best I can determine about 24 years old.
They had 3 children, the last one being born Feb., 28, 1731 so this attack would have occured in
1730 at the earliest. (Any Genealogists out there care to give me some input.)
Excerpt: From the (Memorials of The Descendants of William Shatttuck; Lemuel Shattuck;
Dutton and Wentworth, Boston, 1855. Page 106)
"Mr. Sampson is said to have been a reputable gentleman from London, who had visited this
country for the benefit of his health, with an intention of a speedy return; but meeting with the
beautiful Miss Shattuck, her attractions were too irresistible to allow him to carry out his
purpose. He married and remained here; but while upon a pleasure excursion in Boston harbor,
his boat was attacked by a shark, and he was tipped overboard and devoured."
If this happened as stated, the suspect would be a white shark. The Boston area is white shark
territory. Whites also have a history of attacking small boats.
I pieced this story together based on the
articles from the 1830 newspapers: the
Boston Gazette-Essex Register - Salem
Gazette- Lynn Record - Eastern Argus- and
the Baltimore (Md.) Patriot.
In 1830 the people were living a very basic
lifestyle. There was no electricity, no
automobiles, and not much machinery to
make life easier. These were the horse and
wagon days, the days of wooden ships and
On Monday, July 12, 1830, Capt. Nathaniel
Blanchard, his father in law Mr. Joseph
Blaney, a Mr. Stone and Mr. Proctor, sailed
the fishing schooner Finback from the
Swampscott section of Lynn, Massachusetts
and anchored 5 miles east of Scituate.
(Swampscott is north of Boston and Scituate
is south of Boston, a sail of about 20 miles.)
Mr. Blaney, age 52, took a small dory and
rowed away from the schooner about a
half-mile. After a few hours went by, Mr.
Blaney was heard shouting for help and was
seen waving his hat - and apparently one of
his arms was injured. Another fishing
schooner, which was closer to Blaney
dispatched a boat to help him. While they
were rowing toward Blaney, they saw a
large fish lying across his dory amidships.
The fish ended up back in the water.
Blaney's dory was still afloat, and Blaney
was still onboard. So far, so good, but that
would be short lived.
Essex Register, July 15, 1830-“But before
the boat which went to his assistance had
reached him, the shark renewed his attack,
the boat instantly disappeared, and the
water appeared in a foam. Nothing more
was seen of Mr. Blaney, but the boat
reappeared, and was picked up, together
with his hat...” “ The boat was uninjured
excepting that her thole pins (oar locks)
were all broken, and there were scratches
about her, as if made by the rough skin of a
There was no doubt amongst the crews of
the two vessels who witnessed the whole
scene, that Mr. Blaney was destroyed by the
shark. “ -----------------------------------
Can you imagine the human emotions, when
Captain Blanchard returns to Swampscott
with Mr. Blaney’s hat, and tells his wife
Alice, about her father’s death-and no body
available for burial. Talk about a bad day of
The 1830 shark attack story
The next fatal attack in 1830 is quite a saga; and is material for a Hollywood movie.
But this story is not over.
A few days later, Capt. Blanchard and at least
one of Blaney’s sons, returns to the area off
Scituate where Mr. Blaney was killed.
If the shark is still there, they want to catch it.
Amazingly Capt. Blanchard and crew encounter 2
They told the newspapers that they used a
half-inch rope, and a hook with mackerel and
other fish, to bait the sharks. They caught one of
the two sharks and managed to get it onboard
the schooner; probably by using a block and
tackle to hoist it onboard.
They weren’t prepared for the second shark,
which was much larger. They baited the second
shark that was estimated by them to be about 16
feet long. After the shark was brought alongside,
they realized it couldn’t be lifted onboard. That
size white would weigh about 2,500 - 3000 lbs.
They killed the shark, and cut it loose.
The shark they managed to get onboard was
brought back to Swampscott; it ended up on
exhibition in Boston for a 12-1/2 cent admission
Boston Gazette 1830- “Sharks! A basking shark.
(called by some a man eater) is now on
“The shark now exhibited has two rows of sharp
serrated teeth in the lower jaw and one row in
the upper jaw. Its mouth is large enough to take
in a common sized man-its skin dark and rough
as a rasp.”
The fishermen and newspapers in 1830 called
white sharks as "man - eaters" or "basking
Basking shark was probably a generalization of
any large shark they saw cruising on the surface.
I thank Mark Parkinson for alerting me to this
fatal 1830 attack which took place in Mass Bay,
5 miles east of Scituate.
Brian Best from the Swampscott Historical
Commission supplied me with a tremendous
amount of information.
Jackie from the Antiquarian society helped me
finalize the date of the attack to
Monday, July 12, 1830. - Tom
Rhode Island July 11, 1895- Noyes Point
A group of railroad engineers were having their annual fishing trip outing. They went out on the
steam yacht Helen May Butler. At 5 AM several small skiffs were launched for fishing.
Charles Beattie, age 26, and Andrew Taft were in one of the skiffs. Charles Beattie dove
overboard for a swim but was seen to be in distress when he was on the surface. Taft threw him an
oar and dove overboard to assist Beattie. Taft tried to pull Beattie back to the skiff but something
had a hold of Beattie and pulled him under.
Because there had been previous shark activity in that area-a 400 lb shark taken a few days
earlier at Sabin's Point- many felt it was a shark that pulled Beattie under. (I would appreciate
any more info on this event if you have it. - tom)
I thank Christopher Moore from England for info on this event.
Sources for the 1936 Joseph
Troy Jr. attack at
American Midland Naturalist,
E.W.Gudger- Nov.1950, and
from the following 1936
newspapers: Wareham Courier
July 31, - Boston Sunday
Herald July 26 - Boston
Sunday Globe July 26 - Boston
Sunday Post July 26 -
Dorchester Beacon Aug. 1 -
Boston Sunday Advertiser July
26 and the N.Y.Times July 26.
Also I thank the anonymous
source that sent me very
Joseph Troy Jr. of Dorchester Mass. age, 16, July 25, 1936
Attacked at Hollywood Beach, Mattapoisett, Massachusetts
I thank the people at the libraries in Scituate, Mass. (Susan Frankel), Quincy, Mass. (Linda Beeler) and
Boston Mass. (Henry Scannell) for their help in getting me the 1936 newspaper accounts'
The story of Joseph Troy Jr.
The last fatal shark attack in New England.
I thank Don Cuddy of the Standard Times, for putting me in contact with Martin Smith of
Mattapoisett, at that time a 13 yr older and an eye witness to the events of that day. Martin was a
summer neighbor of the Troys. Thanks Martin for giving me detailed information on the attack . -
An attitude of “shark attacks can’t happen up here” would have been prevalent along the beaches
of New England in 1936. Hardly anyone would have known about the 1830 attack on Mr. Blaney in
Massachusetts Bay. For that matter most people wouldn’t have knowledge of the fatal July, 1916
shark attacks in New Jersey either. Many people didn't learn about the 1916 fatal attacks in New
Jersey until after the movie "JAWs" came out in 1975, and made the public shark conscious.
In 1936 Joseph Troy Jr. age 16, was living in the Dorchester section of Boston, on Talbot Ave..
He went to visit his uncle Fred, who had a summer home in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts on Euclid
Ave. at Hollywood beach.
On July 25th Troy and Walter Stiles, a friend of Troy’s uncle, were swimming"a baseball throw
distance" off the end of the pier off Grand Ave. when the attack occured. (The newspaper accounts
spell Walter’s last name as, S-t-y-l-e-s. Dr. Hugh M. Smith former Director of the U.S. Bureau of
Fisheries who investigated this 1936 shark attack, uses S-t-i-l-e-s in his investigative report.)
Between 3 - 4 PM, Stiles saw a shark suddenly appear next to Troy. The shark grabbed Troy by
the left leg and pulled him underwater. Stiles was about 10 feet away and went to Troys assistance;
diving down to try to help him. Ultimately he was able to get hold of Troy when the unconscious boy
surfaced in a pool of blood. (Coincidentally at the same time of day on July 30, 2012 a similar
non-fatal attack by a white shark took place at Ballston Beach , Truro on Cape Cod.)
Stiles started towing Troy to shore while shouting for help. It appeared at first that people thought
it was a hoax. Then they realized something was wrong, and thinking it was a possible drowning
they telephoned for a local doctor. A shark attack is the last thing any bystander would expect to
have happened. The words "shark attack" wouldn't be in anyone's vocablary in 1936.
Mr. Herbert Fisher, who had just came in from sailing, responded to Stiles cries for help, and rowed
over to assist him. Fisher helped Stiles in getting Troy into the boat, and rowed them to shore.
Troy was placed on a door and carried up to a car. Dr. Irving Tilden rushed Troy to St. Lukes
Hospital in New Bedford, about 12 miles away.
The femoral artery had not been severed, but Troy’s left leg was mangled, and a piece of the leg
"about the size of a 5 lb. roast beef was missing". A surgeon had finished amputating Troy’s leg;
when Joseph’s condition worsened. Joseph passed away about 8:30 PM that evening.
Since this attack happened on the south west side of Cape Cod, the usual suspects would be a
white, or possibly, but not likely, a tiger shark, Galeocerdo cuvier, or a mako, Isurus oxyrinchus.
Fisher, who rowed over to help, and Stiles,who was swimming with Joseph Troy got a good close-up
look at the shark, which remained just a few yards away from them in the bloody water. Their
descriptive testimony to Dr. Hugh Smith, who investigated the attack, would determine the size,
and the attacking specie.
Walter Stiles and Herbert Fisher both told Dr. Hugh Smith that the shark was about 10-12 feet
long. That established the sharks length . Stiles said the white sides abruptly changed to the top
color, and the shark had an almost symmetrical tail. Both of those observations are characteristics
of a white shark, and not characteristics of a tiger shark. Dr. Irving Tilden who drove Troy to the
hospital, testified that the victims “skin edges were serrated as if cut off by a toothed object.” A
mako's teeth are smooth edged teeth, and a white sharks teeth are serrated..
Dr. Hugh M. Smith, former Director of the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, who did the investigation into
Troy's death, concluded the shark involved was: "a man-eater (Carcharodon carcharias)”
From [Bigelow and Schroeder, 1948 p. 134.] - A fatal attack on a swimmer at Mattapoisett, on
Buzzards Bay, on July 25, 1936, may also have been by a man-eater, though in this case the shark
was driven away without being identified.
What Bigelow and Schroeder did not know in 1948, when they wrote the above, was that the attack
on Joseph Troy had been investigated in 1936 by Dr. Hugh M. Smith, former Director of the U.S.
Bureau of Fisheries. Dr Smith did the investigation at the request of E.W.Gudger-who was working
at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Dr. Smith gave his report to E.W
Gudger in 1936, and concluded it was done by a man-eater (white shark), but the report gathered
dust until it was published by E.W.Gudger in the American Midland Naturalist, - Nov.1950, after
Bigelow and Schroeder had written their book. ~~~~~
Today, EMTs are quickly on the scene- especially with prompt cell phone calls being made from
the location asking for help. If that shark attack on Joseph Troy Jr. happened today, I believe he
would have survived; mainly because his femoral artery in the mangled leg was not severed.
Should we be concerned about shark attacks?
There are several shark species that impact on us psychologically when we enter the sea. Thoughts of shark
attack start creeping into the sub consciousness of many people as the water rises above their knees. The
movie JAWS and ongoing newspaper accounts of sensational shark attacks have heightened this awareness.
There are about a dozen shark species consistently involved in attacks on people.
There is no doubt about the top three leaders in that field. This trio have well established and documented
track records of interacting with people. Interacting is a euphemism for causing nasty and sometimes fatal
Those bad boys are:
the bull, Carcharhinus leucas, the tiger, Galeocerdo cuvier, and white shark, Carcharodon carcharias.
The bull, a.k.a. Zambezi shark, Lake Nicaragua shark, River shark, cub shark, is a very unusual shark
since it swims hundreds of miles up freshwater rivers and can actually live in fresh water- as it does in Lake
Nicaragua. Bulls reach 700 lbs. and grow over 10 feet in length.
The bull appears to be the most aggressive of this trio in attacks on people.
New England is not considered to be in the range of the bull shark. There are people in southern New England
who have claimed to have caught bull sharks. The photos of those catches indicate the shark is a dusky and
not a bull. (If you have provable contradictory info please contact me.)
The tiger, Galeocerdo cuvier is another large shark, weighing up to 1,800 lbs. and exceeding 16 feet in length.
This shark seems to be willing to sample anything that gets within range of its teeth. This was the best known
shark until the movie JAWS. Tigers are in the waters south of Martha's Vineyard.
The white, Carcharodon carcharias, a.k.a. great white, white pointer, man-eater, is a shark that can reach
21 feet in length, and weigh over 6,000 pounds. Most of the larger whites observed around the world are
in the 16- 18 foot range. All of New England and up into Canada is the white shark's normal range.
Since white sharks do kill and eat seals, and we are about the same size as a seal; if you are in
the water with the seals, or near them, bad things can happen – bad things have happened, and
will continue to happen. Let’s face it. Sharks happen!
In 1997 the white shark became a prohibited species to help increase their depleted numbers.
They are making a comeback, so expect more whites in the New England area. After all they
belong here, this is their territory, and their territory begins when the salt water gets above
your knees. - Tom
Fatal shark attacks are few and far between in New England – actually centuries apart.
Statistically we are at the end of a far-between period. In other words, we’re due.
That doesn’t mean it will happen, but if it does; we shouldn’t be surprised.
Although none of the fatal attacks mentioned above involved seals, there have been many
white shark attacks on people around the world, where seals and seal colonies were a
factor. Seals are becoming a factor here in New England, especially on Cape Cod, where
the seal population has greatly increased.
Plymouth Mass. February 1938
Excerpt from the book;
Codfish, Dogfish, Mermaids and Frank. by
When asked "What's the biggest shark you
have ever seen?" Eddie Fairweather on the
"A twelve hundred pound white," Eddie
said. "When I was on the gill netter
Geraldine and Phyllis . February 1938, one
of the coldest days of the winter ,we were
four miles east of the Gurnet and this crazy
damn shark got all tangled up in our gear,
God what a mess!"----------------------------
Notice the cold weather clothing worn by the
people on the pier. Remember whites aren't
just warm water sharks. They have a
temperature range that is wider than most
other sharks. --------------------------------
On Saturday December 18, 2010, an
enormous white shark was brought up in a
gill-net off Chatham, north of Coast Guard
In December of 2009 a seal was bitten by a
white in Cape Cod Bay. The seal made it to
shore and was photographed with the
identifyable white shark bite wounds.
The last fatal shark attack in New England happened on July 25, 1936
at Hollywood Beach , Mattapoisett Mass., off the end of Grand Ave.
The fatal attack on Joseph Troy, age 16, occurred "a baseball throw off
the end of the pier" shown in this photo. - tom
Photo by George Haley 2/22/2012
TRURO, MASS. SHARK ATTACK
On July 30, 2012, around 3:30 PM, a white
shark bit the feet and leg of a swimmer/body
surfer, at Ballston Beach Truro Mass. The
beach is on the ocean side of Cape Cod.
Truro is the next town to Provincetown.
Chris Myers, was attacked around 3:30 PM
while swimming with his 16-year-old son, J.J.,
off the shores of Ballston Beach in Truro.
It was a non-fatal attack almost assuredly done
by a white shark. -Tom
Close to Shore by Michael Capuzzo, is another book on the 1916 shark
attacks in New Jersey.
This book also chronicles that period of time, the shark attacks, and is
also a good read.
Speaking of close to shore, Will S. Osier, flying with spotter pilot George
Breen took this photo below of a white shark swimming close to shore
during the tagging operation at Chatham, Mass.
The beachgoers can't really see the white shark because of their angle of
view and the natural glare on the surface of the water.
A friend of mine who has been onboard for the white shark taggings told
me he can hear the people on the beach asking "Why is that boat so
close to shore?"The beachgoers can't see the white shark which is in
shallow water right under their noses. In one case, one of the whites was
close to 18 feet long.-Tom
range in red
Will S. Osier