By Brian Crandall
There were a number of close shark encounters off Cape Cod this past summer.
In July, a man was bitten by a shark off Ballston Beach in Truro.
"I felt like my leg was caught in a vice," said Christopher Myers.
In August, a Portsmouth family boating off Monomoy Island in Chatham captured video of a great white shark eating a dead grey seal.
"He's heading toward the boat. That's a big shark," said Peter Mottur, who captured the video.
Then there is Chris Fischer and his team from the nonprofit group OCEARCH, who are searching for great sharks off Chatham.
"I came to Cape Cod really because it's the home of 'Jaws," Fischer said.
Fischer's team actually catches great white sharks with a system that's one-of-a-kind.
"We're the only people in the world who have a proven model for delivering the ocean's giants to the leading scientists of the world," Fischer said.
The crew has caught, tagged, and released dozens of sharks in various parts of the world.
"This is the most difficult environment we've ever operated in," Fischer said.
Fischer's crew was catching and tagging sharks off the Cape in September, and recording their experience.
They lure a shark with chum, and then hook it. Then they pull the shark onto a platform, which is a lift that slides off the ship, and then up on the ship.
Once the shark is up and out of the water, Fischer's crew goes to work before letting the shark go alive.
"It's like a NASCAR pit crew. It has to happen in 15 minutes," Fischer said.
But what is Fischer's crew doing and why are they doing it?
"We're capturing, 3,000 to 4,000-pound sharks, giving scientists access," Fischer said.
Dr. Greg Skomal of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries is one of the leading shark scientists in the world.
"They catch the shark, put it there and say, 'Greg, do what you do," Skomal said. "I get just as excited as everyone else seeing a big white shark. But what we're getting more than that excites me even more."
Skomal is there as the crew takes blood and tissue samples and attaches a GPS tracker to the shark's fin.
"It's really breaking new ground, studying the biology, ecology and migration of these animals," Skomal said.
Because these shark experts admit, even they don't know all that much about the beasts beneath the sea.
"This is a 400-million-year-old secret," Fischer said.
It's a secret they hope to uncover by tracking the sharks, not to conquer them, but to understand them and to protect them.
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