Quite a few people saw what definitely appeared to be a great white shark up close and personal in Humboldt Bay Sunday afternoon, and no one got a closer look than free-divers Tarney Haussler and Reed Gatton. They kindly submitted the video footage below. (Warning: It has blood and profanity.) And Haussler wrote up her experience, Star Trek-style. Enjoy.
Stardate 11-12-2018. First Officer’s log.
Captain Reed Gatton and I were out on the water off the Humboldt Jetty today, sun shining, ocean flat, visibility crap. A bountiful harvest was inevitable, Reed being an incredibly seasoned hunter and diver-supreme with his handy vessel, and myself a former commercial fisherman and current OT in the Coast Guard, both of us comfortable in the water and jaded to the ways of the sea. One might call us a dream dive team. You know what usurps a dream dive team?
A great white, that’s what.
I was hanging off the side of the Zodiac, spitting in my goggles. Reed was already in the water, about to make a drop 20 feet to my port. He later confessed that his spidey-senses were tingling alarmingly. As I doodled along, checking my gear, I finally saw a dude from the jetty screaming and waving his arms frantically. People all around him were staring, mouths agape, pointing, it seemed, at me. I resisted the urge to princess-wave back and took my hood off so I could hear the guy yelling.
“SHARK! GET OUT OF THE WATER!”
The man was a champion. At first I responded with a laugh. “No, man, that’s just Reed.” But he persisted until I looked up and to my starboard and witnessed a monster white massacring a seal, 50 feet away from me, bright red water boiling and churning as seal bits fluttered around. I could have hocked a loogie and hit the murder scene. The blood pool was expanding outward towards us.
I pulled myself all the way into the boat and started screaming at Reed: “SHARK! GET IN THE BOAT! SHARK!” He proceeded to beat mad feet to the boat.
This was the most intense moment for me, because just then the Big Girl rolled and dove … and disappeared. I was open-mouthed, heart racing, watching Reed, waiting for the shark to hit him from underneath, because we all know what “feeding frenzy” is and how tiny a distance 50 feet is for a fish that big: one tail wave.
Thankfully, he got to the boat, and once he was safely out of the water we started to laugh like madmen and curse like sailors. The Big Girl popped back up and thrashed with the remaining half of the seal, then swam directly under the Zodiac while we managed to get a bit of footage. The line “We’re gonna need a bigger boat” was definitely uttered.
Afterwards, we went and talked to our savior on the jetty, who cracked us up and said, “She launched that seal eight feet out of the water right in front of you. … You guys were critical. How did you not hear it?!” My wetsuit hood was on; that’s how!
We imagined how the scene must have unfolded to the bystanders and realized it was probably more terrifying for them, as they desperately tried to alert us of the scene right under our noses.
Needless to say, Reed and I laughed like maniacs for a few hours. He hopped back in and shot some fish, and the day on the Humboldt Jetty was incredible.