Great White Essex shark hoax

Obviously a hoax; Back River carp still remain Essex's largest sea creature

 

This morning I received two forwarded emails stating that a Great White Shark was caught near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and then hauled back to a marina in Essex. Being the suspicious type, I immediately consulted Snopes.com. Determining that the emails were a hoax, I immediately created a table comparing the two Essex-related versions:

Annapolis MD "Chesapeake Bay, near Route 50 Bay Bridge and Sandy Point State Park…at last I have the ultimate excuse not to do the “Polar Bear Plunge” in January. It’s not only crazy to jump into freezing cold water, it could be down right dangerous! Note the expression on the face of the man wearing the Red Baseball cap. He’s still scared half out of his wits and glad to be alive!
While the vessel 'Dawn! Raider ' out of Marklys Marina in Essex, Md. was for Striped Bass (also locally known as Rock Fish), this Great White was hooked in the mouth but only resisted slightly for 15 minutes before it came up alongside t he boat to have a look; long enough for one of the crew members to slip a rope a round it's tail!!! 'And that's when things heated up!! While the vessel 'Dawn Raider’ out of Marklys Marina in Essex, Md. was for Striped Bass (also locally known as Rock Fish), this Great White was hooked in the mouth but only resisted slightly for 15 minutes before it came up alongside t he boat to have a look; long enough for one of the crew members to slip a rope a round it's tail!!! 'And that's when things heated up!!
.. The Shark took off as crew the watched in horror as the shark would actually jump completely out of the water at times. .. The Shark took off towing the 42 foot boat backwards through the water at about 7 Knots. Just like in JAWS, the boat was taking on water over the stern and the crew watched in horror as the shark would actually jump completely out of the water at times.
This went on for an hour before the shark finally drowned. She weighed in at 1035 LBS. It is suspected she followed a weak El Nino current into local waters in search of food. Although mid 60 degree water is considered ideal for these sharks, the larger ones can tolerate water in the low 50s. This went on for an hour before the shark finally drowned. She weighed in at 1035 LBS. It is suspected she followed a weak El Nino current into local waters in search of food. Although mid 60 degree water is considered ideal for these sharks, the larger ones can tolerate water in the low 50s.
Markley's Marina Essex, MDNOTE: THE TAIL FIN IS THE SIZE OF A MAN!!!  

Leave it to proud Marylanders who continue to put their own spin on on the story. While email hoaxster in the left column bases the story in Annapolis the email hoaxster in the right column sets the scene at the base of the Bay Bridge while tossing in a JAWS reference. The left email hoaxster actually gets the name of Markley's Marina correct while the right email hoaxster adds a short preface mentioning the Polar Bear Plunge. Both hoaxsters retain the unique punctuation of the original hoax which utilizes clever use of exclamation points.

Markley's Marina in Essex, off Middleborough Road. The Riverwatch
Restaurant, formerly the Seagull Inn, is slightly above Markley's.

The Baltimore Sun refutes the hoax:

Fishy shark tale holds no water

Candus Thomson
On the Outdoors

March 9, 2008

The Internets. Can't live with them. Can't kill them.

Unadulterated flapdoodle comes oozing through the series of tubes that make up our online world.

Some stuff is life-altering. I, for one, cannot wait for my $5 million to arrive from Senegal as the result of the terrible misfortune that befell "Mr. Benjamin Ngora," who needed a U.S. bank account to stash his cash. All I had to do was respond to his e-mail with my Social Security number, date of birth and savings account number.

Two minutes of typing and my $5 million was on the way. I'm buying everyone a beer. Is this a great country, or what?

Then there's the other online stuff. A colleague at the newspaper forwarded to me an e-mail with photo attachments and asked for my professional opinion.

My co-worker got it from a relative who got it from a guide who got it from "a regular" customer.

"Could this have happened?" wrote my colleague, who shall remain nameless. (As a soon-to-be millionaire, I can afford to be magnanimous.)

What luck. A real news tip from a relative of a colleague who got it from a guide who got it from a regular. That's good enough for me.

Let me share my second scoop of wealth with you. Here's the beginning of the e-mail tale:

"Chesapeake Bay, near Route 50 Bay Bridge and Sandy Point State Park … at last I have the ultimate excuse not to do the 'Polar Bear Plunge' in January. It's not only crazy to jump into freezing cold water, it could be downright dangerous! Note the expression on the face of the man wearing the red baseball cap. He's still scared half out of his wits and glad to be alive!"

The missive continues (it has been cleaned up to adhere to Sun style and the laws of English grammar):

"Annapolis – While the vessel Dawn Raider out of Marklys Marina in Essex was for striped bass (also locally known as rockfish), this great white was hooked in the mouth but only resisted slightly for 15 minutes before it came up alongside the boat to have a look; long enough for one of the crew members to slip a rope around its tail!!! And that's when things heated up!!

"The shark took off towing the 42-foot boat backward through the water at about 7 knots. As in Jaws, the boat was taking on water over the stern, and the crew watched in horror as the shark would actually jump completely out of the water at times.

"This went on for an hour before the shark finally drowned. She weighed in at 1,035 pounds. It is suspected she followed a weak El Nino current into local waters in search of food. Although mid-60-degree water is considered ideal for these sharks, the larger ones can tolerate water in the low 50s."

Stop the presses. How lucky can an outdoors writer get? It was enough to make me put down my steaming cup of sludge from the Mr. Mud Machine.

Fingers trembling, I dialed experts at the Department of Natural Resources. That quickly, I hung up as my brain processed the e-mail information.

The name of the Middle River marina is Markley's, not Marklys. The shark in the photo is a mako, not a great white. A closer look at the crane holding the big fish shows it is marked with a "902" area code. That would be Nova Scotia.

I Googled the name of the boat, and wound up on the snopes.com Web site, a major clearinghouse for urban myths.

The female mako was caught in August 2004 during the Yarmouth Shark Scramble tournament. It weighed 1,082 pounds. Jamie Doucette reeled it in after a 40-minute battle. He won $3,000 for his effort. A local newspaper said the shark chewed through the steel leader and ropes other fishermen were using to haul it in.

Doucette said he felt bad about killing a shark in the prime of her reproductive years and would have cut the line, except for the fact that his tournament-happy friends on board wouldn't let him.

Typing some more, I discovered the Canadian Shark Research Laboratory Web site. It's not unusual to find makos that far up the Eastern seaboard, but Doucette's catch was by far the heaviest ever taken.

The catch is old news in Nova Scotia, but not so elsewhere. The hoax has taken on new life in towns on Canada's west coast, Washington state and off the coast of Texas.

The Web site for Yarmouth magazine, the maritime province equivalent of Baltimore magazine, has a long list of folks from all around the world – South Africa, Thailand, Australia – whose chains have been yanked by the great white hoax.

So it was only a matter of time before a client told his Chesapeake Bay guide who told the relative of my colleague, who passed it along to me.

As Carla Allen, the photographer who snapped the shot that started it all, noted in an e-mail to Yarmouth: "This shark continues to live."

candy.thomson@baltsun.com
Copyright © 2008, The Baltimore Sun

Let's examine another hoax version.

The British Columbia version, which predates the Baltimore version, mentions dogfish and uses an expletive. Hoaxer edits are highlighted:

UCLUELET, B.C. (West side of Vancouver Island)
While the ocean vessel 'Dawn Raider' was commercial for dogfish, this Great White was hooked in the mouth but only resisted slightly for 15 minutes before it came up alongside the boat to have a look; long enough for one of the crew members to slip a rope around it's tail!!!
'And that's when the shit hit the fan!!. The Shark took off towing the42 foot fishing boat backwards through the water at about 7 Knots.?

Justlike in JAWS, the boat was taking on water over the stern and the crew watched in horror as the shark would actually jump completely out of the water at times. This went on for an hour before the shark finally drowned. She weighed in at 1035 LBS. It is suspected she followed a weak El Nino current into local waters in search of food.? Although mid 60 deg.water is considered ideal for these sharks, the larger ones can tolerate water in the low 50s.

In Texas, The Galveston County Daily News exposes the hoax: The great shark stunt. Notice that in the warmer Gulf Region the Dawn Raider is now fishing for shrimp:

GALVESTON , TX
While the ocean vessel 'Dawn Raider' was commercially fishing for shrimp, this Great White was hooked in the mouth but only resisted slightly for 15 minutes before it came up alongside the boat to have a look; long enough for one of the crew members to slip a rope a round it's tail !!! 'And that's when things heated up!!

Back in 2005, when the hoax had already been circulating for a year,Surfersvillage Global Surf News reported that the shark wasn't even a Great White:

The close up of the sharks head and mouth clearly show lower dentition that is narrow and pointed, which are characteristics of the Mako shark, unlike the broad, somewhat triangularly serrated teeth of a white shark.

The Florida Museum of Natural History Ichthyology Department provides 2 additional photos as well as more info on the mako caught:

This shortfin mako was captured by hook and line during the Yarmouth Shark Scramble off Nova Scotia, Canada by a sports fisherman. According to Dr. Steven Campana, Bedford Institute of Oceanography, the mako was a 24 year old mature female weighing 1,082 pounds (492 kg) and measuring 10' 10" (330 cm) in length.

The definitive story, written by Charles Duhigg in the Los Angeles Times, tells us this urban legend was based on the Yarmouth, Nova Scotia 2004 Shark Scramble Catch:

The shark battled for 40 minutes before angler Jamie Doucette, 28, of Wedgeport, Nova Scotia, saw its enormousness. "She felt pretty big," he recalls, "but it wasn't until she started pulling the boat off course that I started to worry."

In a scene reminiscent of "Jaws," the fish tugged the boat sideways during the Yarmouth Shark Scramble off Nova Scotia in August. It surged to the surface near the bow, a mako with a broad head and rows of razor teeth, chewing through steel leader.

Doucette reeled it in and other anglers wrapped it in ropes as the shark chewed through the knots. One loop circled its torso, the other the tail; one man leaned over the boat and slit its throat as Jaws thrashed for something to bite. It died 20 minutes later.

The fishermen estimated that it weighed up to 500 pounds, big enough to take the $3,000 in prize money, but when a forklift unloaded it, the fish weighed 1,082 pounds, a potential Canadian record.

"I felt bad that we caught her at the prime of her reproductive cycle," says Doucette. "When they get to be this massive they call them queens of the sea. I would have let her go if I had been by myself, but it's different when you have four or five other guys on the boat. You've got to win."

The Yarmouth page compiles various versions of the letter as well as web sites mentioning both the hoax and the actual story. As I put the matter to rest I refer you to that to further explore the Great White Essex shark hoax.

This entry was posted in Essex / Middle River, Fishing, Pranks, Urban Legends. Bookmark the permalink.

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