|Mike Silva and Kim Chambers|
assess the danger
It seemed that the shark was investigating any movement in the shallows. At one point Mike Silva stuck a splayed hand in the water and swished it back and forth. The fish immediately turned towards his hand and moved in the direction of the agitated water. In the following video, it's clear that the shark is following the movements of the wader who is not eager to get too close. A member of the Pelagic Shark Foundation later surmised that the shark was probably suffering from blindness due to a bacterial infection.
Afterwards in the sauna Joe Marenda, an avid surfer, offered his wholly credible expertise on sharks. "That was a salmon shark," he said with authority. "It has similar coloring to the great white and when a seven or eight-footer swims by your board it can scare the hell out of you. But they're not dangerous to humans unless provoked." Pressed on the similarity, he pointed out, "You can tell it's a salmon shark because only the dorsal fin sticks up from the water. On a great white, you'd see both the dorsal and the tail fin." Subsequent marine wildlife experts confirmed his identification. Apparently, these sharks make long oceanic migrations and are not uncommon in the San Francisco during "pupping" season. Regardless of how "common" they might be, more than one person has been swimming in the bay for twenty-five years without seeing or even hearing about this type of shark.
Sadly, a couple of people spotted the shark the next day being attacked by seagulls. The gulls were pecking at the fish's eyes and generally putting on a display of nature's brutality.
Some years ago, Bill Powning was participating in a Gas House Cove swim. Intrepid but slow, the flood tide swept him past the pilings of the Municipal Pier and under the lines of fishermen congregated on the bay side. Just as Bill was about to make the turn at the Roundhouse and return to Aquatic Park Cove, a man on the pier reeled a writhing, four-foot leopard shark straight over the swimmer and hauled it onto the pier. Bill remained completely unaware of his close encounter of the toothy kind. His pilot in the kayak had a ringside view, though, and thrilled to the evidence of locally based sharks.
Two questions dominate those asked of bay swimmers. Isn't it cold? What about sharks? Even with the unexpected addition of salmon shark to the Bay list, the answer to the second question remains, "Nothing that will eat you on purpose."