To kick off this year’s Shark Week, which started this past Sunday, August 10, Discovery Channel and Massachusetts’ Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution published a video showing the Institution’s SharkCam, a REMUS-100 autonomous underwater vehicle equipped with six cameras, being attacked by great white sharks. In 2013, the SharkCam was used to document great whites off the Island of Guadalupe, Mexico (one of the best places to photograph great white sharks, photographer David Fleetham told us) and it brought back some incredible footage.
The WHOI’s SharkCam tracks down great whites equipped with special transponder beacons, and follows them to depths of up to 330 feet (100 meters) With its six cameras facing to the front, rear, left, right, front up, and front down, the SharkCam is capable of capturing the sharks at any direction, making it possible for scientists to study their behavior in great detail.
Since the SharkCam is rather large and also creates a bit of noise underwater, however, you’d expect it to get noticed by the sharks at some point – which is exactly what happened during its mission at Guadalupe Island. The hunter became the hunted, and suddenly the SharkCam saw much more attention from the great whites than the WHOI team had bargained for. Apparently, it was being mistaken for a tasty snack, or even a rival that had to be dealt with.
The SharkCam had been designed to withstand collisions with boats as well as scratches using a screwdriver and blunt force, but when the SharkCam was recovered, it had severe bite marks in its paint. The reason for these scratches becomes apparent in the video footage it brough back: it was being attacked multiple times, bitten and gnawed on. But the foootage also reveals something of much greater value to the researchers, and that’s the insight into the hunting behavior of the great white shark.
It appears that the sharks make use of the darker waters below their prey, and attack suddenly and unexpectedly from their hideout. The video below consists of some of the footage captured off Guadalupe Island in 2013, more of which you can see in the Discovery show Jaws Strikes Back (it airs tonight, August 11, at 9 p.m. EST on the Discovery Channel). More info on the SharkCam can be found on the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s website.