Great White Sharks Close Cape Cod Beach

Cynthia Dermody
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great white shark off cape cod
A 12 foot great white shark.
The blood-thirsty sharks are out today, and I'm not talking about the reporters who have descended on Chelsea Clinton's wedding. Five miles of beach in Cape Cod is closed today after five great white sharks (the same kind  featured in the 1975 film Jaws) were spotted swimming close to a remote but popular beach along the eastern shore, in some cases just 20 feet from land.

The first one -- the 12 foot great white shark pictured here -- was spotted earlier this week about 50 yards off South Beach in Chatham, Massachusetts. South Beach faces the Atlantic Ocean and runs along the peninsula that connects the mainland to Monomoy Island, a nature preserve populated with thousands of seals.

Just like in the movie Jaws, police are ordering people out of the water indefinitely, and marine biologists are out "tagging" all the sharks so they can be sure of the exact number. This is not the only similarity with the Steven Spielberg film that changed people's swimming habits forever.

The fictional setting for the movie, Amity Island, was filmed on Martha's Vineyard, not far from Chatham, if you are a shark, of course. For humans, it's still about two hours away by car and then ferry.

The sharks have not attacked any people, but have been cruising the beach. They've come to the area for the seals, which have multiplied in great numbers recently because of their protected status. Sharks typically love warmer waters, so reports of the meat-eating predators are rare, and incidents where they actually attack a human are even rarer.

But officials aren't taking any chances. They have ATVs out patrolling South Beach to make sure no one tries to pull an idiot move, which might be tempting for some. The weather couldn't be any nicer this weekend in Cape Cod -- sunny, low humidity, and highs in the 80s and 90s. According to a report in the Boston Globe this morning, 33 children and adults at a family birthday party were lounging and playing Frisbee on the sand about 100 yards from where a great white swam yesterday.

Believe it or not many beach goers have ignored the prohibition and continued to swim. Um, maybe they should rent the movie again, ya think?

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