'Shark!': Coast Guard Opens Fire on Predator Lurking While Crew Swims to Relax
One member suffered an injury while climbing aboard the ship — a knee scrape located in the center of his shark's teeth tattoo
A dip in the ocean took a terrifying turn for the members of a Coast Guard ship when a shark appeared and caused some havoc in the waters.
The crew aboard the national security cutter Kimball called Tuesday's incident one of the "most amazing events many of us have ever experienced at sea" after successfully fending off the six- to eight-foot predator with their weapons.
"We have hundreds of years at sea between all of us and no one has seen or heard of a shark actually showing up during a swim call," a spokesperson for the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Kimball wrote on their Facebook page. "This goes to show why we prepare for any and everything. We just didn’t think it would be a swim call shark attack!"
According to an official from the Kimball, the incident unfolded on Tuesday afternoon after their operations had been completed for the day and the conditions appeared ideal for a swim.
"There were no vessels around for miles, the weather was perfect, and we were a zillion miles from land," the post read. "We had not been off the ship for weeks, were at that point where every day feels like Groundhog Day, and were looking for something to break up the monotony."
With multiple safety protocols in place — including a small boat with extra crew stationed 50 yards off the ship, an armed shark watch and a Rescue Station — the crew members headed into the ocean with their inflatable unicorn float to enjoy the day.
Everything was going swimmingly until the Kimball spokesperson said bridge personnel reported "Shark!" over the radio.
"As if right out of a Hollywood movie, a 6-8 foot shark (no exaggeration) surfaced at the Rescue Door and was swimming toward 30-40 people in the water about 30 feet away," the post stated. "Everyone on the Flight Deck had a bird's eye view. A review of video shot by a crew member reveals it was likely a Long-Fin Mako or Pelagic Thresher Shark - not something to mess with!"
Almost immediately, officials on the ship decided to shoot the marine animal in hopes of deterring it from coming closer — actions that were captured on film and also posted to the Coast Guard's Facebook page.
"ME1 Cintron fired a well-aimed burst right at/on top of the shark to protect shipmates just feet away. It turned away for a few seconds then turned back," the Kimball spokesperson explained. "We kept directing people out of the water while keeping a clear line of sight on the shark."
"ME1 fired bursts as needed to keep the shark from his shipmates with amazing accuracy," the post continued. "The shark would wave off with each burst but kept coming back toward our shipmates."
According to the Kimball spokesperson, crew members went in various different directions to escape the waters — some using a ladder on the fantail, while others went for the notch at the ship’s stern and the small boat docked 50 yards away.
Heaving lines were also thrown to shipmates in the water to help them board the ship, the spokesperson noted.
"It wasn't the panic of the 4th of July scene from Jaws, but once everyone realized what was happening, they moved with a purpose!" the post noted. "Everyone stayed focused and worked [on] the problem. The small boat quickly looked like a vessel overloaded with SAR [search and rescue] survivors."
Luckily, everyone — even the inflatable unicorn — made it safely out of the waters without harm, the spokesperson said.
The only injury sustained during the incident was to one member, who scraped his knee while climbing aboard the ship. Ironically, the cut was positioned right in the center of his knee tattoo — an open set of shark's teeth.
"Seriously, you can't make this up!" the Kimball spokesperson joked in the post, before crediting the people who helped prevent a more serious situation.
"BRAVO ZULU to ME1 Cintron who likely saved one or more of his shipmates from a shark attack!! Many others helped, such as the entire Boat Crew. It was a team effort with everyone doing their part to work the problem," the spokesperson wrote.
As for the shark, Coast Guard officials said they don't believe it suffered any injuries and that it eventually joined a few smaller sharks and swam off with them.
"Our goal was to keep it away from shipmates, not harm it if possible," the post read. "It was most likely curious and not looking for a meal. We picked our location to try and avoid such an encounter but it is their ocean after all."
Though many would be shaken up after the scary encounter, the Kimball crew said they were amused.
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"We are writing new Shark Watch & Response Tactics. We shifted to fish call for the afternoon," the post read. "The crew’s top requests for movies on the Flight Deck that night were Jaws followed by Sharknado (seriously)."
"The shark is definitely making the Patrol t-shirt," they added. "This is a sea story each of us will be retelling for YEARS!!!"
According to Military.com, it is not common for sharks to appear at Coast Guard or Navy swim calls. Shark sightings that require an emergency response, such as in Tuesday's case, are even rarer, the site reported.