Nantucket’s The Inquirer and Mirror is reporting that Pete Kaizer, captain of the Althea K came across what he had initially believed to be a dead great white shark floating motionless on its back at the surface 10 miles northeast of Nantucket, late last month. According to Kaizer, the shark appeared uninjured, so a mate withdrew a gaff with the intention of hooking the shark by the jaw to get a better look at it. Prior to gaff attempt, the mate jokingly nudged the shark’s nose and was in the process of jokingly saying, “I’m making sure it’s not sleeping,” but before he could get the whole sentence out, the shark “sprang to life and began barreling into the boat,” said Kaizer.
While this might sound like another “fish story,” at first, the original article does include a photo of what appears to be an adult female white shark on her back at the surface. From the sounds of it, the shark was likely sick and/or near-death, as lying motionless on one’s back is not typical behavior for a white shark. White sharks need to continue moving in order to pass water through their gills and typically will tend to sink when motionless.
SharkDiver’s Underwater Thrills Blog has suggested that the shark may have had a distended belly as a result of “a recent whale meal, or a blockage in its stomach that caused gas build up.”