Animals

Moment Crew Open Fire On Shark During US Swim Call Captured On Film

Footage shows the shark swimming around the crew in the water

The moment that military coastguards opened fire at a shark that swam into the waters where other crew members were swimming in the sea is captured in video footage - filmed as the crew took part in a naval tradition at sea.

American coastguards are seen swimming in the sea as part of the naval tradition of Hands To Bathe, known in the US as Swim Call, before bullets are seen firing in the water in the Pacific Ocean as a shark circles shockingly close to the group swimming.

The footage shared on social media by a US Coast Guard depicts a memory of the event that happened last year.

Crew aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Kimball are seen shooting bullets to deter the shark that is just feet away from the group of about 40 members of crew who are seen treading water while someone on the Flight Deck shouts: “It’s heading for the bow”. 

As described by the US Coast Guard Cutter Kimball Facebook page: 

“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.” 

Did The Shark Attack?

All the crew escaped safely from the encounter which happened while Petty Officer 1st Class Samuel Cintron, a maritime enforcement specialist (ME1) on board the Kimball, was on ‘shark watch’ during Swim Call.

Some of the crew were enjoying downtime, as they swam in the water with a unicorn-shaped float, when the officer spotted the  shark about 30 feet away from the swimmers.

The shark, thought to be bigger than six foot in length, did not attack the swimmers but swam close enough to cause concern.

SHARK!!! A 6-8’ Mako or Thresher shark.

Posted by U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Kimball on Tuesday, 25 August 2020

What Species Of Shark Was It? 

While watching the dramatic footage, filmed while the cutter was deployed to Oceania, August 21, 2020,  two crew members on board the Cutter are heard questioning which species of shark they could see as the big fish surfaced at the Rescue Door of the vessel.

One suggests it was a Tiger Shark but the other suggested a bull shark. 

Both species of shark have been known to attack humans if they mistake swimmers for their normal prey, although attacks are rare.

Tiger and Bull sharks join the great white in the top three species most likely to attack humans.

Bull sharks can grow to 11.5 feet and weigh 500 pounds whereas Tiger Sharks pack a bigger punch as they can grow to 14 feet and weigh a staggering 1,400 pounds. 

After the shark incident, the video was watched by a crew member who thought it was more likely to be a Long-Fin Mako or Pelagic Thresher Shark.

EM3 Riley and DC3 Sheffield enjoying the water

Posted by U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Kimball on Tuesday, 25 August 2020

In the footage, people on board are heard screaming to the swimmers below “get on board now” but not all the swimmers raced to the Coast Guard response boat. Some start climbing up  the Jacob's Ladder on the Fantail while others head towards the "open stern notch at the ship’s stern".

The US Coast Guard Cutter Kimball social media post described the incident as “one of the most amazing events many of us have ever experienced at sea”.

Our shark watch and small boat ready for swim call. If only they knew what would happen less than 30 minutes later.

Posted by U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Kimball on Tuesday, 25 August 2020

ME1 Cintron was instructed to fire "a well-aimed burst” directed at the shark to protect the swimming shipmates. This had the desired effect of deterring the shark but, not for long as the post explains: 

"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 shark would wave off with each burst but kept coming back toward our shipmates. 

“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.”

Two minutes into the footage you can hear a woman’s voice shouting “how many swimmers do we have left in the water?”

Was The Shark Harmed In The Encounter? 

US Coast Guard Cutter Kimball was keen to reassure people that they do not think the shark was hurt. The crew's sole focus was to look after the safety of the shipmates, not to harm the shark.

The ocean is home to sharks after all so it simply happened to swim where the US Coast Guard Cutter Kimball was, not intending to cause the trouble that ensued. The Facebook post added: 

"We picked our location to try and avoid such an encounter but it is their ocean after all. 

“It later joined a few smaller buddies that showed up and they swam off together.” 

But, what happened to the inflatable unicorn? The post explains: 

“All hands are safe and accounted for. We even saved the inflatable unicorn.”

The water float, signed by ME1 Samuel Cintron, can now be seen on display at The Coast Guard Museum at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut.

Unicorn Involved In Shark Encounter With U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Kimball Swim Call Hands To Bathe Credit Coast Guard Museum at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut and DVIDS 6376944

Credit: Coast Guard Museum at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut / DVIDS

The post on Facebook also pointed out that the Kimball has strict rules in place to make Swim Calls as safe as possible:

“We had a fully vetted and tested plan we've used before, conducted safety briefs, established communications between the various stations, launched our small boat with extra crew and a dressed out swimmer and stationed it 50 yards off the ship, set an armed shark watch, opened and manned the Rescue Station, and put an accountability system in place.”

No one on board the Kimball had experienced a shark making an appearance during any previous Swim Calls.

Following the incident, members of the crew decided to watch Steven Spielberg’s 1975 American shark-attack thriller film ‘Jaws’ and the made-for-television science fiction film ‘Sharknado’.

What Is Hands To Bathe/Swim Call? 

It is a much-loved centuries-old naval tradition where the ship’s engines are shut down so the crew can enjoy a swim in the ocean. The social event mainly happens in locations where the weather is hot but not all shipmates are that lucky and some on board submarines have had to swim in ice-cold water on some occasions.

It harks back to the days when personal hygiene was a luxury onboard a ship. Freshwater was a precious commodity, and there were certainly no showers, so captains would drop their anchor in a calm sea and order "all hands" on board to jump ship and get clean.

Have you ever encountered a shark during a Hands To Bathe?

VIDEO CREDIT: U.S. Coast Guard video by Chief Petty Officer A.J. LaBarr
COVER PHOTO: U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Kimball Facebook Page