5/19

I had to take a client up to Northern Canada to see ribbon seals, so while I was there I decided to continue my study of Greenland sharks, which I’m publishing here under the title,

Some Observations on Greenland Sharks (Somniosus microcephalus) in the Waters of Northern Canada

In this field study, I observed three Greenland sharks roaming the north Canada coast. For recording purposes, I’ve named them Geerg, Grieg and Grimm. 

Geerg

Grieg

Grimm

Greenland sharks are the second most agressive species of shark in Endless Ocean, after great white sharks. However, unlike the white sharks of Ciceros Strait, Greenland sharks are highly territorial and keep a respectable distance from each other, never hunting in packs. Geerg can usually be found circling the area south of ice hole D1-2, where it feeds on injured sea otters and half-eaten capelin left behind by hunting narwhals.  Grieg patrols WNW of the same ice hole, and Grimm haunts the far northwest region all around ice hole A1.

Adapted from Phisheep, 2010.

Greenland sharks are wary predators, preferring to circle their prey at a safe distance for some moments before abruptly charging in to attack. For this reason, it is easy when straying into their territory to disregard the “Warning” sign and assume that they are not an aggressive species. This common and dangerous mistake can lead to many unpleasant suprises, as this observer can attest. For, once the Greenland shark senses blood in the water, it will rejoin its attack relentlessly. Then the circling behavior of the Greenlander becomes especially dangerous, as it is often hard to find in the turbid waters until it suddenly strikes from nowhere. An encounter with a single Greenland shark can sometimes be as terrifying as a pack of great whites.

Greenland sharks can be evaded with strong swimming, but they have been known to follow divers well out of their assumed range. Many is the time this observer has thought he had escaped a Greenlander, only, whilst fumbling for camera equipment, to be reminded of its presence with a smart thwack on the back of the head.

In the case of the Greenland shark, often the best defense is a strong offense. Approaching the shark with a pulsar gun ready, aggressively zapping it while it is still circling, will usually stun it enough to allow the diver to pass unmolested. A successful pulsing (usually 4 zaps in quick succession) is generally effective for about 3 minutes, after which the shark will shake it off and return for more. However, if you leave the range of the shark, the effects of the pulsing wear off immediately. It is best to do one’s business efficiently and quit the area for good.

In the real world, Greenland sharks are benthic swimmers, preferring to hug the seafloor as deep as 6,000 feet below the surface. Encounters with humans are extremely rare, except when the sharks inhabit shallow waters like parts of the St. Lawrence Estuary. The flesh of the Greenland shark has unusually high concentrations of urea, making it poisonous, not to mention unpalatable. Nevertheless, with laborious preparation, Greenland shark meat is served as an hors d’oeuvre called kæstur hákarl in the finest restaurants in Iceland, where people will eat literally anything.

For more information about the Greenland shark, visit the fabulously awesome Web site of the Greenland Shark and Elasmobranch Education and Research Group (GEERG) at http://www.geerg.ca/.

Advertisements