Real life Cookie Monster YouTube
Field Museum scientist Josh Drew recently brought to my attention a new and unusual paper describing a world first. The manuscript by Randy Honebrink and co-authors in Pacific Science describes the first documented attack on a living human by a cookiecutter shark, Isistius sp., and it’s quite an eye-opener. Cookiecutters are relatively tiny sharks – just 2 feet long. They don’t eat their prey whole, but take circular chunks out of their flesh, so their common name couldn’t be more apt. Through a fortunate coincidence, my colleague and the aquarium’s science officer emeritus Dr. Bruce Carlson knows the victim involved in the incident, marathon swimmer Michael Spalding, and Mr. Spalding was kind enough to talk to me about what is surely one of the more unusual shark-human interactions that has ever been documented.
AD: First off, you weren’t taking an average dip at the beach. Can you tell us a bit about the swim you were trying to do and how it fits into your channel swimming activities?
MS: I am a marathon swimmer and started swimming channels in Hawaii 30 years ago. Over the years I have completed swimming solo all of the channels between the main Hawaiian islands and have swum the Kauai channel in a relay. The last channel I swam was the hardest and longest the Alenuihaha, this channel is 29 miles across at the closest location but for me I had to swim 33 miles to complete the crossing. On my first attempt I got 10 miles off shore in the black of night and in order for a better visibility connection between boat and kayak escort and swimmer lights were used on the kayak and on the boat to keep in contact. In the ocean a separation can be extremely dangerous as it is very hard to find a kayaker and swimmer if they get out of contact with the escort boat and that can have very serious consequences that we do not want to experience. In my case the lights attracted squid with in turn created a food chain which the cookie cutter shark was a part of.
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