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Sharks Hit the Jersey Shore on Anniversary of the 1916 Matawan Creek shark attack

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Matawan NJ, from the “History Girl”on July 12, 1916 eleven miles from the ocean was the scene of the Matawan Creek shark attack. Thomas Cottrell, a sea captain, spotted an 8 foot long shark in the creek in the early afternoon but locals dismissed him for being delusional from the extreme heat and recent commotion along the shore regarding shark attacks. Around 2:00 pm that day, local boys, including Lester Stillwell, 11, were playing in the creek at the Wyckoff dock. In the water the boys saw what appeared to be an “old black weather-beaten board or a weathered log.” A dorsal fin appeared in the water and the boys realized it was a shark. Before Stillwell could climb from the creek, the shark attacked him and pulled him underwater. The other boys ran for help and several men, including local businessman Watson Stanley Fisher, 24, came to investigate. Fisher and others dived into the creek to find Stillwell’s body, but he was also attacked by the shark in front of the townspeople. His right thigh was severely injured and he bled to death at Monmouth Memorial Hospital in Long Branch later that day. Stillwell’s body was recovered 150 feet upstream from the dock on July 14.

According to the Ocearch online shark tracker, the most recent sightings include Caroline at 12ft 9in and 1,348lbs, who was located between Seaside Heights and Barnegat Light, along the New Jersey Shore on July 1; Caper at 8ft weighing 348lbs; and Cabot who measures 9 feet and weight 533lbs.

The pair’s electronic tags were heard pinging off the Hamptons coastline on June 4 and June 8th. Another new apex predator to the area is Vimy, at 1,164lb and 13ft long. He was tracked in a deep part of the ocean off the Delaware coast. A great white known as Mary Lee used to be tracked between 2012 and 2017 but her five-year tracker battery has since stopped working but it is believed that she is still alive and swimming.

The concern over the presence of sharks was heightened after a 7ft long fish washed up on Rockaway Beach on July 1st, although that was only a thresher according to the New York Post and harmless to the water-going public. We will stick to Graydon thank you !

‘The drive to the beach is much riskier than swimming with sharks in the water,’ said Paul Sieswerda, head of Gotham Whale, a New York research organization  in an attempt to reassure beachgoers.

Chris Fischer, who founded the Ocearch shark tracker, said that he would expect an increase in shark numbers especially if seals start to reside in the area which would provide an abundant food source. However, he believes having five great whites in the area is ‘no more than normal.’

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