Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Helo and the Great White Shark

This must be the week for stories about aircraft and marine life. Yesterday I wrote about the Aloha Airlines B737 painted with images of marine life. Today's tale comes to us from South Africa via the Aero-News Network(ANN).

ANN published a story about a sightseeing helicopter (with two honeymooners on board) that intervened between a Great White Shark and some unsuspecting surfers at South Africa's Plettenberg Bay.
The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) said pilot Glen Brown spotted a shark in the water while flying the couple and another passenger over the beach. It turned out to be a Great White shark measuring more than 11 feet long and it was headed for a group of unsuspecting surfers about 150 feet offshore, according to online news source, Earth Times.

Brown flew his Robertson 44 towards the surfers to try and warn them with hand gestures, but the surfers apparently thought the pilot was just being friendly and waved back.

But when the shark closed in to about 15 feet, Brown flew his aircraft between the shark and the surfers in an attempt to create a diversion and herd the shark away from the surfers. The danger was finally realized when the helicopter passengers also waved "like mad," said Craig Lambinon, NSRI spokesman. The surfers quickly and safely made it to shore.

"The shark then began swimming away ... The pilot said he continued to monitor the shark as it moved away until it was out of sight and lost beneath the sea surface," said Lambinon.
Here in Hawaii where I live, people who participate in ocean sports have a special hand signal to indicate "shark." I'm quite sure that divers and surfers elsewhere in the world know it as well. (See photo at right).

Maybe if the people on that helo made that sign to the surfers instead of waving, they'd have understood the message sooner! In any case, kudos to helo pilot Glen Brown for spotting the big critter and going out of his way to alert the surfers -- and for giving those honeymooners a truly memorable experience!

[Photo Source: Shark; Hand Signal]