Getting Up Close And Personal With Sharks And Mola Molas

By: Terri Adamsons

Topics: Sharks

A boat from Chatham Bars Inn tries to stay out of the surf as it tracks a great white shark. The creatures can sometimes get quite close to shore. WAYNE DAVIS PHOTO 

CHATHAM – Once in a while a local gets to experience a one-of-a-kind Cape Cod day after working all summer while the tourists enjoy this glorious place we all call home.

We were invited to join friends Jerry Evans and Erin Hilley on Jerry’s Carolina Skiff to go on a shark spotting adventure. Our hosts had heard there were numerous shark sightings off Chatham’s shores so off we went on a sunny breeze towards “James Point,” coined by Jerry and a friend because of a great white shark named James who tends to frequent the area.

Traveling slowly through the no-wake zone on the way to open waters, we couldn’t help noticing how many folks were still here. COVID-19 makes for an extended summer for many seasonal visitors. The iconic Chatham mix of sea shanties and McMansions is evident along the Oyster River.

Jerry was getting tips from friends in the sky so we were able to see our first shark relatively soon after getting outside the main entrance to Chatham Harbor. It was a smaller shark than the ones we would see later on, but seemed quite large to my inexperienced eye.

The view from the sky gives a much clearer location than from the boat. At sea level we couldn't see them until they were just off our bow. The majestic creature swam alongside the boat for quite a while, seemingly unperturbed by us. Only when another boat came alongside us — with the shark in between — did it quickly head for deeper waters.

Word of mouth in Chatham moves faster than the tides. There were quite a number of other sightseers around. One person that we spoke to had booked his boat tour four years prior. What a treat that it was sunny and fruitful for him. We received another alert of more sharks in another direction so off we went.

While motoring closer towards the southern end of North Beach, we came across a mola mola, also known as an ocean sunfish. It is difficult to put into words how extraordinary looking this fish is. These heaviest known bony fish rest on the surface to absorb heat from the sun after long dives for food. My grandchild Emersin was pretty excited to be able to touch it.

In total, we got an extended up-close look at about a half dozen great white sharks and two mola molas. One of the tour boats we encountered had a staff member from the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy onboard to educate the participants. The organization supports scientific research and improved public safety, and educates the community to inspire white shark conservation. You can find out more about the organization at www.atlanticwhiteshark.org/.

Terri Adamsons is a member of The Cape Cod Chronicle's production staff.