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PHOTO: Shark Cruises Florida Beach

Cue the<em> Jaws</em> theme: A hammerhead shark in the shallow Gulf of Mexico waters of Seagrove Beach, Fla., on Monday.
Russell Lewis
Cue the Jaws theme: A hammerhead shark in the shallow Gulf of Mexico waters of Seagrove Beach, Fla., on Monday.

While on vacation Monday at Florida's Seagrove Beach, east of Pensacola, NPR's Russell Lewis snapped a photo that's been picking up quite a few retweets. It wasn't "Sharknado II," but does seem to have caught folks' interest. He sent us this dispatch about his relatively close encounter with a shark:

Just before noon, I was sitting on the beach watching the heavy surf. At the corner of my eye, about 50 feet offshore, I saw a fin. It didn't look like the typical fin you'd see of a dolphin, which surfaces just for a moment. This fin stayed above the water and kept moving.

There were scores of swimmers. It was a beautiful sunny day and the water was shallow. I stood up and motioned for people to get out because that was a shark moving between some of the people.

It wasn't aggressive — the shark was just swimming among the heavy waves, which were pushing it closer to shore. It was a bigger shark than you'd normally see so close in and it was a hammerhead — a very distinctive looking shark. I'd say it was at least 7 feet long, maybe even more.

As people began to realize what it was — and the fact that it was moving toward the beach, they scattered. You could hear shouts of, "Get out! Shark! Shark in the water!" Several people got trapped and had to stay out as the hammerhead swam along.

It swam about a quarter-mile along the beach, turned around and then headed back out into the Gulf of Mexico. Within 10 minutes, it seemed everyone went back into the water, continued their beach fun and splashed around.

There are schools of baitfish skittering along the surf here. Watching from above, it looks like a dark cloud moving and dancing through the water. Bigger fish are eating the baitfish and that's probably why shark would be so close to shore. The hammerhead was the second shark I saw Monday. The first was early in the morning: a 3- or 4-footer (not sure what kind it was), swam right up to the edge of the beach.

Most people are scared of sharks, but they're a natural occurrence here and part of everyday life. That said, you don't normally see them quite like this!

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
As NPR's Southern Bureau chief, Russell Lewis covers issues and people of the Southeast for NPR — from Florida to Virginia to Texas, including West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. His work brings context and dimension to issues ranging from immigration, transportation, and oil and gas drilling for NPR listeners across the nation and around the world.
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