What Is Going on in This Mesmerizing Shark Video?

The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy shared some shark footage taken near Chatham.

An overhead shot of a shark

Photo via Facebook/ Atlantic White Shark Conservancy

Update, 7/9/19 4 p.m.: Greg Skomal, program manager from the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, says: “Based on scarring patterns and wounds, we know that white sharks off Cape Cod frequently bite each other. However, until this video was shot, we had never actually witnessed any kind of social interaction. The video shows a smaller white shark approach and make contact with a larger white shark, which quickly left the area. We are now examining the video more closely to determine if this was aggressive and/or defensive behavior or, perhaps, associated with mating.”


Local shark enthusiasts are head over dorsal fin for a video the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy posted Monday evening.

“FIRST FOOTAGE EVER!” the Conservancy posted. “Drone footage of an interaction between two white sharks off the coast of Chatham yesterday.”

Yes, the video, shot by drone user Nate Jensen, captures not one, but two spooky shark silhouettes gliding through the Chatham waters. According to the Conservancy, the “local shark science team” is hoping to get a high-def version of the video so they can determine what exactly goes down during the enthralling 18-second showdown. Which is good, because I’ve watched this video no fewer than 50 times this morning, and I need some answers.

Here’s how it happens, according to the video loop that I now see whenever I close my eyes. The tableau opens with one lone shark minding its own business in the water. Then, a second shark appears, setting its sights on the first one. It shimmies over to the first shark, and then—here’s where it gets juicy—engages it in a swirling motion so smooth, so hypnotic, that your eyes go fuzzy, you begin to forget where you are and what you’re watching, and before you know it, 15 minutes have passed and you’re hitting the replay button again.

Some social media commenters are speculating that this was a fishy flirtation. Others are certain that the second shark is trying to steal the first one’s territory, or maybe just its breakfast. I have not watched enough Shark Week to form a hypothesis of my own, but I can definitively say that this interaction is an emotional one, for participants and viewers alike.

When you decide to watch this video for yourself, I suggest focusing in on the 10 second mark, the climax of the scene. At this moment, the sharks seem to merge into a swirling amalgam of dorsal fins and gill slits, creating an optical illusion that makes it impossible to determine which shark swims off at the end and which remains in the frame.

For what it’s worth, an impromptu office poll revealed that 33 percent of Boston staffers surveyed believed the instigating shark swims off, while 66 percent believed the first shark to appear is the one who exits stage left. 100 percent of poll participants now feel confused and slightly tortured.

So, dear reader, I turn my questions to you. Is this a mating ritual in which a potential suitor is spurned? Or a successful territorial grab? Are they just playing? Do sharks play? Would it be more appropriate to play this video to a soundtrack of Marvin Gaye, or dramatic John Williams themes? And most importantly: Who is left standing at the end?

When you’re ready to break your brain, hit play.