EASTPORT, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Programs like the Discovery Channel's shark week, coupled with recent shark sightings along Maine beaches have certainly hyped up interest about the often feared and misunderstood ocean predators.
The reality is that unprovoked shark attacks on humans are very rare. Some websites have documented only one such attack in Maine in the past decade off the coast of Eastport in 2010.
Scott MacNichol is a diver from Perry who fended off what he believes was a porbeagle shark with his video camera. He clearly feels that the shark was attacking him but some shark experts say looks can be deceiving.
MacNichol says he's been a full-time professional diver since 1999. But none of his training prepared him for what he encountered while diving in 28 feet of water underneath salmon pens in Burnt Cove, off the coast of Eastport in 2010.
"I looked and it was coming right at me and it kind of hit me with quite a bit of force," he said. "It pushed me through the water and, at that point, I just wanted to get out."
At the time he was taking video of the ocean floor. His camera is what he used to keep the shark away.
"The adrenaline was pumping and I was petrified," he recalled.
As frightened as MacNichol was, and as scary as the video looks, some experts are still hesitant to call this a shark attack. University of New England professor and marine biologist Dr. James Sulikowski, a shark expert who appeared on Discovery's shark week, released the following statement:
"While it may seem scary, what you're seeing in this video is not aggression. It's a shark investigating something shiny and unfamiliar in its environment, which is typical behavior for porbeagles, makos, blue sharks, and the other species you might encounter in Maine waters."
Scott did get away shaken but not harmed — and he's still diving today. Although he admits he took a break for a bit after his close encounter.
"I wasn't going to get back in that day," he said, "but Sean, the other diver who was with us, got back in."
MacNichol says one thing that is different today: technology. Now most divers he knows have shark-tracking smartphone apps.