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Hennessey Part 4: Chase

Photo credit: Sharkcrew Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0
Aug 18 2021

By Anthony Palumbi and Stephen Palumbi

The skinny, tumbling prey had only increased the clamor of her body for food. And so she patrolled ahead, instinctively following an ocean road in her memory. Her electric sense knew the rocky paths of the sea floor, the smooth sand below. It knew the volcanic cracks and hidden valleys where the base of the ocean bunched up to form rocky outcrops. Her memory said if she followed this memory path, she was close to a wellspring of food.

She came quickly to sights and smells of rocks and seaweed. A stone semicircle brooded over a beach with glorious prey. The air was full of raucous barks, the smell of fur and pups,  the smell of seals. They were small, but their presence and promise peppered the water.

As the morning brightened, sunlight slitted her eyes, and allowed her to see the churn of possible prey. A flash to her right pulled her attention, a combination of sight  and sound and electric current that shouted ‘mammal’. A seal scampered in the lee of the rocks, oblivious of the dawn’s danger. With instinctive speed, the mother shark twisted herself into its path. The seal leapt away at high velocity, frightened and churning toward the nearby rocks.  Correcting sharply to her right, she wheeled, accelerating with her full power. An apex hunter’s total mastery of her trade.

She closed in. But the agile seal could turn and twist as fast as the shark could follow. From undersea canyon to waving forests of kelp, the pair shot through the cold green gloom. The chase lengthened, the seal porpoising out of the water for frantic speed. Each massive stroke of the shark’s scimitar tail and her massive envelope of muscle tensed and twisted and pushed in coordinated power to send her closer to the fleeing seal. Her close approach finalized her attack, eyes rolled up, mouth beginning to open, teeth pivoting out as if to jump the last few inches towards her prey all by themselves.

 From the shallows came hurtling two new grey torpedoes, two smaller sharks of her kind, carelessly barreling in between her and the prey. The juvenile amateurs flailed and spun and snapped at the seal, ruining her attack. The mother shark twisted uselessly to lunge at her prey as it miraculously shot into the safety of the shallows.

As fast as she had accelerated, she slowed and threw herself at the small sharks, which scattered into the murky water. Spinning away, the mother shark turned violently downward, and lunged toward deeper water. She had competition for these seals, from a dense collection of immature and inexperienced sharks. Interference! She was left hungrier than before.


To start at the beginning of Hennessey's journey, click here.