There’s nothing like a dip in the Pacific after a long day of work, especially when the job is on the sun-beaten deck or the engine room of a U.S. Coast Guard cutter.
So the crew of the national security cutter Kimball ended Wednesday with a special treat — a carefully orchestrated swim call for more than 40 crew members. With a rescue swimmer in place and other precautions taken to ensure safety, the Coasties jumped in the water with swim fins and other paraphernalia, including a massive inflatable unicorn.
Everyone was “having a great day … smiling and having fun. It was perfect!” according to the ship’s Facebook page.
That is, until, an unwanted eight-foot predator crashed the party.
From the flight deck, personnel spotted a shark — a longfin mako or pelagic thresher, according to the crew — that had surfaced in front of the ship’s rescue door and was heading directly toward the swimmers, according to the post.
And here’s where it pays that Coast Guard and Navy vessels maintain shark watches and polar bear watches during breaks in places where humans aren’t at the top of the food chain:
With the shark roughly 30 feet from its prey, the designated shark watch, Maritime Enforcement Specialist 1st Class Samuel Cintron, locked on target, and under orders of his chief, opened fire at the menace — a “well-aimed burst right at/on top of the shark to protect shipmates just feet away.”
The shark turned away briefly but then turned again toward crew members who were swimming for the Jacob’s ladder, the ship’s small boat launch or the small boat.
And then Cintron opened fire again.
“ME1 fired bursts as needed to keep the shark from his shipmates with amazing accuracy. The shark would wave off with each burst but kept coming back toward our shipmates,” according to the post.
A Coast Guard public affairs spokesman said the shark did not appear to be harmed during the encounter.
Throughout the event, the crew “stayed focused and worked on the problem.”
“It wasn’t the panic of the 4th of July scene from Jaws,” wrote a member of the ship’s crew.
The only injury was a scrape suffered by a member of the crew as they returned to the ship: a scratch on a knee centered on a tattoo … of an open set of shark’s teeth.
Even the inflatable unicorn was retrieved to liven up another future swim call.
“You can’t make this stuff up,” wrote the ship’s social media manager.
Sharks are uncommon at Coast Guard or Navy swim calls, and sharks that require an emergency response are even more rare; a scan of newspaper archives finds that a shark showed up at a swim call for the submarine Hawaii in 2009 — a frightening enough experience to make headlines but no shots were fired.
The Kimball is one of the Coast Guard’s newest ships, commissioned in August 2019 and homeported in Honolulu, Hawaii. It has been on patrol in the Pacific for the past several weeks, conducting national security, search and rescue and fisheries operations.
“We have hundreds of years at sea between all of us and no one has seen or heard of a shark actually showing up during a swim call. This goes to show why we prepare for any and everything,” ship officials wrote.
This story will be updated.
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