His forehead showing beads of sweat after nearly two hours at sea, Neil Hammerschlag, Ph.D. ’10, reaches over the stern of the 36-foot Maven to test the tension on the end of the line. He knows almost immediately he’s hooked something big.
His crewmates, who have spent the better part of the morning deploying bait traps marked by buoys, edge closer to the ship’s starboard, trying to get a glimpse of whatever is fighting so fiercely. Everyone aboard knows that the waters surrounding Broad Key are an Atlantis to a medley of marine life, from massive grouper to fearsome-looking barracuda. But it’s the apex predators—sharks who rule the oceanic food chain—they are pursuing.
With the Maven’s twin engines cut, Hammerschlag yanks hard on the taut fishing leader, pulling the catch closer to the surface. Then, rising like a leviathan from the depths, the creature’s blunt nose and vertical stripes break through the waves, leaving no doubt about its identity.
“We got a tiger shark, guys!” shouts Hammerschlag, high-fiving some of his young shipmates.
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