Great white shark leaps onto research boat

Shark on the research boat - image from Oceans Research The shark became stranded between engines at the back of the boat

A great white shark has been rescued by crane after it leapt out of the ocean and became stranded on a boat.

The 500kg (1,100lb), 3m (9.84ft) long animal was attracted to bait thrown by a research team conducting a shark count South Africa's Mossel Bay.

It became lodged on the boat and the researchers eventually towed it to land where it was winched off.

Oceans Research said the shark was last seen swimming strongly out to sea and appeared to be unharmed.

Team leader Dorien Schroder said she and her colleagues were "chumming" - throwing fish matter - into the water around the boat on Monday in an attempt to draw sharks closer so they could be identified and counted, a technique which worked rather too well.

"I heard a splash and looked back to see a shark pretty much mid-air hovering above one of my interns," she told the BBC.

Ms Schroder said she pulled her colleague to safety in the stern of the ship and could see the panicking shark already had half its body on board, head first.

'Incredibly stressful'

Sharks are only able to move forward, so in its thrashing it hauled itself entirely onto the boat until it became wedged between the engines and some containers.

The crew initially tried to drag the fish off the boat once it had calmed down, but then decided to return to port so it could be lifted off by crane.

Rescuers kept it wet and put a hosepipe in its mouth to keep it breathing.

Once back in the water, the shark appeared confused by the busy environment of the harbour, said the researchers. It beached itself and had to be rescued a second time, before it was hauled out to sea and made its way to safety.

"This must have been an incredibly stressful experience for the shark," said Ryan Johnson, who was involved in the rescue. "These sharks belong in the sea, they don't belong on land."

Great whites are known to fully jump out of the water while hunting prey like seals, but the animal is not thought to have attacked the boat deliberately.

The shark damaged fuel lines and some of the fibreglass of the boat, but the vessel was repaired and back in action counting sharks the following day.

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