A great white shark bit 63-year-old Julie Dimperio Holowach off the coast of Maine, killing her in the first recorded fatal attack by a shark in the state of Maine and the third in New England since 1936.
From his second-story office, Tom Whyte watched as the woman and her adult daughter swam about 15 yards from the rocky shore in Harpswell, Maine, according to the Boston Globe.
Whyte saw one swimmer fall behind, and the second swimmer — Wolowach’s daughter — raced to shore and began screaming. Wolowach floated at sea, lifeless.
“It’s all so surreal,” Whyte told the newspaper, looking out at the three lobster trap buoys where the attack had occurred. He had swum for the first time in two years near those same buoys, two days prior.
Great white shark expert Greg Skomal told the Globe people tend to think of Cape Cod as the northernmost feeding ground since summer sightings occur frequently off the shores.
But the Cape tends to serve as a “rest stop” along great white sharks’ travels.
“Some stay around Cape Cod and feed,” Skomal said. “Others will stop by for varying amounts of time and keep moving into the Gulf of Maine where there are ample amounts of seals.”
Nick Whitney, a senior scientist at the New England Aquarium, said the shark likely mistook Dimperio Holowach for a seal; she was wearing a wetsuit at the time of the attack.
A day earlier, on Sunday, a seal with a 19-inch-wide bite mark, likely from a great white shark, washed ashore in Phippsburg, which is roughly seven miles by boat from Mackerel Cove.
Attacks on humans are rare, despite the frenzy around them.
In September 2018, a 26-year-old college student from Revere, Mass., was attacked by a suspected great white shark while bodyboarding off Wellfleet and died after making it back to shore.
Before that, you’d have to go back to 1936 for a fatal shark attack in New England waters: a 16-year-old was killed off Mattapoisett in July of that year.