A great white shark pays a visit to coastal enclave just days before a major holiday weekend for beach-goers and boaters — it’s a Spielberg-esque plot minus Roy Scheider.
Tracked by oceanographic researchers just a mile off shore in Greenwich on Monday morning, the nearly 10-foot shark named Cabot has made quite the splash before the Memorial Day weekend.
Although the latest ping from a satellite tracking tag attached to the 500-pound predator placed him back out in the Atlantic Ocean along the southern tip of Long Island, town officials say they are ready in case the shark returns for the unofficial start of summer. On Tuesday, the organization following the shark said it was uncertain now whether Cabot ever was in the sound near Greenwich, given his latest location southwest of Montauk.
On Saturday night, a town concert aptly featuring the Beach Boys is expected to draw a few hundred boats to Greenwich Harbor, where they have formed a flotilla in years past.
“We spent all night looking for the damn shark with my fearless crew while I played the theme to ‘Jaws,’ " said Zoltan Simon, a lifelong boater from Greenwich. “I’m personally scared of them, but it is a testament to how our [environmental] regulations along with education of boaters and the general public have helped clear up the waters of the Sound."
Dedicated fans of the movie “Jaws" know that the preppy undergrad whose romantic interest is pulled into the undertow by the shark tells the police chief he goes to Trinity College in Hartford and his parents live in Greenwich.
Peter Tesei, first selectman and police commissioner of Greenwich, said there needs to be situational awareness on the part of beach-goers and boaters.
“People need to be vigilant,” Tesei said Tuesday night.
Sudden confusion over the accuracy of the tracking device on the shark isn’t helping, he said.
“It’s always better to have certainty,” Tesei said.
Joseph Siciliano, the town parks director, said the town has been monitoring the shark’s movements on the website of Ocearch, a nonprofit oceanographic research center that has a tracking website and smartphone app.
“Cops were out there and did some surveillance,” Siciliano said. “They were just doing some due diligence. We’ll keep an eye on the location. If we have to make some adjustments, we’re very capable of doing it.”
Sicliano pointed out that the water temperature in the Sound is still in the 50s, which he said is likely to deter many beach-goers from swimming.
“You want to take a dip in that?” he said.
Town officials estimated that a few hundred boats could tie up in Greenwich Harbor for the Town Party, a daylong concert founded by and partly underwritten by hedge fund mogul Ray Dalio. In addition to the Beach Boys, Lynyrd Skynyrd is slated to perform.
Curiosity over the shark’s movements was so high that the tracking website of Ocearch crashed from the high volume of visitors.
“It just goes to show the great interest in sharks. It’s very exciting,” said Dave Sigworth, associate director of communications for the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.
Sigworth noted that another great white shark named Montauk was tracked in the middle of the Sound south of Guilford in September 2016.
“No other pings ever showed up in the sound,” Sigworth said.
Sigworth said it was curious how Cabot made it in six days from off the coast of Delaware to Greenwich, which would have required the great white shark to either swim up the East River in New York City and under the Whitestone and Throgs Neck bridges or to enter the eastern end of the Sound off Montauk.
“This is not to say that there are not great whites in Long Island Sound from time to time,” he said. “We certainly believe that’s the case, especially out at the eastern end of the Sound.”
In contrast to humpback whale, dolphin and seal sightings in the Sound, Sigworth said it’s much more difficult to observe shark movements.
“How do people think they were going to find a 9-foot shark that doesn’t come up to breathe?” he said.
Sigworth said while the report of a shark in the western end of the Sound is a positive environmental development, humans need to be mindful of the marine life. A number of sea turtles have been killed in recent years by boat propellers, he said.
“I think the exciting message is it is cleaner and healthier than it has been in decades,” he said. “We need to adjust how we play on the water now if these animals are out there among us.”
In a scene reminiscent of “Jaws," news crews with cameras and microphones staked out the beach at Greenwich Point Park Tuesday afternoon. A number of beach-goers got a head start on the holiday weekend. Some went in the water. A Greenwich police boat patrolled nearby.
Patty Doyle, a Greenwich boater and hobbyist photographer, said she’s not fazed by reports of a shark in local waters and that she’s always on the lookout for marine life.
"I went in the water the day after I saw ‘Jaws,’ ” Doyle said.
Neil Vigdor can be reached at email@example.com