In 2013 a pod of killer whales (orcas) had been seen in the area for the first time, with further sightings in 2015 and 2016. First a pod of six were seen, and then a pair of males with distinctive collapsed fins. The fin of one animal fell to the right and the other to the left – they were nicknamed Port and Starboard.
On 7 February, 2017, Port and Starboard were again spotted near Dyer Island, and the next day a dead 2.7m shark washed up on a nearby beach. The body was intact, but there were scratch-marks around its head.
The third dead great white, showing how its liver had been removed.
At the same time, operators started noticing an absence of great white sharks and, as in the previous year, they didn’t return for three weeks.
For shark enthusiasts and the operators life went back to normal, until on 4 May a 5m female great white was washed up. The the scientists who conducted the autopsy revealed that her liver had been removed.
There was a large, neat hole in her belly between her pectoral fins, and when another shark was discovered the next day, this time a male, the wound was found to be in the same place, and its liver, heart and testes were missing.
Once again shark-sightings stopped, and there would be no let-up for the beleaguered town and its cage-diving operators, because on 7 May another shark was discovered less than 60 miles along the coast at Struisbaai. Once again, its liver had been removed.
The scientists doing the autopsies were convinced that the cause of death, and the removal of the livers, was due to predation by orcas, and Port and Starboard were the prime suspects.
The sharks appeared to have fled in terror when faced with a superior predator, and people in the Gansbaai area continued worrying about their livelihoods as, day after day, Dyer Island’s waters were empty of sharks.
Then the bodies stopped washing up, and each day hope increased that the sharks would return.
These expectations were dashed on 24 June, when dead shark number four was discovered on a beach with the by-now familiar wound in its belly, and no liver.
That same day Port and Starboard were seen and filmed patrolling the area. Fears for the future tightened their grip on the Great White Shark Capital of the World.