Shark sighting leads to Long Island beach evacuation

LONG ISLAND, N.Y.- “Jaws” became a real-life fear to Long Island beachgoers this summer.

Sharks had been seen just 15 feet away from Long Island’s South Shore beach Robertmoses late July. And the Islanders were not pleased. This past summer, temperatures had hit an average of 81 degrees. People from all over Long Island were going to the South Shore in an attempt to escape the heat.

“There’s an average of about 1500 people at the beach during the summer months,” says Robertmoses lifeguard (and surfer) Erin Hanrahan. She recalls the sighting in late July while she was on duty.

“It must’ve been 4 or 5 feet,” she said in an interview. “I blew my whistle without even thinking. It was almost like an instant reflex. I just wanted everyone out of the water as soon as possible. And to be honest, I didn’t go out surfing there for the rest of the summer.”

Luckily, the sharks didn’t have any humans for lunch that day.

Photograph of Robertmoses

Robertmoses State Beach

There were an estimated 2,000 people playing hooky at Robertmoses that day. After having the entire beach evacuated, helicopters were flown over the beach to find the sharks.
They were not spotted. And nobody has felt safe since.
North Shore mother of two, Jennifer Junge, sends her kids to “beach camp” at Long Island’s Huntington Beach Community Association every summer. The camp buses the kids to Robertmoses Beach once a week, and spends the other days at a local beach on the North Shore. She worried for her 13-year-old son, who’s going to camp here since he was 6.
“He loves being in the water,” says Jennifer, “and after that sighting near Robertmoses in July, I’ve been so scared that something’s going to happen to him while he’s at camp. Especially because it’s so hot at the beach and there was no chance that he wasn’t going in the water. It’s just really, truly terrifying.”
Her son was just as worried and his mother.
“The camp counselors would always warn us about the sharks that were at Robertmoses in July, and everyone was always too nervous to go in the water,” Gregory says. “and that sucked because everyday at the beach it was so hot!”
However for some Long Island residents, the shark sightings were more interesting than terrifying.
89-year-old Huntington resident Anthony Chillemi has kept his boat at Willis Marina on Long Island’s South Shore for the last 61 years.
In those last 61 years, he’s only seen a shark near Long Island once- in May of 2015, just a month before the sighting at Robertmoses.
“In all my years of going out there [on the water], I’ve never seen a shark so big as the one I saw in May!” he explains. “it was a 16 foot Great White! A Great White! Can you believe it? On Long Island!”
Because of the exceptionally hot weather this summer, this day was the only time he got to enjoy his boat out on the ocean.
“Even though I think the sharks are really interesting,” Anthony says, “ they’re really unsafe. Everyone who’s been in the ocean this summer is lucky that they didn’t get hurt.”
As the weather got colder and less people spent their days at the beach, it’s safe to say that there weren’t anymore shark sightings this summer. And hopefully there won’t be any in the future.

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