Sunday, June 21, 2009

Just When You Thought it was Safe to Get Back in the Water!

Now that summer is officially here (thanks for the Solstice tribute, Lisa!) our thoughts naturally turn to the beach. And what summer beach thought would be complete without a few nervous nods to the shark. It's time to reminisce about great shark movies and television. At the top of the heap, thanks to author Peter Benchley, director Steven Spielberg, and composer John Williams, is JAWS. Released exactly 34 years ago, it has been scaring the daylights out of people (and keeping them out of the water) ever since. Funniest personal "Jaws" anecdote: my sister used to run a dive boat in the Florida Keys. Inevitably some tourist would have a nervous melt down in the water. To get them to snap out of it, she would calmly ask them..."Do you hear the music? No? Well if you don't hear the music, the shark's not coming". It worked every time.

On television, the greatest shark programming has been coming to us compliments of the Discovery Channel for over 15 years. "Shark Week" returns on August 2nd with plenty of new footage, including a segment about shark encounters with dogs and other animals. We'll give another update when it gets closer to the air date. In the meantime, the Discovery website has plenty of fun videos, pictures and games about sharks.

Shark trivia question: Which beach in America has the most recorded shark attacks? Answer: New Smyrna Beach, Florida, which has recorded over 200 attacks. None were deadly. Note to readers, I have been swimming in the New Smyrna Beach waters dozens of times over the years on vacation (it's near the more famous Daytona Beach) and have never even seen a shark, much less been nipped by one.

So grab your tube of Coppertone and a good scary summer paperback. Whether you stay on the beach and read or are brave enough to venture in, it's important to remember that the odds of a shark encounter are slim to none. Instead of being afraid of this amazing, almost prehistoric beast, we should all think about preserving them. Some are becoming increasingly endangered and rare, like the gentle giant whale shark pictured here.


Lisa said...

Sharks and "Shark Week" never lose their charm! I am not sure which network ran it (I just checked and several networks covered it, but Discovery had the one I really liked), but one of my favorite shark programs is a two-hour semi-docudrama about the shark that terrorized the New Jersey shore in 1916. Horrifying and historical!

Hope they run this one again! If they do, I'll write about it! Loved it!

Great post, Jane! We are very happy that New Smyrna Beach and its sharks weren't interested in you at all! :-)

Jane said...

I've read about that turn of the Century Jersey attack many times. The attacks actually occurred up river in brackish (salt and fresh water mixed) water. Which means it could not possibly been a Great was most likely a bull shark. They are the most vicious.

Funny...I was watching part of Jaws II on cable today and they had a scene where a Great White has taken out an Orca whale. Terribly inaccurate scientifically. The absolute top of the food chain in the ocean is the Killer whale. Big brain mammals rule. They will hunt in packs, and kill anything. Great whites...even (sadly) their own cetaceans like dolphins. Tommy calls them the Gangsta's of the Sea.