Shark Week 2011!
As some of you may know, I like sharks. In fact, scratch that, I freaking LOVE sharks. I have ever since I saw Jaws as a kid, which I realize is strange and unusual, but I’m a strange and unusual person, so deal with it, folks.
Shark Week, which if you’re not familiar, is a week in which the Discovery Channel blocks off it’s prime time programming for programming that consists of hour long documentaries specifically about Sharks. This year, the running theme of Shark Week seemed to be about shark attacks: survivor stories, unusual amounts of shark attacks in one area, shark attacks throughout history, shark attacks, shark attacks, and more shark attacks.
Shark Week’s opening documentary, The Great White Invasion, discussed a possible reason for the increased number of shark attacks over the last 50 years (a 600% increase, to be exact!) might have a lot to do with 3 factors: The first being global warming, the second being the migrating of their food sources due to global warming as well as the reduction of their food sources due to deep sea fishing boats, and the third being that there just happen to be more people in the water these days. I guess people like to surf and water ski and garbage, I don’t know, I enjoy air conditioning and dislike having a sunburn.
The first documentary really set the tone for the rest of the week, which touched on stories of shark attack survivors, the weighing in of marine biologists on why sharks seem to be moving closer to shore, lots of shark behavior experts talking about how they hunt, and a whole lot of bloody re-enactments of shark attacks. There was also a seemingly constant running of a clip made famous in the film Step Brothers, of a shark leaping from the water to eat a seal in one awesome and gnarly bite. Seriously, that clip ran so much, I actually watched Step Brothers this past weekend to be sure it was the same one. It was. And it’s still cool.
My favorite of all the documentaries of the week was one entitled Rogue Sharks. The premise of this doc, was essentially to discuss what the Rogue Shark Theory is, which was a theory developed by a scientist named Coppelson (I didn’t catch his first name, there was a lot going on shark attack-wise). Coppelson developed his theory of a Rogue Shark after a very famous series of shark attacks occurred along the New Jersey coast during the summer of 1960. These attacks were actually the inspiration of the book “Jaws” which was written by Peter Benchley and eventually made into the film version which, fun fact, was the first summer blockbuster movie EVER.
Anyway, in an attempt to try and explain the series of attacks in New Jersey, (there were five of them, four were fatal) Coppelson came up with a theory, that older, injured sharks were coming in closer to shore for an easier meal and eating people. However, over the years, scientists began seeing less and less consistency in Coppelson’s theory because as more and more people were being attacked, there seemed no evidence that people were being eaten as much as they were just being bitten and then released.
Fast forward to Egypt in the summer of 2010. A number of attacks were happening along the coast, mostly during scuba tours, leaving tourists frightened and fleeing the coastline resorts. Authorities may be partly to blame, as they did not notify the public of the attacks until there was a death, which remained the only death that summer. What scientists ultimately discovered was that, while it was the same shark attacking the tourists, the shark wasn’t eating the people, as it easily could have. The shark had been biting at the divers hands and buttocks and because of a combination of the scuba tours and scientists studying them, the shark had been getting fed chum (fish parts) by hand and the chum was stored in a pack on the divers hip. The shark was biting people because he thought they had chum and after biting them once and realizing they were not the delicious chum he thought they were, released them. Unfortunately, the man who was killed in the attacks died of severe blood loss due to a severed artery. However, all other tourists who were attacked generally had one bite mark and were very lucky to not have had an artery nicked.
It was also determined that the shark who was attacking was an adolescent shark who, as it turns out, was at at age where it is graduating from smaller prey, like fish, to larger prey, like seals and was still learning about what it was supposed to eat.
I could drone on and on about what I learned and watched this year on Shark Week, but I think the main thing I learned is that the main reason people are getting attacked more often is because they are in the water now, more than ever, and adolescent sharks just happen to be close by, trying to learn what they want to eat. That, and that if you’re ever attacked by a shark, poke it in the eye. They don’t like that.