Shark Porn

The fact that Steven Spielberg filmed Jaws on Martha’s Vineyard — and not the Hamptons where Robert Benchley’s novel ostensibly took place — has made Cape Cod and the Islands synonymous with gory shark porn in the public imagination. That movie kept me out of the water for the remainder of 1970s, and to this day I prefer to go in the drink only when pushed, capsized or otherwise forced in. Voluntarily electing to submerge myself in the home waters of such critters as the box jelly and the Great White Shark is not something I do lightly.

The past weekend’s awesome photo of a guy looking over his shoulder while paddling a blue plastic kayak a few yards in front of a black dorsal fin has gone viral, and my inbox today is filled with admiring comments from friends who secretly want to see someone get consumed by one of the monsters. So I must muse about sharks. The last person to be killed by a shark in Massachusetts was poor 16-year old Joe Troy, Jr., who bled to death after being dragged underwater by a shark while swimming out to greet a catboat coming into Mattapoissett Harbor on Buzzards Bay

Thanks to the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the seal population on the Cape’s outer beaches and Monomoy Island has exploded, and the sands are littered with big, juicy, swimming fat blobs that just happen to be the favorite snack of Great Whites.  Find a few headless seal corpses on the beach, spot a fin here and there, wait for a striped bass fisherman to report seeing a shark as long as his boat out in the rips and the next thing you know Cape Cod is re-enacting the carnival scenes in Jaws.

Do I care? Not really. The actuaries say my odds of a shark attack are one in 11.5 million — actually more likely than winning the Powerball jackpot which are one in 175 million –though I suspect the shark odds depend on where I live and how often I engage in shark-friendly activities. Like swimming at night or kayaking.

I drove over Matawan Creek in New Jersey last month, on my way to the Cape May-Lewes Ferry, and couldn’t help think to that terrible July in 1916 when a shark or sharks killed four people and injured another. Three of the attacks took place in the quiet tidal Matawan Creek, and that fact, more than any other, freaks me out when it comes to swimming in Cotuit Bay.

I once covered a shark attack when I was a stringer for Soundings in San Francisco in the early 80s. A surfer named Lewis Boren vanished around Monterey. His board washed up with a big semi-circular bite taken out of it. And his corpse washed up a little while afterwards. I’ve never been out to the Farallons, but admired Susan Casey’s The Devil’s Teethand definitely would not take up any Northern Californian water sports any time soon. Including diving — as one poor abalone diver was decapitated in 2004 while clamming around Mendocino.

If you want to indulge in shark porn and not wait for Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, I recommend:

  • In the Slick of the Cricket, Russell Drumm’s lyrical profile of Frank Mundus, the Montauk captain who inspired Quint in Jaws. This guy used to find dead whales floating off of Long Island and stand on them, feeding chunks of fresh cantaloupe to the sharks in between bites of rancid whale blubber.
  • The Devil’s TeethSusan Casey’s first person account of hanging out with the shark scientists on California’s Farallon Islands. This is the place, along with South Africa Cape of Good Hope, where more Great Whites congregate to eat more seals than anywhere else in the world. It would appear Chatham, Massachusetts is on its way to becoming hotspot #3.
  • Close to Shore: Michael Capuzzo’s 2001 history of the 1916 Jersey shore attacks, another inspiration for Jaws.
  • In Harm’s Way: The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis: by Doug Stanton. As Quint said in Jaws: “1,100 men went into the water, 316 men come out, the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb.”

Google and YouTube can provide you more than enough lurid shark porn. I’m going to buy a lottery ticket.

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

4 thoughts on “Shark Porn”

  1. I was waiting fo your shark post,Davd. I wasn’t disappointed.
    Casey’s book is classic. I also recommend the Nat Go episode “the Whale That Ate Jaws.
    Folloing the attack by the killer whale on the grest white at the Farrallons, the tagged resident great whites boogied. they were tracked all the way out to Hawaii.
    Turn the tables on a Great White and they are just “g o n e.”
    very good post.
    JimF

    Like

  2. I hope it is the last post on the new Landlords of the outer cape and the not so outer cape when we remember the temporary takeover of Hadley’s Harbor on Naushon just across from Woods Hole by a great white 7 or 8 years ago. Izzy and I nicknamed her Gretel. The odds of being caught or dying in an avalanche are just slightly higher then being attacked or killed by shark but having experienced several avalanches first hand and know multiple families effected by a death from moving snow I throw the stats out the window. I will throw the stats out the window when it comes to shark encounters as well and get educated and be cautious when in the surf breaks of New England and hyper aware on the outer cape that I surf once or twice a year when I leave my home breaks of New Hampshire and Maine.
    It sucks for me because I am not the adventure athlete that gets off on the fear. I get off on the fun and the only thing fun about great whites being photographed inside the surf zones of the outer cape is the excuse to watch Jaws clips on youtube.

    A brief comment about some of your shark porn. I think most interesting thing about the “Devil’s Teeth, which I agree was a great read, was the true predator of the story the author herself who blew up an established shark research facility with blond hair, big lungs and big white teeth. Common sense says we ar more likely to find an effective shark repellent then we are for smart, sexy, blondes with an agenda.

    Like

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