“Yeah, stop mucking around! Get in the water!” exclaims one of the dive guides in the first hour of Shark Week Night 2, and I feel like this is a response to the first night of Shark Week. Sure, great white sharks might be a stereotypical feature of Shark Week, but there’s no denying their presence and appeal, and tonight they are on display in the way that highlights all of this.
I took a course in shark biology and conservation that described sharks like the great white, tiger, and hammerhead as “Hollywood Sharks”, because these are the sharks that star in the public mind, and it would be nice of Discovery to highlight sharks that don’t get the play that the Hollywood Sharks get – the zebras, the threshers, the schooling sharks of open sea. Call them the Indie Sharks. Basically, great whites are the Marvel Studios of the ocean, zebra sharks are your Blumhouses and A24s. As much as we love the former, we need more of the latter. It makes sense from a programming standpoint, and it makes sense from a conservation standpoint.
I could totally make zebra sharks exciting, worthy of an hour special. Call me, Nancy Daniels.
Sharks of the Badlands
(Out of Five Shark Fins)
One of the more interesting developments in shark conservation is how much marine mammal conservation is tied into the effort. With the implementation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act in the United States, the increase in population of marine mammals (especially seals) has led to an equal increase in their predators including, off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, great whites. This has led to more shark interactions, including a fatal one off the coast of Truro, Massachusetts last year. So, on this show, they attempting to come up with a new method of detecting sharks that would allow beachgoers an early warning of a shark trying to crash the party. Which is awesome. I would have loved to know more about it, but like in Sealab 2021 where Dr. Quinn was waylaid by Stormy’s tangents, more knowledge is just tantalizingly out of reach.
And we’ve seen this show before. We get some great Andy Casagrande footage, and some neat gear in use (transponders, a mobile cage called the “Lunch Box” – which HA, funny!), but it really glosses over the unique issues of safety around sharks, protecting sharks, and protecting marine mammals, and the unique challenges all of this possesses. It’s another frustrating missed opportunity for Shark Week 2019.
Legend of Deep Blue
(Out of Five Shark Fins)
I’m mentioned last night how it’s a Shark Week conceit to name sharks, but how naming individual sharks really doesn’t matter all that much, but there are sharks that even make the scientific community says “WHOA”. Deep Blue, a large female great white (picture by conservationist Ocean Ramsey), currently holds the title of the largest great white ever captured on film. So we’re off to Isla Guadalupe (home of my disastrous 2014 expedition where nothing died, but a lot of divers’ dreams – buy me a drink and I’ll tell you about it some time) to study the sharks.
But I’m not sure why? Like, the idea is figure out why large great whites congregate at these types of locations… but (and I’m not saying there isn’t a elephant seal’s weight in stuff we don’t know about great whites – which is to say “a couple tons of stuff we don’t know”) but unless the team is hiding info from us, again, this ain’t that. There’s so discussion of sharks eating other sharks… but we that’s not a new fact. I remember watching footage of great whites attack each other in the 1980s.
I’ve got to remember that A. I know a lot about sharks. I’m no scientist, but I could sit in with a group of them and understand what they’re talking about, and B. there are new people watching Shark Week for the first time. And the footage recovered from the dropped GoPro… That was cool. I almost lost my GoPro back in 2014 in La Lupita’s waters, but for the actions a nimble handed divemaster who saved it before it went through the cage. I wonder how many GoPros are on the bottom there.
The Sharks of Headstone Hell
(Out of Five Shark Fins)
OK, now this one kind of starts off kind of like a Blumhouse horror film, or maybe one of the old Vincent Price horror films in the 1960s. A remote Pacific island, a former penal colony that’s surrounded by shark-filled seas, who are drawn there by people discarding redundant farm animals in the surrounding waters. Seriously – I’m digging that premise.
But this, to me, is the most scientific and conservation minded show of the night. Due to Australian regulations, the people of Norfolk Island can’t just dump ol’ Bessie into the sea after she stops giving milk anymore. So what will happen when sharks stop getting free meals? A group of scientists and conservationists want to protect people AND the sharks, so into the deep we go for research and excitement!
You really get a feel for the nature of a research expedition on this show. The video is great, and I especially love the part where the divers are exploring a reef and the conditions of the dive itself get bad, which if you’re a diver, is something everyone has had to deal with. One of the most frustrating things I’ve seen tonight however, are these little 1-2 minute blips in between an advertising break that show things like a fishing boat rescue, or a discussion about how “more sharks” = “healthy reefs”. Discovery REALLY needs to build on these bits. Incorporate them into the show. Hell, make THAT the show.
But with a great name, premise, footage, narration, and music, “Sharks of Headstone Hell” is the first great show of Shark Week 2019. More like this please!
Did you enjoy tonight? Do you want more non-Great White shows? Would you dive Headstone Hell? Let me know in the comments!