So, last week was a great kickoff to the best week of the year, and we traveled all over the world tagging and tracking our finned friends. I was pretty impressed with how much Discovery kept to the science, and how they kept the drama and intrigue going with the impressive night photography, and how it gave you a real sense of the requirements necessary to perform in the field.
I also made a comment about how it wasn’t all great whites all the time, which I think is super important. There’s an elegant, intricate beauty to a shark like the Wobbegong, an alien, ethereal quality to deep-sea ghost sharks, and raw fierceness that is personified in the bull shark. Last year’s “Shark Planet” (the American version of the BBC’s “Shark”) covered this tapestry of sharks and shark behavior, even spending time on their cousins, the rays. There seem to be more than a few specials this year that won’t focus on, or focus exclusively on great white. Is it just that Discover is running out new science about great whites, or is someone at Discovery Communications realizing that they need to diversify to keep people interested. I can’t imagine it’s the former, for as even as the white shark gets more and more study, there’s more and more we don’t know.
With that, let’s slowly lower ourselves into the waters of Shark Week, Night 2.
Night 2, Show 2: Shallow Water Invasion – 5 out of 5 Shark Fins
OK, I geeked the F out for this show. Why? Because I was there. OK, not this specific expedition, which I think happened after I was there in September of 2015, but the boat that Dr. Mauricio Hoyos and his team used to track the great whites of Isla Guadalupe was the boat that I was on, the MV Sea Escape. And Dr. Hoyos was on board while we were there, and I got to see him prepare, tag, and track one of the sharks. And the tagged shark spent a lot of his time around our boat. And I got to perform a poem for Dr. Hoyos. And I received a scientific correction to the poem! So let me tell you, what you saw on the show, is a lot like what I experienced on the boat. Including the amount of sharks you’ll run into – at one I was also surrounded by three white sharks, establishing dominance. If you ever want to feel like you’re in one of these specials, I highly recommend booking a trip to Isla Guadalupe with Fins Attached. You might have a chance to do some citizen science (or observe scientists in their native environment). Tell them The Klute sent you.
Oh yeah, there were hammerheads too on the East Coast of Florida and the Bahamas. This was also pretty cool. That Eagle Ray decoy didn’t stand a chance.
Night 2, Show 2: Jaws of the Deep – 5 out of 5 Shark Fins
And we’re back at Isla Guadalupe with Dr. Hoyos and Dr. Greg Skomal of the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy. We start with a grisly aftermath of a kill on an elephant seal. Wow! You can see the bites in living Technicolor, and it’s just so impressive to see what these animals can do to their prey. Then we deploy ROVs and we’re off! There is a concern I have with the ROVs at Guadalupe, as the great whites hit them with such force that they break their teeth on it. Yes sharks can replace their teeth, but it’s not at will – so Scarboard (the first shark to make an attack on the Sharkcam), will, for a short while, have some bad teeth, which could lead to abscesses and parasite infections. In all likelihood, it’s not a killer for the sharks, and the scientific data we get from these experiments outweighs the inconvenience to the fish, but it’s still something I wonder if the scientists take this into account when deploying the ROVs.
That being said the Sharkcam footage is amazing. We follow a shark all the way down into the abyss where we catch Emma the shark possibly napping. With music and the narration, it’s absolutely haunting – and on a personal note, invalidates one of my poems (“Awake”, a poem about a great white shark that wants to sleep). DAMN YOU, SHARK WEEK. But a good poet is like a good scientist. We don’t mind when truth overtakes theory. Also, the sharks get their revenge on Sharkcam, sort of.
Night 2, Show 3: Sharks Among Us – 4 out of 5 Shark Fins
This one starts out with the grim realities of what “shark protection” for swimmers and bathers means for the ocean. Images of suffocated sharks and drowned seals and sea turtles hit home, because we never see it. We see the buoys and lines, not the carnage below. Dr. Craig O’Connell aims to do something about this – to provide people the protection (rationally or irrationally) that they demand, while saving our ocean friends, so he sets out with Paul De Gelder to prove that magnets might be the panacea we’re looking for.
For a show that had the potential to go off the rails, it’s a very science heavy show that keeps you engaged throughout. We get a decent surface understanding of the Ampullae of Lorenzini, and the weird sense of electroreception that sharks possess. We get to witness tests on how Dr. O’Connell’s inventions work (spoiler alert: they seem to work pretty well) and excellent shark footage of diverse species from the lowly nurse to the great white (tonight *is* super heavy on great whites and we’re spending almost 70% of our night at Isla Guadalupe).
So what did you think? Does Shark Week make you want to take that 20 hour boat ride out to Isla Guadalupe? Are you happy you live in a shark-free desert? Are you also confused about magnets and how they work? Let us know in the comments!
(And hey, sorry for the delay on this review – I was out promoting Shark Week Live!, Arizona’s bite at the shark science apple on June 30 at Lawn Gnome publishing!)