The Fourth of July. It means so many things to so many people. For me, it’s one of those holidays that really is for the nerds. Think about it: whereas Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day honor those who served and gave their lives respectively to keep America safe, July Fourth is about a bunch of nerds who put their necks on the line to sign a document that an even bigger nerd wrote. Most of them weren’t military men, most were just thinkers. And Americans from both coasts head to the beach to celebrate our Founding Dorks, we should celebrate our sharks on those coats, who keep and defend arms (or teeth, in their case) to defend our freedoms from the Queen’s pikemen and ministers.
Night 6, Show 1: Shark Bait — 4 of 5 Shark Fins
And we’re starting at the birthplace of Freedom: Massachusetts (those of you reading this in Kingman, AZ, will know it as “TAXachusetts”). We’re following Dr. Greg Skomal of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries again (he was on “Shallow Water Invasion” earlier this week), and it’s just a fun show. The enthusiasm that Dr. Skomal has for the work he is doing is infectious, whether he’s working on tagging the fish to talking about the sharks’ resurgence on the East Coast of the United States.
That resurgence is directly tied into the seals that are returning to Cape Cod, thanks to the Marine Mammal Protection Act. To a shark, a seal is the ubiquitous hamburger and hot dog of the American cookout. And like Americans, great white sharks can’t get enough of them (unlike Americans, sharks are always moving, so their incidence of heart disease and diabetes is MUCH lower – sharks are more like Swedes in that regard). The problem is these seal beaches are so very close to human beaches, and Dr. Skomal wants to try to understand their behavior of the shark’s shallow water antics. Sharks don’t want to eat us, we’re like the bowl of gazpacho at the BBQ – no one understands what it is or why it’s there.
So, Dr. Skomal deploys a new type of tracking tag and which requires them to get up close and personal with the sharks to attach to their dorsal fin. There’s some great footage on this one, and we following the team from the beach to the sea to the air, and we get to spend some time with the seals, who are noisy and cute, and sadly delicious, and we see some predation events that result in some bifurcated seals. If you are sensitive or have sensitive kids, you might need to cover their eyes or explain to them about the great circle of life. Maybe sing them the song.
Night 6, Show 2: Blue Serengeti — 5 of Five Shark Fins
We leave one shining sea, passing over the amber waves of grain (flyover country), to the next shining sea, California here we come!
Dr. Sylvia Earle, one of the world’s preeminent marine biologists, narrates this one to great effect, and the opening sequence that compares the Serengeti Plain of Africa to the California Current off the Pacific Coast of the United States is affecting. We’re right into the shark action, as we focus on the Farallon Islands off of San Francisco and Ano Nuevo farther south, and the great white sharks who live and feed there. We learn about the intricate web of life that makes up this marine paradise, from humpback whales to common squid and how they’re all interconnected. Dr. Barbara Block leads up the expedition, and we see her devotion to this project going all the way back to 1975, when her mentor worked with Peter Benchley to try to undo some of the damage he did to sharks with Jaws.
It’s a great show, one of the best of the week, and bookends the previous show by using the same camera tags that Dr. Skomal uses, but unlike the murky shallows of the East Coast, we see the brilliant blue of the Pacific.
So that’s it for Night 6! Did you go to the beach this July Fourth? See any sharks? Disappointed that you didn’t? Well, we’ve got one night left (Night 8 – on Night 7 the only new show was a clip show). See you tomorrow for the final night of Shark Week! Seems like we just got started …