NOTE: THERE WAS NO NIGHT SEVEN REVIEW. IT WAS A CLIP SHOW. NO ONE SHOULD HAVE TO REVIEW A CLIP SHOW.
And so we came to the end of another Shark Week. Yearbooks were passed around, phone numbers exchanged, and everyone went off for their summer vacation. Some of the sharks went to Hawai’I, others to Mexico, that really rich shark went to Africa with his parents, and some just spent hot months off the coast of New Jersey and North Carolina. Still, it’s not a bad life. Sure, you’ve got to worry about next year, which colleges do you apply for, will you make the swim team next year, and why won’t that stuck up mako shark call you back? Did you do something wrong?
I really enjoyed this year’s Shark Week. Except for Wrath of a Great White Serial Killer, everything had a point, whether it was quality footage, scientific discovery, or experiments to make the ocean safer for shark/human interaction (and it’s already pretty safe – you have a better chance of electrocuting yourself with hair dryer than you do of getting killed by a shark). My favorite bit? The docile nurse sharks of Cat Cay in the Bahamas (more on that later). We spent so much time at Isla Guadalupe, Mexico you probably thought investment property down there was a good idea (it’s not – you should really familiarize yourself with Mexico’s real estate laws before you even THINK about it).
So, what to do until then? Well, why not keep track of some shark science without all the Discovery Communications razzle-dazzle?
Some people and organizations I like to follow:
@WhySharksMatter – David Shiffman: A marine biologist, sometimes cantankerous (don’t ask him about megalodons or mermaids), often amusing, with commentary and links to hard shark science.
@BiminiSharkLab – Twitter account for Bimini Biological Field Station Foundation, a group that has done long-term studies on sharks in the Bahamas, including a decades long project studying a population of Lemon sharks.
@A_WhiteShark – Twitter account for the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, studying the resurgent population of white sharks off the coast of Cape Cod. Often works with Dr. Greg Skomal of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries, who did some phenomenal work this year.
Or read a freakin’ book. I really enjoyed Michael Capuzzo’s Close to Shore, an account of the Jersey Shore Shark Attacks of 1916 which gives you a sense of what happened AND how far they’ve come in shark science, or read up on a legend and pioneer of shark science, Dr. Eugenie Clark, in The Lady and the Sharks. These are Amazon links, BTW, but your local independent bookstore can get these just the same.
Or study sharks yourself! Take Fins Attached Marine Research and Conservation’s “Shark Awareness Education” course at http://www.studysharks.org/. And If you live along the ocean, check your local marine institute’s programs. There’s likely some way you can help!
OH RIGHT, THERE’S A SHOW TO REVIEW!
Night 8, Show 1 – The Killing Games 3.25 of 5 Shark Fins (except for the nurse shark stuff which was AWESOME).
So, this show had a lot of interesting things, some things I felt were a bit dodgy, and then sort of a balloon deflating moment. Let’s get the premise first. Certain marine animals beach themselves on purpose to get at prey. I knew orcas did it already from a National Geographic special from years back – orcas in South America will charge headlong onto a beach to grab a seal/sea lion to eat. It’s ballsy behavior for a marine animal, because despite what the Sea World Shamu shows depict – to them, the land is Kryptonite. Except for the times it’s not. Obviously, pinnipeds, birds, sea turtles will make use of the land, but orcas? Dolphins? Yep, it’s a thing (the term’s called “strand hunting” and it’s weird – except it’s not, because it’s behavior these animals employ to eat). Do sharks strand hunt?
Well therein lies the rub. We’re off to the Bahamas to determine that. We get some nurse sharks, who’ve been conditioned to follow the tide as it overwhelms a dock to grab fishermen’s scraps. They climb on board, not completely covered by water, pump water over their gills (unlike the Hollywood Sharks, nurse sharks can pump water over their gills so they don’t need to constantly move), but this is conditioned behavior. The marina these sharks call home have obviously been “training” (as much as you can train sharks) to do this. They even have a sign with the shark’s names on them. So, we move on to another beach where more epipelagic sharks are coming on shore, but again, they really appear to have been conditioned by a shark drive operator to come on shore (and the show REALLY glosses over this part).
We’re then back Down Under to Australia where Andy Cassagrande is trying to catch the behavior of a shark picking a seal off a beach, which was seen once by a local guide – here’s the thing tho: it could have been a one-off aberrant behavior action. Obviously, the act of discovery is finding a new behavior that hasn’t been seen before… and after a month of judicious observation, the result is… nah.
Like I said, it sort of deflates at the end, but some of the footage is fantastic, and hey, science doesn’t always give you an answer. Nurse sharks rule. Just don’t mess with them. They look harmless until you’re being airlifted out of Islamorada with a shark locked on your ribcage.
Well, that’s it! I really want to thank everyone who followed Shark Week with me, even with these unconscionable delays toward the end of the week while I gallivanted around Florida. If you’re in Tampa this July 9-10, stop by SHARK-CON! (http://www.sharkcon.com). I’ll be performing on Saturday poems about Great Whites, Makos, Tigers, Nurse, and Bull sharks! And you can always buy a copy of Chumming the Waters here http://www.lulu.com/shop/bernard-schober/chumming-the-waters/paperback/product-22703337.html (all profits donated to shark conservation)!
See you next Shark Week. Stay sharky, my friends.