Saturday, June 25, 2005

Great book about the great white shark

Susan Casey is the author that tells a true story about a person's interest in the great white shark. Posted by Hello

Great stories are still sometimes just waiting to be told, as Susan Casey demonstrates in her intriguing and often compelling new non-fiction title "The Devil's Teeth."

The longtime magazine journalist from New York City takes readers to a little-known outpost of nature where everything seems to be extreme: the weather, the wildlife, the cadre of dedicated scientists who use it as their 211-acre laboratory. Yet the storm-ravaged Farallon Islands sit just 27 miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge and are, in fact, within the San Francisco city limits.

A quarter-million seabirds live in splendid isolation in the Farallones, a national wildlife refuge. That's why a handful of ornithologists have conducted crucial research on seabirds there for decades among the most punishing conditions. And research in the Farallones also has focused on creatures of even more fascination: great white sharks, the predators atop the waterborne food chain.

Great whites are massive killing machines in most people's minds, forever immortalized in "Jaws." Yet here in the Farallones, two obsessed researchers named Scot Anderson and Peter Pyle kept positioning their17-foot Boston Whaler amid blood-red waters and the great whites feasting on elephant seals. The duo hoped to supplement fear of these imperiled creatures with some knowledge.

The Farallon White Shark Project is the focus of "The Devil's Teeth," a poetic title with great double meaning, referring to both the nickname of the Farallones used by 19th century mariners because of their jagged shape and their dangers, and to the sharks themselves. Casey -- through persistence, guile and sometimes foolhardiness -- gives readers an inside view of this ever-perilous research in its "wicked scary" location, focusing on its close-up encounters with great whites and its hard scrap for funding and resources.

Casey has a flair for dramatic description, able to capture the characters she encounters or the landscape around her with equal aplomb. "The Devil's Teeth" succeeds best in painting a gripping portrait of scientists on the outer fringes of society and nature.

"Crack-ups, hookups, breakups, and even, according to Peter (Pyle), four divorces could all be chalked up to the Farallon crucible," Casey writes. "Nervous breakdowns snuck up on people after an eight-week run of bleak weather, a few missed grocery drop-offs, a piggish housemate or two, and days spent watching animals kill and eat each other. Tempers exploded, psyches unraveled."

The pioneering shark research of Pyle and Anderson -- which had been the subject of an award-winning BBC TV documentary that introduced Casey to the subject -- gets the appreciative notice it deserves.

There are so many unforgettable scenes with these Northern California surfer/scientists in their small boat amid the great whites, close enough to recognize individual sharks and even give them names like Bitehead, Bluntnose, Whiteslash and Jerry Garcia. The duo's impressive research included not only wielding tiny underwater cameras on poles but also "tagging" individual sharks with tiny satellite computers to track their journeys to their annual fall return to the Farallones.

The discoveries of these intrepid scientists since 1987 have contradicted many prevailing notions about great whites. These massive creatures, which can reach 20 feet long and 8 feet across, hunt by day rather than night; stalk their prey by eyesight rather than smell (which was one reason they attacked surfers since their boards had a similar shape to seals); travel great distances in deep water rather than haunt the coastlines.

Casey manages to capture all this and even more in "The Devil's Teeth," from the troubled history of humans on the Farallones to current controversies such as invasive tour boats that let paying customers in shark cages view the predators up close.

But "The Devil's Teeth" also is hampered by one great flaw -- the book's riveting early promise of drama and revelation ultimately runs aground on a climax that doesn't climax. Casey uses the chronology of her own Farallones' visits to shape the narrative, a natural impulse for a first-time book writer.

But the problem with that approach is that the final quarter of the book seems focused on her own ill-conceived idea of chartering a sailboat and having it serve as a floating research platform in the Farallones. Conditions on the boat turn grim and its anchored position becomes imperiled and the book's narrative drive stalls as Casey and her own concerns start to take center stage.

Casey's turn from observer to participant is an sad misstep in an otherwise exemplary tale of extremes in nature and in science.

Great white shark might become history sooner than later

Odds are you probably won't, not only because the species -- also known as the white pointer and white death -- is in serious decline (despite global protective measures), but also because examples of this giant fish are only found in certain parts of the world.

One of those places is the Farallon Islands, a small outcropping about 30 miles west of San Francisco. That's where Susan Casey saw the great white -- lots of great whites.

In her book, "The Devil's Teeth" (Henry Holt), Casey describes a part of the planet few people would ever want to visit. Straddling a confluence of powerful wind and ocean currents, the Farallones are lashed year-round by some of the worst weather in the hemisphere, and the surrounding waters are littered with shipwrecks (some dating back centuries) to prove it. ("The Devil's Teeth" is a nickname for a rocky area on one of the islands, not necessarily a shark reference.)

So remote and inhospitable is the area that the U.S. military used it for explosives testing, and sunken, rotting tankers in the area slowly belch oil. Yet, Casey said, this has had surprisingly little effect on the local fauna -- above or below the water.

"So here you have these islands that just happen to be an elephant seal colony," she said. And it's those elephant seals that attract a group of white sharks each year from September to November.

An SUV with teeth

Casey's first assignment in 2001 for Time magazine gained her a strings-attached pass to the islands (federal law strictly limits public access) to observe researchers Peter Pyle and Scot Anderson, whose Sharkwatch has helped shed light on a reclusive and decidedly mysterious animal. (Casey is a development editor for Time Inc., which, like CNN, is a division of Time Warner.)

Sharkwatch's lookouts sent out small boats to motor out to the sites of shark attacks to observe the animal's natural feeding habits. The information is valuable currency: Despite researchers' best efforts, few research facilities exist to monitor and study the animal in the wild.

And what is the great white? A much-misunderstood -- though certainly fearsome -- beast.
Few animal groups on the planet are as old or as well-designed as sharks, a subset of cartilaginous fish which have patrolled the world's waters for 400 million years with few changes to their current form. While early attempts on the evolutionary drawing board produced some oddities, the main assembly-line version has remained nearly identical throughout the ages -- the torpedo shape, stiffened fins and tail, underslung jaw, and an onboard sensor array on a par with that of a Seawolf submarine.

That's the basic model. The great white (which came into being perhaps 10 million years ago, around the time human-like creatures emerged on the world's evolutionary tree) is the reigning champ in its weight class. Imagine a full-sized SUV armed with teeth: three tons and 20 feet of ocean prowler.

The white shark is bigger and heavier than its first cousin the mako, and in its adult form seems to prefer a diet of marine mammals to that of its second cousin, the salmon shark (or others of its own kind, cannibalism being de rigueur for this crowd).

'I'm just a student of this'

Part of the reason white sharks are in decline is due to the morbid fascination they trigger in humans. Shark attacks bring out "Jaws' " Captain Quint in everyone, perhaps because the white shark in particular is a good reminder that humans did not come into being right at the top of the food chain.

And yet, despite the hysteria caused by shark attacks on humans, only a handful occur each year.
As Casey writes, "In any given year more than a thousand people will be maimed by toilet bowl cleaning products or killed by cattle. Less than a dozen will be attacked by a great white shark."
"I'm just a student of this, I'm no scientist or expert. I've read a lot," she said of her own background in sharkdom, which apparently was enough for her to return to the islands for a total of about three weeks over the next three years.

Sharkwatch was shut down in fall 2004, which was one reason Casey gained access -- to show what the program did. Private companies continue to offer sea excursions to the Farallones (and other San Francisco Bay Area sites) to learn about the wildlife, though nothing on the scale of Sharkwatch.

Casey's book offers a well-researched look into the history of the Farallones, the local wildlife (besides the sharks), and the messy and often violent chronicles of the humans who at one time or another saw fit to visit such an inhospitable place.

But it's the sharks that offer some of the most interesting tidbits. In one sense, they struggle to survive. In another, you wouldn't want to spend too much time near them when they're ready for feeding season around the Devil's Teeth.

Captivity, a death sentence for a great white shark

When fishermen off the Southern California coast accidentally caught a juvenile great white shark in their nets eight days ago, it looked like the Monterey Bay Aquarium was getting lucky again.
She was a female, apparently healthy, about 5 feet long and weighing about 60 pounds.

Last August, Southern California fishermen accidentally caught a juvenile great white shark in their nets. She was a female, apparently healthy, about 5 feet long and weighing about 60 pounds.
That time, everything went right, and the great white became the greatest attraction ever at the aquarium, spending a world-record 198 days in captivity before being set free in March because she had grown too large and too aggressive.

This time, however, pretty much everything went wrong, and in less than a week, the new shark was dead.

Aquarium officials said it was a case of not having exactly the right equipment on hand.
"In ideal circumstances we would have put her straight into the ocean pen," said aquarium spokesman Ken Peterson. But the ocean pen wasn't available quite yet. It was being towed up from storage in Mexico and was not due to arrive in Malibu until last Wednesday -- the day the aquarium would begin the fourth season of its long-term great white shark research program.

In the meantime, a holding pool at the Southern California Marine Institute in San Pedro was available. A few years ago, a young great white had spent three and a half days in it before being tagged and released back into the wild.

Aquarium officials thought it might work. After all, the new shark would only have to spend two days there.

So aquarium officials decided to try to keep the new shark.

"It seemed like a reasonable thing to do," Peterson said Tuesday. "... Our husbandry staff had some comfort level." But then, "Something in transit took longer than it should have."

The officials kept thinking, "The pen will be here any day," which turned out to be Friday. That meant the shark had spent about four days in the holding pool -- twice as long as originally expected, but only half a day longer than the earlier shark's stay.

During those four days, "She was swimming really well in the tank and looked really good," according to an employee of the Marine Institute who declined to be identified. "... As good as sharks do in those conditions."

She did not eat, however.

That was worrisome to the aquarium team, but the shark that had stayed in the pool before hadn't eaten either. Besides, at some point the new shark had injured an eye, Peterson said.

"We didn't feel comfortable releasing it into the wild."

So Friday afternoon, as soon as the ocean pen was set up, the team moved the shark, using the same methods they'd used when moving the great white they'd kept before.

The institute employee disagreed that the shark was injured while she was there and speculated that something must have happened while she was being moved.

"It's always a real crapshoot trying to get a white from a holding pen into the ocean pen," he said.
In any case, the move apparently went fine in every other respect.

On Saturday the aquarium team tried to check up on the shark by making a "surface observation," but they never saw her. "Visibility varies day to day," Peterson said.

So Sunday morning they sent in some divers, who found her dead. A necropsy was performed Monday, but results aren't back yet.

It's obvious why aquarium officials would have preferred to keep the great white in the ocean pen from the beginning. Being in it is just about like being free except that netting keeps the shark in one place. One big place. The pen contains four million gallons, and the shark has plenty of room to swim around.

By contrast, the holding pool contains only about 19,000 gallons, and since it's only eight feet deep and 20 feet in diameter, the shark has plenty of chances to bump into walls.

Still, even after her move to the more spacious ocean pen, the shark didn't start eating. The food put in for her was found uneaten Sunday.

If all had gone well, the new shark might have come to live at the aquarium for a while, or she might have simply been tagged and released. Aquarium officials hadn't decided. "We evaluate case by case... to see if it's a candidate to bring back here," Peterson said.

But it's not uncommon for things not to go well when a great white is caught, said Chris Lowe, director of the CSU-Long Beach SharkLab, which collaborates with the aquarium in its shark research program.

"It depends on how long it's been on the line or in the net," he said, "and how stressed it got.... In this case, if they could have got it into the sea pen faster, that might have helped."

Sean Van Sommeran, executive director of the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation in Santa Cruz, is a critic of the aquarium's research. He maintains that in his own program, he's able to tag sharks without catching or injuring them.

"These animals can't be kept long-term," he said, "and short-term captivity compromises them."
But Lowe believes that the aquarium's research is invaluable.

"We're just scratching the surface in terms of what we understand about these animals," he said. "... And we've learned more in the last four years than we did in the previous 50."

And the aquarium continues to believe that its program -- including keeping a great white in captivity -- is a benefit to great whites in general. "There's a million people who have seen a white shark who's living," Peterson said, referring to the shark who drew huge crowds to the aquarium from last September to last March. "... That's a million people who can help make the case for shark conservation."

Last shark attack in South Africa was caused by more than meets to the eye

South African medical student Henri Murray was spear fishing off the coast of Cape Town, the country's main tourism center, when a 5-meter (16-foot) great white shark seized him from below and dragged him away.

The June 4 attack, the third this year, drew banner headlines and newspaper stories across the country suggesting sharks have started targeting bathers, just like in the Jaws movie in 1975. It's also fueling a niche industry in South Africa, where British and German tourists line up to see the predators close up.

``When there is an attack, we get even more people phoning,'' said Kim MacLean, who has run shark diving trips near Cape Town since 1992, in an interview. ``It seems to boost interest.''

The center of the shark tourism industry is Shark Alley, a stretch of ocean between Dyer and Gyser islands, about 100 kilometers southeast of Cape Town, where eight companies offer day trips costing about 1,000 rand ($149) each. It is part of a booming tourism trade that attracts more than 190,000 overseas visitors to South Africa each month and employs 1.2 million people.

In peak season, more than 200 shark watchers, mainly from Britain and Germany, sign up daily for trips costing about 1,000 rand, said Dave Caravias, who runs a central booking agency in the town of Gansbaai, where the Shark Alley boats are based.

Feeding the Sharks

Operators throw sardines, pilchards and fish heads into the water, a technique known as chumming, to lure the sharks closer to their boats. Customers can then descend into a floating steel cage wearing scuba or snorkel gear for a closer encounter with the predators, which can measure up to six meters and weigh more than 3 metric tons.

Not everyone approves.

``The local diving and surfing community has rightfully become increasingly concerned about shark attacks,'' the Shark Concern Group, whose members include a shark attack victim and environmentalists, said in a statement. The risk of attacks may be increasing ``as a result of how humans are interacting with sharks, for example, using shark cage diving and chumming.''

In June last year a shark tour operator's boat caught fire in a Cape Town harbor and police said they suspected an arsonist was responsible.

Regulators and shark experts say there is no causal link between the attacks and the proliferation of the shark tourism industry.

``For the most part, sharks won't attack humans,'' said Len Compagno, a shark expert based at Cape Town's Iziko Museum, who served as a technical adviser on the original Stephen Spielberg movie Jaws about a great white that hunted humans. ``If people were sharks' natural prey a lot more people would be taken. Occasionally you do get an attack but it's rare.''

Sharks vs Bees

Just 46 attacks occurred off South Africa's coastline between 1960 and 2004, eight of them fatal, according to the International Shark Attack file. More people die as a result of bites from bees, wasps or snakes than in shark attacks, according to the Florida- based institute.

South Africa's last fatal shark attack before this month occurred in November, when 77-year-old swimmer Tyna Web was seized by a great white off Cape Town's Fishhoek beach, about 15 kilometers from where Murray, 22, was killed. While no-one has died cage diving, a British tourist narrowly escaped injury in March when a great white attacked the cage he was in.

The government's Marine and Coastal Management department is overseeing new research to tag and monitor sharks in a bid to assess what may influence their movements. It has ruled out revoking a 1991 ban on killing great whites.

``If we had any figures saying we are interfering with the great whites and are changing their behavior, I would shut my business,'' MacLean said.

Craig Ferriera, another tour operator, says that the amount of chum thrown into the water by the handful of operators is miniscule compared with that used by hundreds of commercial fishing boats.

Compagno expects occasional shark attacks to occur as long as humans stray into their natural hunting ground. ``There just are a certain number of incidences that will happen,'' he said ``If you want absolute safety, don't go in the water.''

Who's the real predator?

Thirty years after Jaws first bared his teeth, sharks are still seen as man's deadliest predator. But, really, it's them who should be afraid of us, says Michael McCarthy

Take two marine animals. Both have been subject to relentless slaughter by man. Both may be driven to extinction. Yet the fate of one commands worldwide public sympathy, while for the other there is, at best, indifference. One is a whale, the other a shark.

Dive with the great white sharks for a charity event supporting research for Leukemia

Friday, 17 June 2005, Southampton: State Securities celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and staff are fund raising for Southampton based charity, Leukaemia Busters (reg. charity number 1010957). For Kevin Dew, State Securities Account Manager, diving with Great White sharks was a life long ambition and whilst on holiday in South Africa he decided a shark dive was the perfect opportunity to combine this with raising vital funds for charity.

Following recent press coverage of a near miss with a Great White just before Kevin’s twelve day trip to South Africa, work colleagues thought he was crazy to go diving with sharks through choice ! However, having waited years for the chance Kevin couldn’t wait to get into the water with the Great White.

The location chosen for the dive was a channel between Dyer Island and Geyser Rock called ‘Shark Alley’, just south of the town of Gansbaai. “Catching our first glimpse of Great Whites several metres from the boat was fantastic and coming within a foot of them in the dive cage was completely awe-inspiring.

At nearly 4 metres long, the sharks were very different to what you might expect, they were extremely powerful but not aggressive and even though they had been drawn to the boat with the promise of a free meal, they still appeared very composed and somewhat wary of us”, Kevin enthused.

Kevin’s sponsored shark dive raised a tremendous £250 for Leukaemia Busters. The charity’s mission is to conduct research into and develop new, improved and safer treatments for leukaemia and related conditions. Kevin added, “It was great to be able to raise money for Leukaemia Busters whilst fulfilling one of my life’s ambitions. I’ve already started saving so I can go again !”

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Jaws is basically a Hollywood version of a great white shark...nothing else!

Based on part facts and part fiction, Jaws is responsible for awakening people's fears of the great white shark. Posted by Hello

Jaws, responsible for fears despite the fictious aspects of this movie

Thirty years ago, in the summer of 1975, Jaws had moviegoers paralyzed by fear. The story, about a giant great white shark that terrorizes a seaside community, tapped into the most primal of human fears: What unseen creature lurks below the ocean surface?

Millions of beachgoers heeded the advice of the movie's tagline—"Don't go in the water." They filed into theaters instead, and Jaws became the biggest box office hit to date.

To the dismay of many scientists, however, Jaws cemented a perception in the minds of many people that sharks were stalking, killing machines. The reputation remains entrenched in the public psyche 30 years after the movie's release.

"It perpetuated the myths about sharks as man-eaters and bloodthirsty killers … even though the odds of an individual entering the sea and being attacked by a shark are almost infinitesimal," said George Burgess, a shark biologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
Burgess says the movie initiated a precipitous decline in U.S. shark populations, as thousands of fishers set out to catch trophy sharks after seeing Jaws.

Later, in the 1980s, commercial fisheries further decimated shark populations.
But the phenomenal popularity of the movie also helped the study of sharks, researchers say. Before Jaws, very little was known about the predators. After the film's release, interest in sharks skyrocketed, resulting in increased funding for shark research.

"On the one hand, the movie did damage to sharks, because people saw them as monsters," said Robert Hueter, who directs the Center for Shark Research at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida. "But for scientists, the whole Jaws thing started working in our favor, because of the overexaggerated public interest in these animals."

Mechanical Shark

In the hands of a young director named Steven Spielberg, Jaws, which was based on the best-selling novel by Peter Benchley, was widely hailed as a masterful thriller. Its music score, by John Williams, contains one of the most recognized themes in movie-music history.

Filming was plagued by technical problems. Scenes with a mechanical shark had to be cut, because it did not look believable enough. That, however, only made the movie scarier, heightening the unsettled feeling of helplessness that many moviegoers felt toward the beast, which remained largely unseen.

"The fear of being eaten is ingrained in people," said Mike Heithaus, a marine biology professor at Florida International University in Miami. "If we feel like we have some control or [a] fighting chance, a situation isn't as scary. With sharks there are no trees to climb, and you can't outswim a shark."

Real-life shark attacks, though widely publicized, are extremely rare. People in U.S. coastal areas, for example, are about a hundred times more likely to be struck and killed by lightning than killed by a shark. According to the Florida Museum of Natural History's International Shark Attack File, there were 61 unprovoked shark attacks worldwide in 2004, resulting in seven deaths.

"Those are ridiculously low numbers when you consider the billions and billions of human hours spent in the water every year," said Burgess, who curates the Shark File.

Kill Tournaments

The number of shark attacks has increased over the past several decades, but that is because humans are going into the water in increasing numbers.

Humans are not part of sharks' normal prey.

"Most sharks don't attack prey that is close to their own size, and they can be wary of strange situations or objects they're not used to, like humans," Heithaus, the Miami marine biologist, said. "This makes attacks very unlikely, even if a hungry shark sees a person."

But sharks have suffered greatly at human hands. Between 20 to 100 million sharks are killed by fishing each year, according to the Shark File, which is administered by the American Elasmobranch Society, whose members study sharks, skates, and rays. The organization estimates that some shark populations have plummeted 30 to 50 percent.

That decline can be traced in part back to Jaws. In the years after the movie's release, the number of so-called kill tournaments spiked.

"There was a collective testosterone rush that went though the U.S. in the years following Jaws, where guys just wanted to catch these sharks so they could have their pictures taken with their foot on the head of a man-eater and the jaws later displayed on their mantle," Burgess said.

Biological Buck

When Jaws premiered, scientists knew little about sharks, partly because they were considered a nuisance by fisheries.

"The most important commercial species always get the biological buck in terms of grants and money," Burgess said. "Nobody cared much about sharks. They ate good fish, so they were considered bad by fisheries."

In the 1980s U.S. commercial fisheries turned their attention to sharks. Commercial overfishing further depleted the number of sharks. As shark populations declined, marine ecosystems suffered.

"As a result, we soon started getting funding from fisheries to do basic research on sharks—how old they get, how fast they grow, how many young they make," Burgess said.

Scientists have since learned that sharks, as apex predators, can affect the entire ocean food chain from their position at its top.

Most people, when they hear the word "shark," may still think of a huge great white shark, like the one in Jaws. In reality, there are more than 375 shark species, and only about a dozen are considered particularly dangerous.

But the public is slowly learning, scientists say.

"In the final analysis, Jaws has been a positive thing for the science of sharks," Hueter said, "because it has elevated the public's interest in these animals."

Chumming, a dangerous practice

The Shark Concern Group has called on the government to ban chumming and the use of bait in the shark tourism industry because of the increase in shark attacks.The group, which includes surfers, yachtsmen, scientists and a surgeon, has written to Environment Affairs Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk requesting "urgent action" in shark tourism.Chris Bovim, who was attacked by a great white shark on Christmas Eve in 2002 while crayfishing off Scarborough, said in an open letter to Van Schalkwyk: "From enjoying our ocean in a state of ignorance and abandon, the local diving and surfing community has rightfully become increasingly concerned about shark attacks.

top."We are concerned that the risks have increased as a result of how humans are interacting with sharks, for example using shark-cage diving and chumming. These practices are unnecessary and have ecological implications that are largely unknown.

'We propose boat-based shark viewing without the use of attractants'"We propose boat-based shark viewing without the use of attractants. This would be true eco-tourism."The group has also called on the government to give the great white the same protection as it has in California, where any interference with the shark is forbidden. "If we do not know whether chumming has an effect on great white sharks, then a precautionary approach should be adopted as a matter of extreme urgency," the letter said.

It called for an environmental impact assessment with full public participation so the options could be reviewed.Some of the signatories are zoologist Graham Noble, Olympic yachtsman Ian Ainslie, surgeon and surfer Brian Bernstein, climber and film-maker Chris Lomax, Kommetjie Environmental Awareness Group chair Wally Petersen and At du Plooy, of the SA Institute of Skippers.

Bovim said some research indicated that sharks did become "habituated", in the same way that other animals did. "What is there to lose by banning chumming? We're not calling for cage diving to be banned, just for the industry to be re-engineered. Banning chumming is a start which should be implemented urgently. There had not been sufficient oversight of the shark cage industry," Bovim said.Bovim was attacked about 70m off Scarborough while he was snorkeling.

"The shark was so vast it was like being next to a submarine," Bovim said, recalling the attack.At one stage the shark had both of Bovim's arms in its mouth and Bovim escaped by head-butting the animal repeatedly. He made his way to the shore with "my right hand hanging from my elbow".Bovim has lost some of the use of his right hand.Van Schalkwyk's spokesperson Riaan Aucamp said on Tuesday that the minister took the matter seriously.

His department, with the Universities of Pretoria and Cape Town, the SA Museum and the Natal Sharks Board, was conducting scientific studies on the possible relationship between cage diving and shark attacks.As the research had begun last year, it was too early to have made any findings.

Brave fight with white shark

Piet van Niekerk spoke yesterday of the fear and desperation he experienced when a Great White shark attacked his spear-fishing partner Henri Murray in False Bay on June 4."You know you could lose your life at any minute. Obviously it scared me," he said.Van Niekerk, a fourth-year medical student at Stellenbosch University, said: "Henri was an adrenaline junkie.

He told me before we went into the water he wouldn't mind dying if it was his time to go."During the attack, Murray fought off the shark twice before it caught him in its jaws and wrenched him underwater, Van Niekerk said. "I think the third time it came from underneath and that's why Henri didn't get away," he said.Van Niekerk fired a speargun into the shark, but it disappeared into the sea. He then raced to shore to phone for help.

Despite the trauma of witnessing his friend's gruesome death, Van Niekerk said he would return to the water "as soon as possible". However, he urged safety officials to take measures to prevent future attacks.He also said he thought shark cage diving provoked these attacks.Some officials from the National Sea Rescue Institute said Van Niekerk's description of the latest attack matched accounts of the attack that killed Tyna Webb last year.

In fact, they said, the same shark could be responsible for both. But NSRI spokesman Craig Lambinon said there was not enough information to conclude it was the same shark."You just can't be certain," said Lambinon .

Great white shark responsible for attack

Talk about timing: An expert has confirmed that it was indeed a shark — probably what is commonly known as a Great White — that attacked 17-year-old Ryan Horton of Lacey Township while he was surfing June 5 off 18th Street in Surf City.

That means Horton's shark bite is the state's first unprovoked shark attack in 30 years — in other words, the first such event since 1975, the same year that "Jaws," Steven Spielberg's film about a man-eating shark, debuted at movie theaters across the country.

"I was surfing, I was up and then I fell off and it felt like a baseball bat had whacked my foot," Horton told the Press. "He bit into my foot and tore off a big part of my flesh and skin."

George Burgess, curator of the International Shark Attack File, confirmed it was a white shark bite after seeing photographs of Horton's wound. Burgess told the Press that Horton's bite is the first unprovoked shark bite in 30 years and the 16th ever in the state.

Dr. Richard G. Fernicola, who wrote a book about the deadly shark attacks of 1916 in Matawan Creek and along the Jersey Shore (which inspired the "Jaws" movies), said, "A doctor in the emergency room would never say it was a shark bite unless they were certain because of all the unnecessary hysteria it would cause."

Fran Drew, executive director of the Algonquin Arts Theatre in Manasquan, remembers the hysteria over shark attacks when the movie was released in 1975. Since that time, "Jaws" author Peter Benchley of Princeton has publicly decried the hunting that led to the species' near-extinction.

Drew said she was angered at the film's demonization of sharks.

"(The movie) did a great disservice to sharks. Sport fishing boat captains took great pleasure in hunting sharks for sport and nailing their fins on the pilings," Drew remembered.

The Algonquin Arts Theatre will not be showing "Jaws" in its summer outdoor movie series, but will screen "Flipper."

Fisherman hooked on a great white shark

"I've seen a lot of other sharks. This is the last thing I've ever expected to see," said Tom Trout. Trout went fishing with a friend and their two sons some fifty miles out when something big yanked on the fishing pole. Trout believes he had a great white shark about sixteen feet long on the other end of his line. Trout says he let the shark swim around the boat for awhile before cutting it loose.

"At one point I was going to get on the bow of the boat and take better pictures. I said, 'Bad idea!' I didn't want to be shark bait." Trout says he is thrilled to have his son and their friends there to see the shark. "It's something very few people get to experience. It's an experience of a lifetime."

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Surfer's encounter with a great white shark!

This is what an encounter with a great white might look like for a surfer. Posted by Hello

New Jersey surfer, victim of great white shark attack!

A 17-year-old surfer in New Jersey lost a chunk of leg flesh in what is likely the state's first attack by a Great White shark in 30 years, officials said on Wednesday.

New Jersey resident Ryan Horton was about 25 feet off the beach at Surf City, Long Beach Island early on Sunday afternoon when he felt a sharp pain in his ankle but didn't see what caused it. After paddling back to shore, he was taken to a hospital, Surf City Police said in a statement.

Bob Schoelkopf, director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, New Jersey said photos of the wound confirmed it could only have been made by a Great White.

The last recorded shark attack in New Jersey was at Sandy Hook in 1975, the year of the movie "Jaws," which terrified audiences with tales of Great White attacks.

Although such attacks are very rare, there is evidence that Great Whites live in the waters off New Jersey. In recent summers, naturalists have found signs of the sharks, including two dead sea turtles with 27-inch (68.5-cm) gashes that could only have been caused by a Great White.

Other sharks that share New Jersey waters with swimmers include the "very aggressive" Bull shark; the Mako shark, and the Sand Tiger, none of which could have inflicted the kind of wound Horton suffered, Schoelkopf said.

Schoelkopf said there was no reason for people to change their swimming habits because of the latest incident, noting "there's a greater chance of getting hit by lightning" than of being bitten by a shark.

Worldwide, there were 61 unprovoked shark attacks on humans in 2004, similar to the number in the previous four years, according to the International Shark Attack File, a service run by the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Exciting sighting of a great white shark

A local fisherman says he snagged a great white shark off the coast of St. Augustine."I've seen a lot of other sharks. This is the last thing I've ever expected to see," said Tom Trout.Trout went fishing with a friend and their two sons some fifty miles out when something big yanked on the fishing pole.

Trout believes he had a great white shark about sixteen feet long on the other end of his line.Trout says he let the shark swim around the boat for awhile before cutting it loose."At one point I was going to get on the bow of the boat and take better pictures.

I said, 'Bad idea!' I didn't want to be shark bait."Trout says he is thrilled to have his son and their friends there to see the shark."It's something very few people get to experience. It's an experience of a lifetime."

Great white shark loses battle with a net

A great white shark was found dead in a fishing net in the sea three miles west of SangWangDeung Island off North Jeolla Province on Tuesday morning.

According to the Gunsan National Maritime Police Agency, a 2 m long great white shark was caught in a net cast by a trawler the day before. The shark was taken to a nearby fish market and sold for W80,000(US$80).

Great white sharks occasionally appear on the west coast between May and August when sea-surface temperatures reach 15 degrees. The breed, which has had a special status in people imagination since the Steven Spielberg movie "Jaws", killed five fishermen on the coast off Gunsan and Daecheon between 1981 and 1996.

When confronting a great white shark, the less you do the better, advises Prof. Choi Yoon from the College of Ocean Science and Technology at Gunsan University. Do not stimulate it by moving hastily. Instead, stay low, remain still, and observe its movement. When it attacks you, use your fishing tackle to forcefully strike down at its mouth or slowly push it away.

Culling, a barbarian way that is forbidden for a reason!

Civilisation has outgrown animal bounties, an oceanographic scientist said on Monday following calls to hunt down sharks after an attack on a Cape spear-fisherman."Bounties come from the Dark Ages," said Professor Rudy van der Elst, director of the Oceanographic Research Institute in Durban.

He was responding to the weekend's shark attack on medical student Henri Murray, whose body had still not been recovered by Monday afternoon.Murray was spear-fishing with a friend in False Bay on Sunday when he was taken by a great white shark. His death has sparked calls for the culling of problem sharks.Van der Elst said civilisation has outgrown the practice of bounties being placed on animals considered to be dangerous to humans, such as crocodiles.

He said hunting great whites, who are apex predators, could harm the "delicate balance" of the ecosystem, and lead, for instance, to an excess of seals.Van der Elst said elephants are only culled when they are in excess to the natural system, and not indiscriminately.He attributed the fact that the great white population along the Cape coast remains stable -- and has even increased -- to the sharks being a protected species in South Africa.

While the death of Murray is "absolutely awful", the reality is that spear-fishing is a "high-error" situation that could be harmful to humans."The individual has to decide whether [the] risk is worth it ... It's as simple as that," Van der Elst said.Concurring with Van der Elst's sentiments, Natal Sharks Board deputy CEO Mike Anderson-Reade said culling or placing bounties on sharks will not solve the problem of shark attacks.

"The chances of culling the right shark are very, very slim."Sharks will be killed unnecessarily, "willy-nilly", and Anderson-Reade cautioned against overreaction.In Cape newspapers, Godfrey Mocke of the Swimsafe Project has called for a bounty to be placed on great white sharks.He said it would be easy for Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk to declare sharks as bait.

"It would be easy for the environment minister to mark the area from Cape Point to Hangklip and a 2km strip from the high-water mark out and say, 'OK, boys, go for it. Do your thing,'" Mocke was quoted as saying.Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism spokesperson Carol Moses said great whites are protected animals and the department will not support the killing of these sharks."Anyone found killing them will be guilty of a criminal offence," she said.

No bounty hunting will be tolerated!

THE great white shark which killed a Cape Town spear fisherman on Sunday was spotted yesterday dragging the buoy to which its victim had fixed a hooked line to secure his catch.
The 20ft shark that claimed the life of Henri Murray was seen by men fishing from rocks at Simon's Town and Kalk Bay, two Cape Town suburbs on False Bay, west of the city.

Some of the fishermen said the shark was also trailing a spear gun, suggesting that Mr Murray's diving companion, Piet van Niekerk, had successfully shot the fish in an attempt to save his friend.
There were growing calls yesterday for an end to the protected status that great whites have enjoyed in South African waters since 1990.

Godfrey Mocke, the manager of Swimsafe, an organisation lobbying for greater safety at sea for South Africa's growing populations of divers, surfers, swimmers and rowers, said it was time to allow shark "bounty hunts", similar to those operated off the coast of South Australia.

American game fishermen have offered the Western Cape area government £275,000 a shark to be allowed to fish for great whites.

Mr Mocke said "bounty hunts" would thin out the great white population which has grown over the past 15 years and allow a three-mile stretch of water at False Bay to be made totally safe for swimming.

He was supported by Edward Haysman, South Africa's champion spear fisherman, who has himself been attacked by a great white and no longer dives off certain parts of the coast where the shark populations have noticeably increased.

But Grant Fallows, one of the country's leading shark conservationists and wildlife photographers, condemned the calls to renew great white hunting. "It's astounding and disgraceful that there is such a lack of understanding of our marine predators," he said.

"Our great white sharks are seen as an incredible asset by international tourists."

Culling a great white shark is illegal and will be prosecuted!

Civilisation has outgrown animal bounties, an oceanographic scientist said on Monday following calls to hunt down sharks after an attack on a Cape spear fisherman.

"Bounties come from the Dark Ages," said Professor Rudy van der Elst, director of the Oceanographic Research Institute in Durban.

Van der Elst was responding to the shark attack on medical student Henri Murray, 22, whose body had still not been recovered by Monday afternoon.

Murray was spear fishing with a friend in False Bay on Sunday when he was taken by a Great White shark. His death sparked calls for the culling of problem sharks.

Van der Elst said civilisation had outgrown the practice of bounties being placed on animals considered to be dangerous to humans, such as crocodiles.

He said hunting Great Whites, who were apex predators, could harm the "delicate balance" of the eco-system, leading for instance to an excess of seals.

Van der Elst said elephants were only culled when they were in excess to the natural system, and were not killed indiscriminately.

He attributed the fact that the Great White population along the Cape coast remained stable, and had even increased, to the sharks being a protected species in South Africa.

While the death of Murray was "absolutely awful" the reality was that spear-fishing was a "high-error" situation that could become harmful to humans.

"The point is that there is already association with lots of things in life, whether in a motorcar, swimming or spear-fishing, and the individual has to decide whether that risk is worth it... It's as simple as that."

Concurring with Van der Elst's sentiments, Natal Sharks Board deputy CEO Mike Anderson-Reade said culling or bounties on sharks would not solve the problem of shark attacks.
"The chances of culling the right shark are very, very slim."

Sharks would be killed unnecessarily, "willy nilly", and Anderson-Reade cautioned against over-reaction.

In Cape newspapers, Godfrey Mocke of the Swimsafe Project has called for a bounty to be placed on Great White Sharks.

He said it was easy for Environmental Affairs Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk to declare sharks as bait.

"It would be easy for the Environment Minister to mark the area from Cape Point to Hangklip and a two kilometre strip from the high-water mark out and say 'OK boys, go for it. Do your thing'," Mocke was quoted as saying.

Environmental Affairs department spokesperson Carol Moses said Great Whites were protected species and the department would not support the killing of these sharks.

"And anyone found killing them will be guilty of a criminal offence," she said.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Diver swallowed by a great white shark, Jaws style

A SCUBA diver was swallowed almost whole by a great white shark yesterday in a Jaws-style attack just offshore from Cape Town.

Conservationists are now expecting renewed calls for killer sharks to be hunted down following the death of medical student Henri Murray, 22 - the latest in a series of attacks. Great whites have been a protected species in South African waters since 1990, but calls for a cull have been growing following the deaths of several South African swimmers and surfers this year.

Two British surfers survived - although one needed 200 stitches to leg wounds and the other had to have 100 stitches to torn hips and buttocks. In yesterday's attack, Mr Murray's diving partner, 23-year-old Piet van Niekerk, shot the great white with his speargun in a desperate attempt to drive it away, but he did not see his friend again.

Dave Estment, a yachtsman, was sitting on the jetty at Simon's Town, near Cape Town, when he saw the great white breach the surface.

"It was incredibly fast. The two spear fishermen were not far from the beach. Suddenly a huge shark surged from under the water taking the one diver [from his legs upwards] to his arms in its jaws," he said.

"It must have been massive to have done that. Then the shark and the man just vanished." Other witnesses to the attack estimated the shark's length at 20 feet.

Hundreds of onlookers lined the coastal road yesterday as a helicopter, police diver and boat search was carried out in an unsuccessful attempt to find the body of Mr Murray, who was studying at the University of Stellenbosch.

Divers from the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) recovered a weightbelt - so damaged that it looked as though it had been sliced through with a knife - a mask, a speargun, a rubber flipper and a buoy with speared fish that had been attached to a trailing line.

NSRI spokesman Craig Lambinon said he believed the shark could have been attracted by the fish. Great white shark tour operators, who lower visitors in cages among the great whites, use chopped-up fish to lure sharks to the cages.

Dr Cleeve Robertson, head of Cape Town's emergency services, said Mr Van Niekerk, a university friend of Mr Murray, was extremely traumatised by the attack.
He and members of Mr Murray's family were receiving counselling.

Dr Robertson said the spear, designed for smaller fish, was unlikely to have caused much damage to the great white.

Singer scares of a great white shark while filming new show

The former Sex Pistol came face to face with the shark while diving off Cape Town.

But the shark, rated nature's most ruthless killing machine, turned tale and fled, says the Daily Star.
The singer, who now goes by his real name John Lydon,
was in a diving cage in an area called Shark Alley.
He was filming for Channel Five's John Lydon's Shark Attack which is to be screened on November 3.

As his cage went underwater, Lydon says: "I'm an ugly old sod - but what you are about to see is a proper set of dentures."

A Five source said: "It's a pretty tense moment as John and the shark stare at each other - but the shark appears more frightened."

Fiction is not facts but still hurt the great white shark

Chris Fallows, shark conservationist and wildlife photographer, is angry; the great white sharks that are his subjects have been given a raw deal of late. "It’s astounding and disgraceful that there is such a lack of understanding of our marine predators," says Fallows. "Our great white sharks are seen as an incredible asset by international tourists — more and more of them are travelling huge distances just to come and view them — I just wish the local population would see them in the same way."

South Africa’s coastline offers the best viewing of great white sharks in the world. Fallows and his wife Monique have made a living out of photographing the whites and are especially known for their pictures of the sharks breaching: when they explode out of the sea while hunting seals swimming near the surface.

Breaching behaviour is particularly common around Seal Island, where the Fallows run small trips through their company, Apex Images Expeditions. "The tours are small and aimed at naturalists and scientists who are concerned with shark conservation," he says.

Fallows has worked with National Geographic, Discovery Channel and the BBC among others to produce films and photographs that have reached millions. His interview with National Geographic and the accompanying images were the number one story on the society’s website last year, receiving over 1.3 million visitors.

An unnecessarily dark cloud

Naturally, the tourism draw card for South Africa is huge, but recent attacks (shark pundits prefer to call them ‘encounters’) off Cape Town’s beaches, and the media response to them, have cast an unnecessarily dark cloud over the subject of sharks and tourism. There are a handful of shark cage diving tour operators who rely on a gung-ho approach to viewing sharks that tends to feed off the general fear of the whites, often stirred up by the media in response to attacks.

But the majority of operators are actually doing a great deal to run eco-sensitive tours and many are members of the Great White Shark Protection Foundation that places an emphasis on education, shark conservation and the well-being of guests.

In fact, conservationists like Fallows say that the number of encounters between sharks and humans have increased only marginally — due largely to there being more swimmers in the sea — and certainly have no connection to an increase in Great White shark numbers, which are actually stable to slightly decreasing with more sharks on our coastlines being hooked or poached.

Reports of a ‘Jaws’ off the Cape coastline, theories of targeted attacks and other media sensations are far from the truth and, say biologists, have only served to worsen the already precarious relationship between man and beast. Leslie Rochat is an environmental journalist and founder of the Afri-Oceans Conservation Association (AOCA), a non-profit group backed by the Save Our Seas foundation.

She's part of a special shark task team formed to deal with the perceived rise in shark attacks and to build awareness among Capetonians about sharks, in particular Great Whites and Ragged-tooths, the species on which Rochat has centred most of her work.

"The AOCA has three arms: one dedicated to science and research, another to education and awareness and the third to filming," she says. "Science alone can’t debunk the 'Jaws' myth — people need to be educated about sharks, that not all of them are dangerous and that most ‘attacks’ that occur are due to mistaken identity."

According to Rochat, sharks play an integral role in the marine environment. Without them, our fish stocks would decrease and fishermen, as well as every person who enjoys a good dish of seafood, would suffer. "The biggest threat to sharks are the nets, where most of them die, and anglers who catch Raggies and other shark species," she says.

Fallows agrees. He describes the KwaZulu-Natal shark nets, which kill as many as 60 Great Whites a year, as "a disgrace". Moves to remove the nets, though once under discussion, have somehow fizzled out. "The KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board are a fishing company," says Rochat. "Though they feign conservation, they run a business making money from the fish they pull out of those nets. It’s quite ironic, really, that they slice open sharks for tourists all in the name of conservation."

Regulating anglers

Fallows suggests that extending electronic barriers or creating more tidal pools could make bathers in the Cape feel safer. As for regulating anglers, Fallows has publicly attacked marine policing operations. "Illegal fishing for Great Whites openly takes place in South Africa, with the perpetrators being so brazen as to advertise their activities in some of the world’s largest game fishing magazines," he wrote on National Geographic’s website. "On a larger scale, commercial fishing for various species of sharks goes unchecked, and virtually no regulations are in place to prevent the decimation of our shark stocks."

Diving (cage and other) operators have also come under fire from conservationists for being insensitive to sharks, since they often allow tourists to dive too close to breeding female Raggies (particularly on the northern KwaZulu-Natal coast). Many cage diving operators have also been criticised for chumming — throwing offal and blood into the water to attract Great Whites.

Chumming not to blame

But experts agree that chumming is not actually to blame for the increase in attacks. Cage diving takes place in areas where sharks occur naturally and the media’s theory that chumming has bred a taste for human blood in Great Whites — a kind of Tsavo lion story for the sea — is false. "Fishing vessels have been chumming for as long as the fishing industry has been alive in the Cape," explains Rochat.

But while the media searches for answers (in sometimes weird and wonderful places), sharks — particularly Great Whites and Raggies — continue to have a bad name and swimmers and surfers still feel unsafe. Will isolated shark attacks serve to deter tourism, or can our sharks be used to attract tourists in other ways?

Fallows and Rochat agree that it all boils down to awareness. As soon as Capetonians become aware of the beauty and importance of sharks, that they are both an ecological treasure as well as a vast tourism resource, then the real reason behind shark attacks off our shores could be uncovered.

While Great White viewing as they hunt off Seal Island in False Bay is unsurpassed anywhere in the world, South Africa’s seas are the only place where Ragged-tooth shark populations are considered ‘healthy’. Australia’s Ragged-tooth sharks, which were blamed (wrongly) for a spate of attacks in the '60s, have never recovered from the resultant targeted fishing.

"The ignorance among Capetonians about our sharks, and their willingness to lap up media sensationalism on the subject, continues to amaze me," says Rochat, whose organisation will erect shark information boards on several Cape Town beaches by November.

Fallows explains: "We want to make as many people as possible aware of the beauty and importance of sharks, the threats they face, and what we can do to protect them and conserve them."

Video game released and promising

Jaws UnleashedFACT SHEETPublisher: Majesco EntertainmentDeveloper: Appaloosa InteractiveGenre: ActionPlatform(s): PlayStation 2, Xbox, PCTarget Street Date: August 2005Rating: RPMedia Contact: Laura Heeb, HighWater Group PRGame Background:JAWS, from Universal Pictures and Steven Spielberg, broke all box office records to become one of the highest grossing films of its time.

The movie has had a lasting impact spanning decades and now JAWS Unleashed is poised to recapture the horror of being preyed upon by the most feared creature in the ocean. JAWS Unleashed recreates scenes and character spinoffs from the movie while allowing the player to experience the JAWS universe from a unique perspective—that of the Great White Shark.

Game Storyline:Amity Island is growing, making corporate connections with prestigious companies like Environplus to improve the Island’s economy. Unfortunately the increased population around the Island and recent industrial activity has also attracted YOU--one of Earth’s most fearsome creatures--a Great White Shark.

When the Environplus CEO’s son falls prey to your deadly attacks, the CEO hires renowned shark hunter Cruz Ruddock to track and kill you. Meanwhile, Marine Biologist Michael Brody tries to capture you for research. Can Ruddock and Brody stop you from wreaking havoc before the 4th of July celebration?

Game Features:

• Players take control of Jaws the Great White Shark while playing out themes and in locations from the JAWS film universe

• More than 10 meticulously detailed, destructible environments, each with unique designs and intense action

• Unleash real-time damage on intelligent enemies, vehicles and structures

• Perform a variety of stunning underwater, surface and air attacks via a user-friendly combat system

• Dismemberment engine provides multiple points of disconnection

• Follow story-based missions or choose to freely roam the island and its surroundings wreaking havoc

• Encounter multiple side missions/challenges including timed destruction, stealth, chase and others

• Face fearsome arena bosses including killer whales, giant squid, powerful boats and more

• See your victims before they know you’re coming and target lock on enemies from afar with Shark Vision

• Created by Appaloosa Interactive, developer of the award-winning Ecco the Dolphin series.Jaws is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned - Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13).

Fishing catch unfortunately ends up being a great white shark

A great white shark, estimated at more than 8 feet long, was caught by Rick Brackins of Tampa on a recent trip to the Florida Middle Grounds aboard the Sea Born with Richard Perez of Tampa.

The shark photos were forwarded to Mote Marine Labs in Sarasota, where Bob Hueter, director of the Center for Shark Research, identified it as a great white.

``Great whites are rare in the Gulf in summer, but not unheard of,'' Hueter said. ``The large dark eye and the teeth identify it positively.''

Brackins said the shark grabbed a cut bait fished on bottom for grouper. Though he had only an 80-pound-test monofilament leader, the hook caught in the corner of the jaw and evaded the razor-edged teeth. He said it took about 25 minutes to bring it to the boat. The shark was broken off and swam away in good condition after the photos, Brackins said.

Though it was a big fish, the shark was a baby as great whites go. They're known to reach lengths of 21 feet and weights of more than 4,000 pounds.

Friday, June 03, 2005

The story of a great white shark left quite an impression

Go ahead, try to conjure a more deprived eight-year-old boy than Erik Hollander. It was the summer of 1975, and he was--so he claims--pretty much the only third-grader in the entire city of Jacksonville, Fla., who hadn't yet seen the new hit movie "Jaws," who hadn't thrilled to the story of a great white shark terrorizing an island resort community.

"My parents thought it was too intense for young children," recalls Mr. Hollander, who speculates that such overprotectiveness maybe, just maybe, had something to do with the fact that his family lived right near the beach.

It's safe to say that Mr. Hollander, a Nashville-based documentary filmmaker, has more than made up for lost time. Since the age of 12 when--finally!--he was permitted to join the mainstream and catch "Jaws" on its repeat visit to local theaters, he's seen the movie hundreds of times. When it was first on television--before the VCR era--Mr. Hollander made an audiocassette recording and played it daily until he'd memorized every word and every sound effect.

He has, in the intervening years, collected props from the movie, among them the duffel bag and diving mask used by Richard Dreyfuss's character, a "Beach Closed" sign, an oxygen tank, a gun and the treasure of treasures: the buoy from the heart-stopping opening scene.

"You walk into my house and it's like a 'Jaws' museum. There are posters on the walls and autographs of the movie's stars," says Mr. Hollander, who's currently at work on a documentary about the impact and legacy of his favorite movie.

This weekend he, along with an estimated 2,000 other fin-atics will be on Martha's Vineyard where much of the movie was filmed. The Vineyard served as the stand-in for Amity Island, and fittingly, it's the site of Jawsfest, the three-day 30th anniversary tribute to the movie whose $471 million world-wide box office take since opening day June 20, 1975, helped usher in the summer blockbuster and elevated the man-against-monster saga from bottom of the double feature to A-list fare. It also launched a wave of spoofs and moments of homage in movies as diverse as "Clerks," "Stakeout," "Big Fat Liar," "Caddyshack," "Finding Nemo," "Shark Tale" and "Open Water"--to say nothing of the immortal "Land Shark" skit on "Saturday Night Live."

Jawsfest, whose attractions will include memorabilia displays, a lecture by a marine biologist, elbow-rubbing opportunities with some members of the cast and crew, a beach bonfire (just like the one in the movie) and an outdoor screening, will offer ample ammo to those who want to get no closer to the water than a table at Red Lobster.

Landlubbers must also contend with the mid-June surfacing of the "Jaws 30th Anniversary Edition DVD," which includes an interview with director Steven Spielberg; the release of a "Jaws" video game; the 30th anniversary edition of "The Jaws Log," a chronicle of the production by the movie's co-screenwriter Carl Gottlieb, who will also be at Jawsfest; the publication of "Shark Life," a nonfiction book aimed at young adults by Peter Benchley, as well as the 30th anniversary edition of his novel "Jaws."

"I had spent days with my editor thinking of the title," recalls Mr. Benchley, who's scheduled to be signing books this weekend on Martha's Vineyard. He'd considered and discarded the rather Francoise Sagan-ish "A Stillness in the Water," as well as the apocalyptic "Leviathan Rising" and "Jaws of Death." "Finally I said 'well, we can't agree on a title, but we can agree on a word: 'Jaws.'"
"This is all so astonishing to me," Mr. Benchley adds. "It's breathtaking that 'Jaws' is remembered, let alone that is has a life as a phenomenon."

"It's unusual for a 30-year-old to have so profound an effect on the culture. It's more surprising when the 30-year-old is a shark," agrees Mr. Gottlieb, who like many others can't discuss the staying power of "Jaws" without aid of the word "primal." "Deep water with big nasty things that fight are ingrained in our primal brains. I think we're hard wired to be afraid of that stuff. If you're putting together a 'one kit scares all,' you've got to include a shark. In my files I have a memo to Spielberg that says, 'If we do this right people will feel about the ocean the way they felt about taking a shower after 'Psycho.'"

Perhaps Mr. Gottlieb succeeded too well. "For the last 29 years, every time I've told someone I worked on 'Jaws,' the response has been 'I didn't go in the water for a year,' 'I haven't gone in my pool.' You don't want to keep hearing that same compliment," he says. "The preferred compliment," clarifies Mr. Gottlieb, "is 'what brilliant dialogue and construction. You gave Steven Spielberg a lot to work with.' "

Talk primal fear all you want with "Jaws" co-producer David Brown. His terror had nothing to do with great white sharks and all to do with great empty movie theaters. There he was at the movie's first preview in a Dallas shopping center far from any salt water. The theater marquee read simply "Big Fish Story."

"This was in the days when preview audiences would fill out comment cards, and the only one I remember--I'm cleaning up the language--was, 'It's a great movie. Don't screw it up,' " recalls Mr. Brown. "We sat there and wondered if it could all be true. But we had heard the screams."
The second screening, this time in the Los Angeles area, alarmingly close to salt water, was equally grand, according to Mr. Brown.

Then, when the cast and crew, all witnesses to the malfunctions of the mechanical "stunt" shark, saw the movie, "and they were still jumping out of their seats--well, then we knew," says Mr. Brown, who recently saw the movie on television. "It didn't seem dated at all. It still resonated.
Scheduling conflicts will keep Mr. Brown on the island of Manhattan this weekend. But has he any fond memories of the Vineyard? Perhaps some cherished "Jaws" memorabilia? "No shark teeth," he says serenely. "I just have my checks.

"And a few municipal bonds."