Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Susan Casey has a story to tell about...great white sharks

In a congested, cluttered and confusing world in which we know way too much about way too much, there are the great white sharks of which we know almost nothing.

Susan Casey, a magazine writer, was sitting in her New York City apartment in 1998, watching a BBC documentary about the three-month white-shark season at the Farallone Islands about 30 miles west of San Francisco.

Mesmerized, she decided she had to go to the desolate, dangerous Farallones. But then reality struck. She found out that being one of the eight people allowed by law on those islands is a tougher ticket than being invited to dinner at the White House.

Her obsession set and hardened as evidenced in her book's subtitle: A True Story of Obsession and Survival Among America's Great White Sharks.

Obviously adventurous, Casey reads her own words with a voice, like raindrops on tin, that will seduce you with an intimacy that enhances her story.

In 2001, Casey finagled a trip to the Farallones to join the few marine scientists living in one of the islands' two squalid, falling-down houses built in the 1870s.

"Threadbare towels thumbtacked over the windows served as makeshift curtains. The mattresses looked like Rorschach tests, the paint was peeling, the plaster was cracking, and the dresser was marked 'Property of the U.S. Coast Guard.' "

She went from loving to tolerating the harsh living conditions because she so desperately wanted to see 20-foot sharks "as wide as a Mack truck."

Two handsome, rugged, 40-ish marine scientists — Peter Pyle and Scot Anderson — are Casey's main characters as they videotape and tag sharks. Trapped in a dangerous place with science geeks studying mysterious monsters, Casey has woven a taut, first-person tale about mysterious monsters that captured her and will capture you.


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