Happy Shark Week Eve, fish fans. The annual, eight-day cult classic resumes Sunday on the Discovery Channel, with a lineup that includes “Sharks Gone Wild 2,” “The Sharks of Headstone Hell” and “Isle of Jaws: Blood Brothers.” To mark the occasion, Editor JEFF D’ALESSIO caught up with three authorities on the oft-misunderstood man-eaters. Here’s what he learned:
1. They make for irresistible fictional villains.
“Why do we love sharks? Why do we love Darth Vader? Vampires?” asks STEVE ALTEN, author of the best-selling ‘Meg’ series, which spawned 2018’s creature feature, starring Jason Statham.
“In a sense, sharks are the ultimate antagonists — a very real creature that literally eats those who enter its watery domain. As with all villains, the bigger and nastier, the better.”
2. More people ‘died’ in the first ‘Jaws’ (RIP, Quint) than do during the average year here in the real world.
“Sharks annually kill six people worldwide in less than 80 unprovoked attacks,” says the leading expert on the topic, retired International Shark Attack File director GEORGE BURGESS. “Now, consider those figures with these: Hundreds of millions of homo sapiens enter the seas each year, likely spending close to a billion hours annually in the sea. So your chance as an individual of encountering a shark — far less dying — is incredibly low.”
How low? Burgess’ deep dive into 2000 data revealed the odds of death by shark to be 1 in 264.1 million.
“You are thus far more likely to die on the road coming to or returning from the beach, to drown in the water or to suffer a fatal heart attack while there,” Burgess says. And, “more lacerations are caused by stepping on broken seashells or glass or rocks.”
3. If you ever find yourself at risk of being that 1-in-264.1-million long shot and have no other options, there’s always hypnosis.
Actually, the scientific term for what UI senior research scientist JEFFREY STEIN can attest to working is tonic immobility — or TI, for short.
It’s “a trance-like state that can be induced in sharks by rotating the shark upside down in the water,” Stein says. “The response is temporary, and sharks recover quite quickly once they return upright.
“During a research study — I was a part of examining the shark community in the Bahamas — we used this to our advantage. Once we captured a shark and brought it alongside our research vessel, we maintain control of the shark in the water by the hook and line in its jaw and a rope looped around its tail. We could then reach over the side of the vessel, grab the shark’s fins, and rotate it upside down, putting the shark into TI.
“Keeping the shark upside down, and in this trance-like state, allowed us to take accurate measurements, determine the gender and maturity of the shark, and attach numbered tags to the shark’s dorsal fin. After safely dehooking the shark and removing the rope, we would turn the shark right-side-up, and it would come out of TI and easily swim away, no worse for the wear.”