It’s Shark Week and, once again, I find myself watching many of the shows that get recycled every year and as many of the new ones as I can. This season, I’ve been captivated by two in particular.
“Ultimate Air Jaws” is an astounding documentary about great white sharks that gather in large numbers around Seal Island south of Cape Town, South Africa. In the hunt for the seals, they actually leap out of the water, sometimes doing flips and headstands, and this behavior is seen more frequently around Seal Island than anywhere else in the world. To see these magnificent yet fearsome creatures perform these acrobatics is, well, just plain awesome.
Then there is the story of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, the World War II ship torpedoed in 1945. Nearly 1200 men were on the ship but only about 900 made it into the water in the twelve minutes before she sank. Of those, only 317 survived the five nights and four days of the unimaginable ordeal. Those who didn’t make it succumbed to burns, starvation, thirst and the hundreds of circling sharks and the re-enactment of the story, narrated by Richard Dreyfuss, is completely spellbinding.
Why do we have such an enthrallment with these animals? Like so many others of my generation, I knew about sharks when I was growing up but it took a movie, “Jaws”, to implant them in my brain as a real danger. That movie was incredible and it still is today, less-than-exciting mechanical creature notwithstanding. With the fear, though, also came a fascination that has never gone away. I read the book by Peter Benchley after seeing the movie but was somewhat disappointed; this is one of those times when the movie is much better, probably because of the visual and audio effects. Still, I thank Mr. Benchley for writing a book that Spielberg wanted to film.