Mythbusters Jaws Special

Series: Shark Week featuring Mythbusters – Jaws Special (Disc 1)

Shark Week
Shark Week

Shark Week features annually on the Discovery Channel. It’s been condemned for taking a sensationalist approach to sharks and shark attacks, but Tony and I loved the Air Jaws episodes produced by our own Chris Fallows of Cape Town. This two-DVD set is season 4 of Shark Week screened in 2005 (the 30th anniversary of the release of Jaws), and features a range of programs all about sharks.

Here are reviews of the features on the first disc of the DVD pack. I must admit I wasn’t filled with optimism when we started watching…

Blood in the Water

Blood in the Water is a feature-length made for television movie that documents the five shark attacks that took place off the New Jersey coastline of the United States in 1916. It’s high on gore – seriously, there are some VERY graphic re-enactments of the attacks, featuring an animatronic shark, and the resulting injuries are lingered over by the camera. There’s a LOT of blood. Just seeing the shark attacks was quite disturbing (and not necessarily helpful).

What was interesting was to hear just what a poor state marine science was in 100 years ago. At that stage, scientists had no idea that a shark possessed the strength to bite through human limbs, and wild conspiracy theories flew back and forth.

The documentary is filmed as though it was made by a documentary filmmaker in 1916. The protagonists (except the shark) are interviewed, all in period costume, and we witness all the attacks, and the aftermath. A newspaper reporter provides continuity, as we see him delivering his reports on the events by phone. The voice-over artist who provides the narration has one of those fat, dramatic (cheesily so) voices that was made to sow hysteria and talk about shark attacks.

There’s very little science. The question of what kind of shark it was isn’t addressed in any detail – at first it was thought to be a great white, but then three attacks took place in a freshwater creek, at locations up to 3 kilometres from the sea. Bull sharks are comfortable swimming up rivers, but even with the spring high tides that were a feature of the day of the attacks, I find it hard to believe that a great white would venture so far from the ocean.

I plan to read Close to Shore and see whether that sheds any light on the subject.

Deadly Waters

Deadly Waters is presented by the excitable Les Stroud, and starts with him jumping out of a helicopter into a swirling maelstrom of sharks. He is one of those people who has a career encapsulated in his job title, and then (perhaps out of insecurity?) tacks on something totally inappropriate that minimises everything that went before. So, he’s a Filmmaker, Outdoor Adventurer, Singer-Songwriter, Performer. Don’t worry, Les – we have encountered the odd Shark Conservationist, Actress (in breakfast cereal commercials), Underwear Model

Using data on shark attacks and fatalities, he visits each of five “hotspots” he’s identified, in order to FIND OUT WHAT MAKES THESE WATERS SO DEADLY. It’s very exciting. My favourite part was when his crew made a chumsicle – yes, a chumsicle, of frozen fish bits and goop – to drag behind the boat at the speed of a human swimmer. Actually I just liked the way they kept saying “chumsicle.”

To be honest after ten minutes of Mr Stroud’s close-talking, arm-waving high-energy sensationalism I was ready to rip off my laptop screen and hurl it at the wall… This show helped me to understand why Shark Week has been criticised for its take on sharks. It’s sensational, unscientific (to the point of being laughable) and focuses on sharks as predators of humans. There’s very little explanation of accidental predations, no discussion of the fact that sharks don’t actually seek out human flesh because they like the taste (they don’t) and no actual shark experts except for those whose knowledge is entirely anecdotal.

Fast forward.

Great White Waters

It doesn’t get any better. I thought Les Stroud was a buffoon, and whoever the host of this effort ranks just above him on the list of clueless entertainers. I thought Deadly Waters was unscientific, but this show’s effort to plumb the depths of a great white shark’s appetite reaches entirely new levels of pseudoscience.

Avoid.

You can get the DVD set here.

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Clare

Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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