GREAT WHITE SERIAL KILLER: #ExtraSharky: A program dedicated to understanding a series of Great White shark attacks off the coast of Lompoke, California, at a place called Surf Beach. The first fatal attack (on young Lucas Ransom) happened in October of 2010, and the second (on Francisco Solorio) happened exactly 2 years and one day later at the same beach. Coincidence?? I think not.
As the researchers explain, most shark "attacks" are actually not attacks at all, but investigation bites - these Great Whites don't have hands (duh), so they have to use their mouths to do the investigating. While these bites do leave tooth punctures and are often mistaken for attacks, they are generally non-fatal. But at Surf Beach, this wasn't the modus operandi. Rather, shark scientists discovered that these were true, predatory attacks, made by a Great White in full-blown hunting mode. These two attacks, two years apart, shared many of the same characteristics, begging the question of whether Surf Beach is just an area that attracts Great Whites...or if there is a Great White serial killer lurking in the shadows.
The investigation takes the crew to New Zealand, to an area some of the most aggressive Great Whites on the planet call home, to compare the nature of those aggressive predators with the nature of the attacks made at Surf Beach. It is here that, among a number of Great Whites, we meet the real star of the show, "Slash" - a Great White with a giant gash near its mouth who became a local legend after escaping a fisherman's hook. Ol' Slash is, apparently, master of the "sneak attack."
The crew then takes its observations from the New Zealand sharks back to California, where, to get a better idea of what a shark attack by a Great White looks like to a victim, one researcher gets in a submerged shark cage with a plexiglass panel (i.e., NO. BARS.). Panic ensues, especially when an 18 ft Great White shows up and immediately starts attacking the cage's flotation devices in an effort to sink the cage (think Deep Blue Sea, but FOR REAL). WHAT!?! Craziness.
But back to the facts - we learn that Great Whites, especially pregnant females, hit the same migratory routes year after year, which could support the theory that these attacks at Surf Beach were made by one angry lady. Apparently, on these migratory routes, the sharks congregate at specific locations (called anchor points), a tactic to which human serial killers are also prone. The researchers then bring in a criminal profiler who has been conducting a study in which Great White hunting techniques are compared to those of serial killers, and GUESS WHAT: the same algorithm that works for predicting serial killers' next moves works on Great Whites - these majestic sea monsters have specific anchor points for ambushing seals that can be geographically predicted.
But the question remains - were the attacks at Surf Beach the work of a single predator, or is there a herd of Great Whites silently waiting off the coast? Evidence shows that more than one animal was likely involved, as high levels of domoic acid in the water (the highest on the entire West Coast, actually) were shown to be causing massive fish casualties in the area, bringing in larger predators like sharks and seals. And (GET THIS) domoic acid also makes seals lethargic and almost drunk-like in their mannerisms, making them easy prey for sharks. It's no wonder Surf Beach turned into an all-you-can-eat shark-style buffet!
Factual Takeaways and Interesting Tidbits:
- There are only 220 Great Whites in California waters.
- Great Whites are actually pretty choosy about what they attack - they won't eat just anybody.
- White Sharks have been known to change their diet based on the availability of prey (e.g., fish v. seals).
- Floating stationary on a surf board may be more dangerous than actually surfing - most attacks on surfers take place while they are waiting for waves as opposed to actually surfing them, and in the tests conducted, a non-moving decoy proved to be more attractive to the sharks than a moving one.
- Most apex predators use anchor points (e.g., lions, bears and SHARKS).
- Biggest difference between human serial killers and Great Whites? Motivation - humans kill for psychological reasons, sharks kill for survival.
Bottom Line: "The most dangerous sharks aren't the ones you see - it's the ones you never see coming." Truth bombs.
JAWS STRIKES BACK: In this program, an underwater shark camera, called Shark Cam, is used to film sharks at depths of up to 300 feet below the surface as they stalk elephant seals at Guadalupe Island, 250 miles off the San Diego coast line. In other words, the researchers were going to use this underwater camera to determine what an attack looks like from the victim's point of view. And since most victims a) are seals, and b) rarely (if ever) survive, such behavior that far below the surface has never before been documented. Until NOW.
We learn that no one has actually seen a Great White attack an elephant seal in what should be a feeding paradise, which doesn't make a lot of sense given that there are seals EVERYWHERE on this island and there are sharks EVERYWHERE beneath the surface. The researchers think it's because the attacks are happening down in the depths of the ocean, but they want to see if they can prove it.
So over the course of the show, we see the researchers tag three Great Whites at the surface of the water - "Johnny Shark," "Lupita" and "Deep Blue" - so that they can use Shark Cam to track them and film them underwater. Those sharks then immediately dive down to 300-400 feet below the surface! We discover that they do this because, while the waters around Guadalupe Island are generally clear, at those depths these large predators can't be spotted by their prey. We then watch as Shark Cam documents repeated attacks on itself from predators flying up at it from directly below! This was, apparently, the first time ever that a vertical deep water strike has been filmed. We made history, friends! And yes, I said "we," because I'm totally taking credit as part of the team on this.
I now know what being eaten alive looks like, and all I can say is THANK YOU, Discovery Channel, for the friendly reminder as to why I no longer get in the water. I think I'm good for another year.
Factual Takeaways and Interesting Tidbits:
- More than 100 Great Whites gather at Guadalupe Island at this time of year, traveling more than 1000 miles to get there from an area in the Central Pacific known as the "Great White Cafe."
- Prime Great White chow time: sunset.
- Great Whites roll their eyes back into their heads when attacking prey.
- A pregnant Great White could give birth to up to 14 live pups, each up to 5 ft long!
Bottom Line: "It's a bad day to be an elephant seal." Truer words have never been spoken.
MONSTER HAMMERHEAD: A program about a legendary GIANT hammerhead shark spotted for years off the coasts of Florida and the Bahamas. I know what you're thinking - this smacks of the Megalodon and Submarine mock-umentary debacle. And you would be correct, as the "film" opens with this disclaimer: "Stories of the 'Monster Hammerhead' are based on accounts from fishermen. Trust them as you see fit." In other words, complete hogwash.
I will admit that I started watching it, because although the storyline is ridiculous, the program had some truly breathtaking footage of actual hammerheads, sharks which I think are absolutely beautiful.
But then it got out of hand. Apparently, the monster hammerhead star of this show is known as 'Old Hitler' to Boca Grande locals. He has another alias - The Harbour Master - when he operates in the Bahamas. Quotes by "eye-witnesses" included these gems:
- "Old Hitler would fight you to death."
- "Old Hitler would not let a fisherman catch him."
- "You gotta respect the sea."
All true. Both when applied to hammerhead-Hitler and, well, real Hitler.
Somewhat entertaining, right? BUT then I heard this: "And later...sharks with freakin' laser beams." No. NO WAY. I had to stop watching, as I will not support such obvious pandering. Discovery Channel, you're better than that. If I wanted to watch a ridiculous shark spoof, I'd have tuned in to SyFy for Sharnado 2: The Second One.