(Sch.: t. 198; 1. 86'; b. 24'7"; dph. 10'4''; cpl. 70;
a. 10 18-pdr. ear., 2 9-pdrs.)
The first Shark, a schooner built in the Washington Navy Yard, was launched on 17 May 1821. On 11 May 1821, Mathew C. Perry was ordered to command of Shark, and the ship was ready to receive her crew on 2 June 1821.
Shark sailed from the Washington Navy Yard on 15 July for New York, where she received Dr. Eli Ayers on board for transportation to the west coast of Africa. She cleared New York harbor on 7 August to make her first cruise for the suppression of the slave trade and piracy. Sailing by way of the Madeira, Canary and Cape Verde islands, she landed Dr. Ayers at Sierra Leone in west Africa in October and returned by way of the West Indies to New York on 17 January 1822.
Shark put to sea from New York on 26 February and joined Commodore James Biddle's squadron for the suppression of piracy and slave trading in the West Indies. On 25 March, Lt. Perry took formal possession of what is now Key West, Fla., in the name of the United States. He called the island Thompson's Island to honor Secretary of the Navy Smith Thompson and named the harbor Port Rodgers to compliment Commodore John Rodgers. Under orders from Commodore Biddle, Shark departed Nassau on 14 August for another cruise to the coast of Africa and returned to Norfolk on 12 December 1822. She again sailed for the West Indies in February 1823, and returned to New York on 9 July for repairs. On 5 October, she sailed from New York carrying Commodore John Rodgers and three Navy surgeons to Thompson's Island to determine the fitness of that place as a naval base. She debarked Rodgers and his party at Norfolk on 16 November 1823 before resuming her cruise in the West Indies. She returned to New York on 13 May 1824.
After repairs in the New York Navy Yard, Shark sailed from New York on 5 October 1825 and cruised in the West Indies and the Gulf of Mexico until 29 August 1826, when she arrived at Norfolk. On 28 November. she departed Norfolk and proceeded to the coast of Africa to protect slaves freed from captured slave ships. After seeing that the liberated Ne~roes were safely established in Liberia, she returned by way of the Caribbean and arrived at New York on 5 July 1827.
The busy schooner sailed again on 24 July for a cruise to the Newfoundland fisheries to defend American interests there and returned on 6 October. She then resumed her duty in the West Indies, which included anti-slavery and anti-piracy patrols and periodic voyages to West Africa to check the American settlements there.
In 1833, Shark was relieved in the West Indies by the schooner, Experiment, and sailed for ths Mediterranean where she remained for the next five years, cruising extensively in order to protect American commerce. She cleared Gibraltar for the United States on 22 January 1838 and. sailing by way of the We~t Indies, arrived at the Norfolk Navy Yard on 24 March.
Shark put to Pea from Hampton Roads on 22 July 1839 for duty with the Pacific Squadron. She was the first United States man-of-war to pass through the Strait of Macellan from east to west, a feat accomplished on 13 December 1839 en route to Callao, Peru. During the next five years, she spent much of her time along the coast of Peru to protect American citizens and property during civil disturbances in that country. The Secretary of the Navy noted in 1841 that "all who witnessed the operations of the Shark were inspired with increased respect for the American flag." She also made infrequent cruises northward to observe conditions in Panama and to receive mail.
On 1 April 1846, Shark was ordered to Honolulu for repairs in preparation for an exploratory voyage up the Columbia River, "to obtain correct information of that country and to cheer our citizens in that region by the presence of the American flag." She reached the coast of Oregon on 15 July 1846, and soon crossed the bar off the mouth of the Columbia River, for explorations in the valley regions of Astoria and Fort Vancouver. The ship returned to the mouth of the river Oil 8 September; and, knowing that the bar had changed position since the last survey was made, spent the following day making new observations of the bar and other preparations for crossing. However, her effort to recross the bar ended in disaster on 10 September, for she struck an uncharted shoal and was swept into the breakers by a swift tide. The ship was a total loss but her entire crew was saved. They embarked on a chartered Hudson's Bay Company schooner, the Cadboro, on 16 November, and reached San Francisco on 27 January 1847. A court of inquiry absolved Lt. Neil M. Howison of all blame for the loss of his ship.
Shark evolution: a 450 million year timeline
Sharks have been around for hundreds of millions of years, appearing in the fossil record before trees even existed. But what did they evolve from, are they 'living fossils', and how did they survive five mass extinctions?
Sharks belong to a group of creatures known as cartilaginous fishes, because most of their skeleton is made from cartilage rather than bone. The only part of their skeleton not made from this soft, flexible tissue is their teeth.
The group includes the more famous animals such as whale sharks and great whites, but also all rays, skates and the little-known chimaeras (also known as ratfish, rabbit fish or ghost sharks).
While often referred to as living fossils, sharks have evolved many different guises over the hundreds of millions of years that they have been swimming the oceans.
A Shark Mystery Millions Of Years In The MakingFor now, researchers do not know the cause of the shark die-off.
The biggest shark attack in history did not involve humans. A new study by earth scientists has turned up a massive die-off of sharks roughly 19 million years ago. It came at a period in history when there were more than 10 times more sharks patrolling the world’s oceans than there are today.
A new study by Earth scientists from Yale and the College of the Atlantic has turned up a massive die-off of sharks roughly 19 million years ago. It came at a period in history when there were more than 10 times more sharks patrolling the world’s oceans than there are today.
For now, researchers do not know the cause of the shark die-off.
“We happened upon this extinction almost by accident,” said Elizabeth Sibert, a Hutchinson postdoctoral associate in Yale’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies. She is lead author of the new study, which appears in the journal Science.
“I study microfossil fish teeth and shark scales in deep-sea sediments, and we decided to generate an 85-million-year-long record of fish and shark abundance, just to get a sense of what the normal variability of that population looked like in the long term,” Sibert said. “What we found, though, was this sudden drop-off in shark abundance around 19 million years ago, and we knew we had to investigate further.”
Sibert said more than 70 per cent of the world’s sharks died off — with an even higher death toll for sharks in the open ocean, rather than coastal waters. It was twice the level of extinction that sharks experienced during the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction event 66 million years ago that wiped out three-quarters of the plant and animal species on Earth.
Adding to the mystery is the fact that there is no known climate calamity or ecosystem disruption that occurred at the time of the steep drop in shark populations. “This interval isn’t known for any major changes in Earth’s history,” said Sibert, “yet it completely transformed the nature of what it means to be a predator living in the open ocean.”
Co-author Leah Rubin, an incoming doctoral student at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, was a student at the College of the Atlantic at the time of the research.
“The current state of declining shark populations is certainly cause for concern and this paper helps put these declines in the context of shark populations through the last 40 million years,” Rubin said. “This context is a vital first step in understanding what repercussions may follow dramatic declines in these top marine predators in modern times.”
The researchers noted that past discoveries of extinction events have led to waves of new research to learn the origins of the die-off and whether it signalled a larger, previously unknown, perturbance in global ecosystems.
For example, further research might confirm whether the shark-off caused remaining shark populations to change their habitat preferences to avoid the open ocean, Sibert and Rubin said. Additional research might also help to explain why shark populations did not rebound after the die-off 19 million years ago.
“This work could tip-off a race to understand this time period and its implications for not only the rise of modern ecosystems, but the causes of major collapses in shark diversity,” said Pincelli Hull, an assistant professor of Earth and planetary science at Yale, who was not part of the study. “It represents a major change in ocean ecosystems at a time that was previously thought to be unremarkable.”
Thank you for reading, and don’t forget to check The Euro Weekly News for all your up-to-date local and international news stories.
6 of the Most Infamous Shark Attacks in History
Shark attacks are, perhaps, the scariest thing that can happen to one while in the ocean. In the last few years, they’ve been in the news more than ever, and the debate rages on about whether that’s because of more shark attacks or simply more reporting on shark attacks.
Either way, it seems obvious (to me, at least) that killing them all is definitely not the answer. Here’s some actual math behind that statement, for those who care to read it. And while I understand that some feel that things like the list below only add fuel to a fire that’s burning far too brightly, the simple fact is that shark attacks happen, they’re fucking terrifying, and–God love the internet– people want to read about them. So here are six of the most (in)famous shark attacks in history.
1. Mick Fanning, J-Bay, South Africa:
The entire world heard about Mick Fanning’s shark attack. During the finals of the J-Bay event, which was being broadcast live to the whole world, a lively great white with absolutely no idea of the shit-storm he was about to create decided to have a quick look at the three time world champ. Mick, of course, acted like a total fucking badass and beat the shit out of it, while Julian Wilson paddled his ass off TOWARDS the shark, and a lone photographer was left floating around in the lineup with the shark.
The internet quickly exploded. CNN interviewed Fanning. Julian was hailed as a hero. Fights broke out about whether it was an “attack” or an “encounter.” It was definitely an attack, by the way… at least technically. Memes infested the internet, and at least one person at the World Surf League silently celebrated, because honestly, there will never be a better story than that.
Bethany Hamilton: the strongest surfer there is. Photo: Mike Coots
2. Bethany Hamilton, Kauai, Hawaii:
Bethany Hamilton has inspired millions of people. Hers is a comeback story for the ages. Back in 2003, when she was 13, she paddled out on Halloween at Tunnels Beach, Kauai with Alana, Holt, and Byron Blanchard. At just after 7 in the morning, she was attacked by a 14 foot tiger shark. After the Blanchards got her to shore, Alana’s father tied a tourniquet above Bethany’s severed left arm with a leash, then rushed her to the hospital, where she hovered on the edge of death.
Her recovery was nothing short of miraculous. Within three weeks, she was back in the water. “I started surfing less than a month later,” she told WhatCulture. “It happened in October, and my first competition was in January so it was pretty quick. I just surfed a lot and worked hard at it, and figured it out. I guess it probably took a good year to really feel totally natural about it.”
Then, just two years later, in 2005, she won the NSSA, becoming the National Champion… with one arm. Bethany, along with a very select few other surfers, have broken the barrier between famous surfer and straight up superstar. In 2004, her autobiography became a bestseller, and in 2011, it was made into a movie, Soul Surfer. And through it all, she’s continued charging harder than ever. So hard, in fact, that she took home first place in the 2014 Surf n Sea Pipeline Pro.
Rodney Fox, a few months after his attack in Australia. Photo: Alamy
3. Rodney Fox, Aldinga Beach, Australia:
You may not have heard of Rodney Fox, but only because his attack happened well before the internet came into existence. In 1963, Rodney Fox was thought of as one of the best spearfishermen in the world. That same year, during the Australian Spearfishing Championships just south of Adelaide, Fox went through one of the worst shark attacks in history.
A great white bit him around the waist, puncturing his diaphragm, ripping his lungs, crushing his rib cage, and leaving many of his organs so exposed that when he was finally brought back to the beach, rescuers were forced to keep his wetsuit on to keep his insides… well, inside.
“[It] broke every rib in my left-hand chest,” he recounted to McSweeny’s. “It broke the main artery from the heart. The stomach was left exposed. The spleen was left exposed. The lung had twenty-nine stitches in it. I had all my tendons in my right hand cut.”
But it didn’t end after than initial bite. Before he was saved, the shark came back a second time, clamping onto his arm and dragging him down to the bottom. Fox was able to gouge the shark’s eyes, forcing it to release him.
Depending on what you read, Fox required four hours of surgery and around 400 stitches to make him whole again. Since then, however–and this seems to be the case with many shark attack survivors–he’s become something of a shark activist. He designed the first underwater shark observation cage, and has become an authority on great whites. “We had over 250 people that drowned last year,” he said. “We had three deaths by sharks only. People don’t say, ‘Oh, don’t go to Australia and get drowned.’ They say, ‘Go to Australia and watch out for the sharks.'”
Less than a year after his attack, Fox was at the Zoo when he came up with the idea for the shark cage. With it, he filmed some of the first underwater footage of great whites. After that footage ended up on the desk of Steven Spielberg, the director enlisted his help to work on the movie Jaws.
“I didn’t tell people I worked on Jaws for a while because I didn’t want to frighten them I wanted them to come and see the sharks,” he told the International Business Times.
4. John Braxton, Big Island, Hawaii:
Without Instagram, John Braxton would likely just be another statistic. Because of it, he turned into a bonafide overnight sensation, albeit for a pretty awful reason. When the 27-year-old went spearfishing off Big Island’s Upolu Point, a 13-foot tiger shark bit a massive chunk out of his leg.
After escaping the shark, Braxton swam to shore, where his partner tied a tourniquet and called 911. When the ambulance arrived, Braxton, in act that baffled nearly everyone, pulled out his phone and proceeded to video himself talking about it before panning down to a leg that looked like ground beef.
The video was removed from Instagram, but not before it found its way to Youtube, where the entire computer-having population of the world gagged while watching it.
Elio Canestri was one of the most promising young surfers. Photo: jeremy Flores/Instagram
5. Elio Canestri, Cap Homard, Reunion Island:
Elio’s story is incredibly sad. A promising 13-year-old French surfer, Canestri’s life was cut tragically short when an 8-foot bull shark attacked and killed him 50 yards from shore. Despite the ban on surfing in Reunion, Elio, along with a group of friends and his surf coach, paddled out.
The attack occurred just feet from his surfing partners, and sparked a cry of outrage from Reunion residents. Sick of the attacks–Reunion has one of the highest shark attack rates per capita on earth–they rallied in front of government building calling for more stringent action. Two years before Canestri’s death, in 2013, Reunion banned surfing, swimming, and body surfing, and came up with a culling plan that included 45 bulls and 45 tigers. Surfers were to be fined if they entered the water.
It was a complicated issue, though, and many were against the cull, putting the government in a tough position. In 2007, Reunion was turned into a marine reserve in an effort to protect the surrounding coral reefs and encourage tourism. Fishing was banned, a fact which many thought was responsible for the rise in sharks and shark attacks.
Front page news of the spate of shark attacks on the Jersey Shore, 1916.
6. The Jersey Shore, 1916:
This one isn’t just one person. In the summer of 1916, five shark attacks occurred in ten days, resulting in four deaths. In the first two weeks of July, a heat wave of epic proportions blanketed the eastern seaboard, sending thousands to the coast. Up until then, shark attacks were relatively rare outside of Florida, and many researchers believe the massive influx of tourists in the ocean played a role in the attacks. Often thought to be an inspiration for the movie Jaws, the Jersey Shore shark attacks have gained a certain notoriety aptly named the Real New Jersey Jaws.
The first attack happened when a man named Charles Vansant was taking a swim at dusk when he was killed. Then, less than a week later, Charles Bruder fell victim to another attack, which took his life as well. The last of the three in the spate of violence happened just north of the first two, claiming the lives of two more and leaving a third in critical condition. It’s still not clear what kind of shark was responsible, but most scientists believe it was either a great white or a bull shark.
In the months following the deaths, the entire nation panicked. At the time, not much was known about shark attacks, and the two week terrifying ordeal became one of the forerunners of the hysteria surrounding sharks we see today. Since then, Nat Geo, the History Channel, and the Discovery Channel have all aired documentaries about it.
Quick History of the Shark Mouth
The ‘Shark Mouth’ design has been finding its way onto custom sneakers lately. The distinct red mouth and white teeth has a very military feel to it, so when its painting onto a pair of sneakers, you notice them. While this design was originally seen on fighter planes during World War 2, the shark mouth insignia has been a well known motif used in streetwear because of its clean design aesthetic.
Recently, we saw these Jordan 10 X BAPE were made Chris Lowe, referencing the BAPE ‘Shark’ hoodie that first dropped back in 2004. The BAPE hoodie really brought this design into the mainstream.
These Nike Huarache Utility Customs aptly named the "Shark Attack” that customizer Concept Sneakers made.
Not too mention these Timbs done by k2Soles. The shark mouth really pops on this dye job.
But the shark mouth doesn't just end up on sneakers and hoodies. This is insane LV bag was serviced by customizer Eric Ramirez.
The famous ‘shark mouth’ insignia goes back to the 1940s during World War 2. 1st American Volunteer Group, also known as the Flying Tigers, painted the now iconic shark mouth on the noses of their Curtiss P-40 Warhawks. There had been German and British planes that used a similar nose painting, but the Flying Tigers made the design famous.
Seeing a squadron of these pissed off fighter planes flying at you played into the psychological warfare of combat. What’s worse than a heavily armed, easy to maneuver fighter plane shooting at you thousands of feet off the ground? One that looks like a grinning shark.
But the shark mouth wasn’t the only paintings found on the nose of fighter planes, but it was the calling card for the Flying Tigers. Other squadrons had their own unique nose art to separate themselves. Some would have a painting of a pin up model in various degrees of undress. At the time, this was very NSFW but with a job like air combat, why not?
If not a babe on the side of their planes, they might have their favorite cartoon character stomping riding a bomb. Those who really liked to stunt would have the number of enemy planes that they shot down represented.
It’s funny to see how naturally customizing comes to people from one generation to the next. The pilots were given a blank slate, and naturally they put their own spin on it. So when you’re painting a shark nose on your sneakers, your tapping into a long history of customizing. You can thank these guys for making the shark nose iconic.
If you are wondering about the origin of the Shark® brand, it is part of Euro-Pro, a family-run company that started back over a century ago. Originally, the company was primarily dealing with sewing machine and had its roots in Europe, catering mostly to European market. Three generation later, Mark Rosenzweig, the family heir, set his sight abroad and started his venture in Canada. Today, while still not deviating too much away from the housecare business, Mark has turned the family business into million dollars business empire. He established a strong name in the household business that addresses mainly the venus market. One of the most successful line of product from the multi-million dollar family-run business is the line-up of Shark vacuum cleaner.
One of the brand that Mark has built over the years is the Shark® brand of vacuum cleaners. As we all know it, no one makes a perfect product and the best-selling product is often well, not the perfect product. Borrowing from Apple's late Steve Jobs' words, consumers need devices that simply works. This means that for a product to have a mass appeal, it has to be darn simple to use. This is far more true particularly in the vacuum cleaner segment where users are mostly busy moms or working women who have little time to read all the manuals and instructions. This is what you can expect from any Shark vacuum cleaner.
The Pacific Theatre
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941, the United States entered the war against Fascism. During their involvement in the Second World War, the United States started a campaign to regain control of the land in the Pacific taken over by the Japanese.
The fighting done on this side of the world would become known as the fighting in the Pacific Theatre. The war in the Pacific Theatre was brutal for both parties with many thousands losing their life on both sides.
According to the United States Department of the Army between the naval, land and aerial battles around 161,000 Americans lost their lives.
Perhaps the most brutal of the facets of the war in the Pacific was naval warfare. As the Japanese started to lose engagement after engagement against the American navy they resorted to desperate tactics in a ploy to gain the upper hand against the superior American navy. These tactics included the use of Kamikazes and, although not on the same level, the use of submarines.
The Complicated History of ‘Baby Shark’ — The Insanely Viral Children’s Song You Can’t Get Out of Your Head
If you haven’t already contributed to the 1.8 billion YouTube views of the song “Baby Shark,” watch it now. Sorry in advance: It’ll get stuck in your head rather quickly.
What is this earworm and where did it come from? Who is behind this viral hit — and what kind of cash are they rolling in now that everyone and their kid knows the song? Who are those kids, and who came up with that brilliant key change?
We reached out to the creators to find out more. As it turns out, the question of who created it is so complicated, numerous parties are fighting over the ownership rights.
The very basic words of “Baby Shark” looks to be inspired by an old nursery rhyme. There’s a version in France called “Bebe Requin” and in Germany called “Kleiner Hai,” and the latter video — a grainy YouTube video of a German woman, Alexandra Müller, singing the song — laid the foundation for the poem’s success. Müller’s version was given a techno remix and became a flash-in-the-pan viral hit in Germany.
Although today her website is down and social media sites nonexistent, Müller saw brief viral fame in Germany in 2007. She went by the stage name “Alemuel,” released an album and toured Europe.
From there, things get tricky. Today two parties find themselves tangled in a copyright lawsuit over who created the song, though both tell me they had no knowledge of Müller’s version prior to recording.
Johnny Only, a kids’ musician with a YouTube page touting a modest 4,360 subscribers, claims to be the originator of “Baby Shark.” He says he knew the song from performing at campgrounds, where the song was rarely written down “since half the fun was improvising the lyrics and motions.” Since he performs for a younger audience, Only says he changed the lyrics to be more kid-friendly and transformed the “chanted version of ‘Baby Shark’ into the musical cohesiveness of a song complete with background music, melody and harmony. I added my musical style, a musical ‘bridge,’ driving beat, guitar, waves and change of tempo.”
Meanwhile, Pinkfong — a producer of children’s entertainment, similar to Nickelodeon in Korea — released a version of the rhyme in November 2015, which has now racked up nearly 2 billion views.
According to Kevin Seunghyun Yoon, marketing manager at Pinkfong’s parent company, SmartStudy, Pinkfong merely took an old nursery rhyme and added catchy beats to it. “We focus on finding rhymes that are easy for children to sing along [to],” he says. “In the planning stage, we put weight on how easy the rhyme is for children to sing along, and how natural it would be when the rhyme is actually spoken out by children.” He adds that they then put a “fresh twist” on a “traditional singalong chant by adding upbeat rhythms and fresh melody.”
Pinkfong’s version is simpler than Johnny Only’s. There’s no bridge, it’s a little easier to sing and there’s even a chord change, adding a suspenseful minor sixth.
The Initial Release
After seeing the song gain popularity at his live shows, Johnny Only uploaded the song to YouTube in 2011. “The video was filmed in my sister’s house and her pool as an idea for a fun family activity,” he says. “At that time, I didn’t know much about copyright law, and I didn’t think that my version of ‘Baby Shark’ song could be protected under the copyright law.”
Pinkfong argues that its direction is more than just adding catchy tunes. The company is trying to create kid-friendly K-Pop — a massively popular genre of music in Korea that’s slowly finding footing in the U.S. “Pinkfong’s songs aren’t like your everyday nursery rhymes,” Yoon says.
Johnny Only may have published it first, but Pinkfong’s song is unquestionably more popular. Yoon tells me the video’s success was unexpected. Pinkfong’s version was recorded in November 2015 and uploaded as just one of 4,000 songs and stories they produced. “Baby Shark” garnered several million views and didn’t stand out much from the rest. The company believes it “really went viral when teenagers and adults started catching on,” says Yoon, “thanks to the #BabySharkChallenge.”
The #BabySharkChallenge, according to Yoon, was a happy accident. Pinkfong had nothing to do with it starting, but K-Pop superstars certainly did. “Because of its catchy tune and fun dance moves, fans across Asia began to upload videos of themselves dancing to Pinkfong’s ‘Baby Shark’ with a hashtag #BabySharkChallenge,” says Yoon. “Even K-pop stars like Girls’ Generation, Red Velvet, Black Pink, Got7 and [YouTube comedian and Playboy Playmate] Amanda Cerny have joined the challenge.” (Girls’ Generation, Red Velvet and Black Pink have more than 15.6 million Youtube subscribers combined.)
In a Shark’s Tooth, a New Family Tree
That is how a shark expert, Matt Hooper, described Carcharodon megalodon to the police chief in Peter Benchley’s novel “Jaws.” He was referring to the 50-foot-long, 50-ton body and enormous six- to seven-inch-long teeth that made the extinct megalodon shark perhaps the most awesome predator that has ever roamed the seas.
Hooper had just gotten his first glimpse of the massive great white shark that was terrorizing the residents of Amity Island. Hooper explained that the Latin name for the great white was Carcharodon carcharias and that “the closest ancestor we can find for it” was megalodon. So maybe, he speculated, this creature wasn’t merely a great white, but a surviving sea monster from an earlier era.
Hooper was toying with a simple and long-established idea: that the most feared predator in the ocean today, the great white shark, evolved from megalodon, the most fearsome predator of a few million years ago.
That is how the two species had been viewed, until recently, when new ways of looking at shark teeth, and new shark fossils from a Peruvian desert, convinced most experts that great whites are not descended from a megatoothed megashark. Rather, they evolved from a more moderate-size, smooth-toothed relative of mako sharks.
If true, then the mouth full of flesh-ripping razor blades that are the stuff of nightmares, and box-office blockbusters, are also a great example of one of the most interesting phenomena in the story of life, convergent evolution the independent evolution of similar adaptations by different creatures.
The idea of a close relationship between great whites and megalodon started in 1835, when Louis Agassiz, a Swiss paleontologist and fish expert, formally named the giant species. The huge fossil teeth of megalodon had been known for centuries and were once believed to be the fossilized tongues of dragons. Agassiz, noting that great white shark teeth and the fossil megalodon teeth were both serrated, lumped megalodon into the same genus, Carcharodon, (from the Greek karcharos, meaning sharp or jagged, and odous, meaning tooth).
Agassiz was not, however, making an evolutionary judgment. In 1835, a young Charles Darwin was just then visiting the Galapagos Islands. There would be no theory of evolutionary descent for nearly 25 years. In fact, the brilliant Agassiz, who later became a professor at Harvard and the leading figure of natural history in the United States, forever resisted Darwin’s revolutionary ideas. Rejecting biological evolution, Agassiz defined species as a “thought of God.” His classification scheme signified nothing about shark origins.
But over the next century, the idea that great whites evolved from megalodon took hold. Because shark skeletons are largely made of nonmineralized cartilage that isn’t preserved in the fossil record, the principal evidence has come from their teeth. Shark teeth are heavily mineralized, preserve well, and sharks may shed thousands of them over their lifetime. Megalodon teeth are highly sought by collectors, so we have lots of their teeth.
Great white teeth reach a maximum size of about two and half inches. Scary enough, but adult megalodon teeth dwarf them. The most obvious characteristics the species’ teeth have in common are their pointed shape and serrations. The points facilitate the puncturing of flesh and grasping of prey. The fine, regularly spaced serrations aid in cutting and ripping it into pieces.
Based primarily on these characteristics and some similarities in specific tooth shapes and roots, many experts supported the idea that great whites were, in effect, dwarf megalodons.
But a small minority had their doubts. It was noted that great white teeth also bore similarities to the teeth of an extinct mako shark, Isurus hastalis, some of which had weak serrations. An alternative proposal for great white origins was offered that they evolved from an extinct group of mako sharks.
Many debates about interpretations of the appearances of structures in the fossil record boil down to the emphasis on different characters by different researchers, the great white origins debate included. It is often similar to a discussion at a family reunion of which child looks more like one parent or grandparent. It depends upon the feature and the viewer.
Such subjective arguments are hard to settle without more quantitative measures. Kevin Nyberg and Gregory Wray of Duke University and Charles Ciampaglio of Wright State University used new computer-assisted imaging and measurement methods to better assess the similarities and differences among great white, megalodon and extinct mako teeth. They determined that the extinct mako and great white teeth and roots were similar in shape and clearly distinct from megalodon.
Furthermore, high-resolution electron microscopy revealed that the shape and spacing of serrations of great white teeth were markedly different from those in megalodon teeth. The serrations that impressed Agassiz now appear to be just a superficial resemblance. The great white did not inherit its sharp cutting tools from megalodon.
Rather, it appears that great whites evolved from a less ferocious-looking ancestor and independently evolved sharp serrations. A remarkably well-preserved fossil of what a great white ancestor may have looked like was recently brought to light. The desert region of southwestern Peru is a graveyard of marine animals from the past 40 million years, including spectacularly preserved whales, dolphins, walruses, seals, turtles and sharks. It was there that Gordon Hubbell, a shark expert, collected the four-million-year-old fossil that had not only its jaws intact with 222 teeth, but also 45 vertebrae both rarities for shark fossils and rare opportunities for shark experts.
The preservation of the teeth in their proper place, as opposed to being found scattered in sediments, allowed an unprecedented analysis of individual teeth and the pattern of tooth development in the shark. Similarities were found to both extinct mako sharks and living great whites, including weak serrations, suggesting that the Peruvian fossil might be a transitional form, a link between a smooth-toothed mako ancestor and the great white.
The serrations of great white teeth undoubtedly evolved to exploit expanding populations of marine mammals. That adaptation appears to have given the predators an advantage as they, like megalodon in its day, enjoy a broad oceanwide distribution. At least for now.
I say “for now” because great whites are declining along with most shark species, some of which have experienced alarming drops in their numbers in just the past two decades. Biologists are not sure what caused the once dominant megalodon to become extinct two million years ago, but there will be no debate about who is to blame if today’s top predator is gone tomorrow.
Blood in the Water: The History of Shark Movies
Sharks are perfect movie villains: they’re ruthless, calculating, merciless, efficiently lethal, and look like total badasses, all sleek and cold and sharp. Sharks have no emotions, they rely on no rationale other than to fulfill three primal needs, as famously noted by Richard Dreyfuss’ Matt Hooper in JAWS: “swim and eat and make little sharks.” Sharks are the living embodiment of the food chain, a serious contender for deadliest apex predator in the game, and could be the absolute pinnacle of evolution: they have no natural predators, are one of the only species that don’t develop cancer, and no one really knows how long they can live, meaning it could be fucking forever.
Sharks are the closest thing you can get to a monster in real life, they’re almost supernatural in their ability to frighten, maim, and kill. For the love of god, they employ “exploratory bites.” You know what that means? Means if they don’t know what something is, they bite the shit out of it to find out. That’s kinda like me meeting you for the first time and stabbing you right off the bat. Except way worse. Ever seen SOUL SURFER? That girl lost an arm. Exploratory bite.
Bottom line? Sharks are scary as hell, which, again, qualifies them as perfect movie villains, and which is why their particular well has been revisited by filmmakers time and again starting in the 1960’s and continuing up to this very summer, where THE SHALLOWS has emerged as the sleeper hit of the season. In between there have been many strange and perhaps unnecessary stops that make for a fascinating evolution of the shark movie, one that I in my careful analysis have broken down into four basic eras: the JAWS era, the SEQUELS & IMITATORS era, the RESURGENCE era, and the BAT-SHIT CRAZY era.
In the interest of full disclosure, I feel I should mention I’m not just tracing the history of the shark movie, I’m also in a very, very small way a part of it. I’ve contributed to three shark movies you might have been duped into watching on the SyFy channel some Saturday night or another: I wrote the screenplays for 2-HEADED SHARK ATTACK and SHARK WEEK (a.k.a. SHARK ISLAND), and I have a story credit for MEGA SHARK VS MECHA SHARK. This is mentioned to assure you I have done ample research into the genre, too ample, if my friends, family and two out of three psychologists are to be believed. Every movie here mentioned I’ve seen at least three times – I know, I know – and the same goes for several unmentioned. Just so you know where I’m coming from.
THE JAWS ERA
Let’s be perfectly clear about something before we go any further: JAWS is absolutely the best shark movie ever made. This is not up for discussion. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is either a liar or an idiot, and you shouldn’t be associating with either. JAWS single-handedly created the killer shark genre, like Kong did the monkey-amok genre, and like that hairy trailblazer, JAWS is King. But it wasn’t the first in the genre. That honor technically goes to Jerry Hopper’s THE SHARKFIGHTERS from 1956. It’s a story with echoes of the real life tale of the U.S.S. Indianapolis – itself the subject of two movies and the best monologue in JAWS – about a Navy project to find a shark repellant to protect shipwrecked sailors. The film, which stars Victor Mature (KISS OF DEATH), features a few surprisingly effective action scenes involving actual footage of tiger sharks, making this the first man vs shark film of note.
If there was a problem with THE SHARKFIGHTERS, it’s that it didn’t spawn any similar features. It would be 13 years before another shark-centric film hit theaters, and this one, called simply SHARK and starring Burt Reynolds, would be an utter and complete disaster from pretty much every standpoint. First off, it wasn’t really a shark feature as much as it was an action-thriller that featured sharks. Secondly, the director Sam Fuller, one of Hollywood’s best, quit the production after – get this – one of the stuntmen was killed by a white shark and the studio used his death to promote the picture the final edit was done without Fuller’s involvement and when he saw the released cut he wanted his name taken off it but the studio refused. Thirdly, SHARK just isn’t good. It’s a terribly hackneyed story and Burt Reynolds seems to be confused as to what he’s doing there. But the shark footage is amazing and was truly dangerous to capture, so there’s something to be said for it. Needless to say, though, no one was chomping at the bit to make another killer shark picture after SHARK, nor was anyone too excited when six years later in 1975 a young director name Steven Spielberg set out to make not just a killer shark movie, but a giant killer shark movie. They were even less excited when production woes threatened to sink the picture, literally, at every turn. But when it was finally released, JAWS earned a kajillion dollars at the box office (adjusted for inflation), infected American culture like an incurable virus, solidified Spielberg as a major new filmmaking talent, and single-handedly invented the summer blockbuster, making it one of the top three most influential films of all-time, at least from an industry perspective, alongside STAR WARS and CITIZEN KANE. With JAWS came killer shark fever, and one film alone wasn’t going to cure that. Which brings us to the second era in the history of shark movies…
THE SEQUELS & IMITATORS ERA
It would be three years until JAWS 2 hit theaters in 1978, but between the release of the original film and that, there was no shortage of fast, cheap, and out of control killer shark flicks to entertain the bloodthirsty masses. MAKO: THE JAWS OF DEATH – see what they did there? – was the first one out of the gate in 1976, followed closely by the TV movie SHARK KILL, then Mexican director Rene Cardona Jr. filled the remaining gap with a pair of his own features, TINTORERA: KILLER SHARK in 1977, and CYCLONE the next year. These films were the first to suffer from the same malady as most shark movies, excluding JAWS: they put the emphasis on the sharks, not the characters. As a result, these films are nothing more than kill-fests short on plot other than whatever exposition it takes to get their characters in the water. Audiences got a bit of a reprieve from this mindlessness when JAWS 2 finally opened, but after that it would be a long, long time before a shark flick of true quality came along.
In fact, though JAWS 2 was a financial success, the genre was all but exhausted by the knockoffs, and in the next decade besides JAWS 3(D) and JAWS THE REVENGE, there were only a few other big shark features made: THE LAST SHARK by original INGLORIOUS BASTARDS director Enzo G. Castellari, which came out in 1980 between JAWS 2 and 3, then Treat Williams in NIGHT OF THE SHARKS – which was more in a SHARK-vein than a JAWS-vein – and lastly MISSION OF THE SHARK, which is one of the films based on the U.S.S. Indianapolis (the other, U.S.S. INDIANAPOLIS: MEN OF COURAGE, starring Nic Cage, opens later this year.). These two latter films, both released after JAWS THE REVENGE definitively killed the franchise, signified a shift in the genre. The problem with shark movies is, as killers go there’s not a lot you can do with them. They have one weapon, one way to use it, and surprise is their go-to attack method. So after nearly a dozen movies in as many years, the well was dry. It didn’t help that during the same period the supernatural-slasher pic was born. With Jason Vorhees, Freddy Krueger and their ilk coming up with myriad inventive ways to kill scores of coeds each picture, who could expect audiences to still be entertained by the swift chomp of a great white? These latter films, then, represent the aimlessness of the shark genre after the tragedy of JAWS 4. The former, NIGHT OF THE SHARKS, tried to use sharks as exotic props in an adventure flick, while the later, MISSION OF THE SHARK, attempted to make them the villains an historical drama. Neither made much of a dent in the box office or the cultural consciousness other than as knells signifying the seeming death of a genre. But the shark film wasn’t dead, though for almost a decade there wouldn’t be a major feature made about the creature: it was only hibernating. And when the next wave of screenwriters managed to crack the shark-movie nut, they would do so in a way that would open the floodgates irrevocably.
THE RESURGENCE ERA
By this third era, which began around 1999, filmmakers had figured out there had to be more to a shark movie than “people go in the water, shark’s in the water, shark eats the people.” Those days were done and exhausted no one wanted to see a regular old monster shark eating folks, it was passé. The dynamic had to change. So then the thinking went, if one shark was terrifying, two sharks or more would be terrifying to the Nth degree. And then what if all these sharks showed up places they weren’t normally supposed to be? Not to mention if said sharks were scientifically modified to be, say, faster, smarter, more lethal, or all of the above. For the next ten years shark movies would rise to their highest popularity through the use of these narrative templates on their own or in combination, but while the quantity went up, the quality, perhaps predictably, for the most part went down.
If there is a single film that spearheaded this resurgence and its particular take on marine biology, it would be Renny Harlin’s DEEP BLUE SEA, which is an exception of the era and a legitimate contender for second-best shark movie ever. In DEEP BLUE SEA, Alzheimer’s research leads to some genetic tinkering that creates supersharks who then bust out of captivity and stalk their captors. The result is akin to ALIEN in its ability to create suspense in a confined space, and its effect on the shark genre was to present a seemingly limitless range of possibilities for those willing to meddle with nature. As a result, you get movies like BLUE DEMON, DARK WATERS or HAMMERHEAD in which genetic alchemy has augmented the sharks into even more efficient killing machines. If that didn’t work for you, there were always “shark pack” movies like SHARK SWARM, SHARK ZONE, or RAGING SHARKS, where more sharks meant more opportunities for more gore. Then lastly there were the “sharks out of place” films like RED WATER (freshwater river), SPRING BREAK SHARK ATTACK (spring break) and SHARKS IN VENICE (Italy, not California), which took their unique terror from having sharks pop up where no sharks should be. This is all happening in the DVD and cable-TV era, when for the first time theatrical releases were no longer a filmmaker’s only avenue to an audience. Therefore most of these films were cheaply and swiftly made, but by placing their distinctiveness on scenario – who made the science and why, how did all these sharks come together, how did a shark get here – they weren’t just kill-fests anymore, though certainly the bar for murderous inventiveness never lowered. These scenarios dictated an attention to character shark movies hadn’t had since the early JAWS films, and though none of these films came close to living up to those, they did find a way to entertain besides jump scares and gallons of dyed corn syrup.
And entertain they did. Audiences ate these films up like, well, sharks. They loved the new sub-genres, to the point it felt like every week there was another film released. Furthermore, old sub-genres like the classic giant-killer-shark movie saw a resurgence in films like the SHARK ATTACK trilogy, MEGALODON, SHARK ATTACK IN THE MEDITERRANEAN and SHARK HUNTER, as did the true shark story in films like 12 DAYS OF TERROR, based on the 1916 shark attacks off New Jersey that were the inspiration for JAWS, and OPEN WATER, which is the second-best film of the era behind DEEP BLUE SEA.
OPEN WATER is the horrifyingly true story of a pair of scuba divers abandoned in the middle of the ocean by their boat and left to contend with the sharks who call that part of the ocean home. Needless to say, it doesn’t end well for anyone but the sharks, except maybe the audience, who made OPEN WATER one of the most successful independents of the decade and helped secure the shark movie’s place in our collective pantheon of nightmare fodder.
By the end of the first decade of the 21st century, on the backs of the Resurgence-era films, the shark movie was the most popular kind of creature feature in moviedom. So naturally, that’s when everything went bat-shit crazy.
THE BAT-SHIT CRAZY ERA
With the genre being beat to death at every turn, screenwriters – again, full disclosure, myself included – had to result to absurd perversions of science, nature, logic, taste, and sometimes even decency to come up with new ways to skin a shark. Or rather, have a shark skin you. So in 2010, a company called The Asylum, for whom I wrote and who with the SyFy channel is largely responsible for this most-recent, still-ongoing era, released MEGA SHARK VS GIANT OCTOPUS. On the surface it seemed like just another sea-based creature feature, but inside it was a hilarious display of over-the-top shark antics the likes of which had never been seen in the genre. In JAWS THE REVENGE, the shark pulls Michael Caine’s four-seater plane under the water, and it’s pretty ridiculous in MEGA SHARK 1, the titular creature leaps from the depths of the ocean and climbs to the cruising altitude of a 747, then eats that 747, and it’s pretty fucking outstanding, as well as being super-ridiculous.
Producers began realizing that if you wanted to change the shark movie at this stage of the game, you had to change the shark itself. So you mate it with a prehistoric reptile (DINOSHARK), or another sea creature (SHARKTOPUS), or you give it two heads (2-HEADED SHARK ATTACK), or three (3-HEADED SHARK ATTACK), or you make its death irrelevant (GHOST SHARK), or give it the ability to travel on land (SAND SHARKS, SNOW SHARKS) or really anything else you could think of (SHARKNADO). With new sharks came new and exaggerated ways to kill, and very quickly the shark genre turned into a sort of one-upmanship of death, the way each new FINAL DESTINATION movie has to get a little more nuts than the last. In 2-HEADED, I wishboned a few people, took out a married couple at the same time, and even interrupted a menage a trois with a shark attack because it fell in line with the gimmick. As a writer, it was pretty liberating. I’ve killed at least 50 people by shark attack it’s not easy to get inventive with your standard shark. But when the laws of science and nature went out the window, that all changed. However so did the timbre of the shark movie. For all the increased gore and hilarity, a lot of seriousness and real-world terror inherent to the genre was depleted, a lot, and shark movies started getting a reputation that was campier than frightening.
While there are big-studio, higher-quality, less-absurd films made during this era – DARK TIDE, SHARK NIGHT, THE REEF, BAIT, THE SHALLOWS – largely the present belongs to the absurdist shark movie, as perfectly represented by the SHARKNADO franchise, another Asylum creation, whose fourth installment – that is not a typo – drops this summer. Just the fact that there is a movie called SHARKNADO 4 is the most absurd thing to ever happen to cinema, let alone a genre.
I’d be a fool to try and predict where the shark genre goes from here. Likely it will just keep swimming along, going where the food directs it, following the chum of audience dollars into either legitimate or absurd waters, but one thing that seems certain beyond a shadow of a doubt is that like the creature it vilifies, the shark genre is a survivor. You can mythologize it, antagonize it, amp it up or dumb it down, but you can’t kill it, not really, that just puts more blood in the water.