SHARK WEEK

Owen Martin

Why you need to watch Shark Week

Shark-Week

In the summer of 2008, my parents answered all my prayers by booking a holiday for me and my sister to go to Disney World in Florida. When we arrived in Orlando, one of the first things I saw was not Micky Mouse or Donald Duck, but a billboard in the baggage reclaim for “Shark Week”. From that point on, all anyone seemed to be talking about – whether it was on the radio, TV and even in the news – was Shark Week. A whole week dedicated to shark documentaries on the Discovery Channel seemed, to me, completely bizarre and not worth all the insane amount of hype it was getting everywhere we went. Considering New Smyrna Beach in Florida is the shark attack capital of the World, with more incidents per square mile than on any other beach, I assumed that Florida locals held some kind of resonance with it and people were genuinely just interested in the whole science behind sharks and shark attacks. But then when I heard celebrities and personalities from all over the world going crazy for it, I couldn’t get my head around it.

So then I decided to watch one of the documentaries. And another. And another. And I literally couldn’t stop. The programmes were not only informative, but they were genuinely gripping and exciting and, most of all, absolutely mind blowing. Sure I had seen shark films in the past like Jaws and Deep Blue Sea, but the science and reality behind it was something I had never really considered. The plain and simple truth is that sharks are unbelievably cool. They are arguably one of the most feared and mysterious animals on the planet, seen by many as a danger that lurks beneath. Lions, Elephants, Crocodiles and Buffalo all kill more humans per year than sharks, but for some reason sharks still remain the ultimate, and most fascinating, predators on earth. Maybe it’s because even today with modern science and technology, so little is actually known about them and their behaviour, and in recent years more than an astonishing 40 new species have been discovered.

So why watch Shark Week? Even if you don’t give a crap about sharks I promise you you will be on the edge of your seat. You’ll also be very surprised at how mesmerising it is watching sharks swim, eat and breed. If I still haven’t convinced you here are 10 facts I learnt that are sure to fascinate you enough to want to watch it:

  1. You are more likely to get killed by a dog than a shark. So technically your lovely pet pug could maul you before a shark does. Coconuts, traffic lights, champagne corks, ladders, icicles, vending machines and lighting are also bigger killers per year than sharks.
  2. The Bull Shark can survive in both freshwater and seawater. That means it can swim up rivers (scary thought) and has been found in the past in both the Mississippi and the Amazon. It is one of the “big three” killers (the other two being Great White and Tiger Sharks) and is believed to be the only shark that has attacked humans intentionally.
  3. The head of a crocodile, polar bear remains, poisonous sea snakes, a human arm and Barbie dolls have all been found in the stomachs of sharks. They are badass.
  4. Porbeagle sharks toss around chunks of seaweed to play a shark version of football.
  5. Sharks cannot swim backwards. If you were to pull a shark by the tail, it would die within minutes because the flow of water into the gills is disrupted and the shark would drown (oh the irony).
  6. Goblin sharks have a specialised jaw that protrudes out its body when it attacks prey. They are also terrifying to look at.

    The Goblin Shark - the ugliest shark that ever did live
    The Goblin Shark – the ugliest shark that ever did live
  7. Every once in a while, a female shark can reproduce without any contact from a male. This act is known as parthenogenesis.
  8. Sharks freak out at the smell of shark blood. Research has indicated that sharks will quickly flea and continue to actively avoid an area when they smell the chemical released by dead and dying sharks. It’s as if they know they are top of the food chain or something.
  9. A lengthy study completed in 2013 found that pregnant sharks return to the place where they were born to give birth to their young. They’re pretty intelligent after all. Also, depending on the species, a shark can be born three different ways; live birth, hatching from an egg, and an egg-and-live-birth combination.
  10. The total number of shark fatalities recorded since the year 1580 is 548. On average, sharks kill between 10-12 people a year. Humans kill 11,417 sharks per hour. Not very sound, are we?

As I said before, absolutely mind blowing. Now make sure you tune into shark week this year when it all kicks off on July 5th.

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