“You’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat!”

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Great White Close-up
Great White Shark Close-up | Photo by sharkpix.com

The title of this article is obviously a quote from the blockbuster movie “Jaws.” The words were uttered by Amity Island Police Chief Martin Brodie, played by Roy Scheider. What a lot of people don’t know is that Scheider apparently ad-libbed that iconic line of dialogue.

Roy Scheider "You're Going To Need A Bigger Boat" | Image by quotespics.com
Roy Scheider “You’re Going To Need A Bigger Boat” | Image by QuotesPics.com

Ever since the novel “Jaws” was written by Peter Benchley (He also wrote the screenplay.)  and made into a movie that was seen by millions of people, great white sharks have become famous or more to the point infamous. The movie gave the impression that all great white sharks want to devour humans every time they go swimming or wadding in the Ocean. Marine experts ever since have been trying to set the record straight, but the killer shark in the movie (played by Bruce the mechanical shark) is still in the minds of a lot of people.

Robert Shaw As Captain Quint
Robert Shaw As Captain Quint From “Jaws” | Photo Through blumhouse.com

You might remember that Quint, captain of the “Orca” fishing boat, (played by Robert Shaw) related the incident of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis after delivering the Hiroshima bomb. That story was accurate. This is considered to be the worst Naval disaster in US history. At 12:14 a.m. on July 30, 1945 two torpedoes from a Japanese submarine struck and sank the USS Indianapolis which had 1,196 men on board. About 300 men went down with the ship leaving about 900 men floating in the shark-infested Philippine Sea with no lifeboats. They were spotted by a military plane four days later and only 316 men were still alive. The rest, died from their wounds, drowned and/or were eaten by the many sharks that surrounded them. For more details concerning the USS Indianapolis and the disaster that happened after they delivered “the bomb” go to ussindianapolis.org.

Shark Eating Seal
Great White Shark Catching A Seal Off South African Coast | Photo by telegraph.co.uk

What about great white sharks off the West Coast of the United States? In a September 10, 2015 article published in Oregon Live from the Oregonian Newspaper concerned a large shark, possibly a great white or a broadnose sevengill shark, who hunted near Seaside and killed two seals, a sea lion and a dolphin. According to marine experts the bite marks on those animals were large suggesting they were bitten by a great white shark.

Seal Killed By Great White Shark
Seal Killed By Great White Shark | Photo by Tiffany Boothe/Seaside Aquarium Through OregonLive

What is a great white shark anyway? Their formal name is Carcharodon carcharius and yes, as you saw in the previous paragraph, they can be found in the waters off the Washington-Oregon-California coastline. Here is another story that was published by the Oregonian Newspaper. In mid October 2011 Bobby Gumm was sitting on his surfboard off South Beach State Park waiting for the waves to increase when he felt something “solid” brush against his leg. He yelled for help to the other surfers on the water, but there wasn’t anything they could do. It turned out to be a 16-17 foot long great white shark. The shark dove down deeper into the water then swam quickly to the surface right under Gumm. The shark bit off a large part of the front end of the surfboard then Bobby frantically began to swim his board out of danger and back to the shore. Luckily Bobby Gumm lived to tell the tale after his 8 minute flight of terror.

A check with Shark Attack.com (a data base encompassing the coast of the entire U.S.) reveals that there were 27 unprovoked shark attacks off the Oregon Coast from 1976 until now and all of them were non-fatal. Those attacked were either surfing or on a boogie board. I would imagine part of the reason for such low numbers could be that the waters off the Oregon Coast are quite cold which seriously reduces the number of people who might be swimming there for recreation and the sharks seem to like the warmer waters, as I have heard.

Dr. Greg Skomal
Dr. Greg Skomal | Photo by mass.gov

Dr. Greg Skomal and John Chisolm, biologists with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, back in 2009 were the first to successfully tag and track great white sharks in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean using high tech tags.

Annisquam Marine Fisheries Station Gloucester, MA | Photo by mass.gov
Annisquam Marine Fisheries Station Gloucester, MA | Photo by mass.gov

They have learned a lot about the travels of the sharks, their biology and their actual behavior. Inquisitor.com contributor Dustin Wicksell published an article dated February 13, 2016 which detailed Dr. Skomal’s latest research findings. Wicksell explained that Skomal’s findings indicate that the great white shark population that visits the waters off Cape Cod has been growing. He quotes Dr. Skomal who said the local great white shark population ” continues to go up and will continue do so in the near future.” Their research shows that the population of great whites could end up rivaling the population off South Africa where some 700 great white sharks reside. Quoting the article again “According to the Cape Cod Times Dr. Skomal has asserted that there might already be 300 white sharks visiting Cape Cod each year, with some of the animals simply passing through while others take up a kind of temporary residence.” If people continue to swim and play in those waters the increase in the shark population just may have the sharks more interested in the humans in their competitive search for food, to my way of thinking.

I do not have documentation to back up my assertion, but it seems to me that we have had more shark attacks (against humans) reported recently than I remember happening in the past. It could be they are on rise or they are just being reported sooner and then more widely publicized. All I know is that I am not sure if I visited the coast (West or East) that I would want to go swimming in the ocean, but that’s just me.

If you have an idea for a future topic let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].

Tim Chuey is a Member of the American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association and has been Awarded Seals of Approval for television weathercasting from both organizations.

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