126 Days left until the Zombie Apocalypse…
Shark Week is definitely one of those things that I look forward to all year. I’ve watched it ever since it started, and I know I’ll be watching it once a year for as long as it continues. I feel like I’ve always been fascinated by sharks. I don’t remember a time when they didn’t captivate me and hold me in their thrall. I think it’s because I’m admittedly demented. My love of sharks was probably founded when I rooted for the shark in Jaws instead of for the people. I wanted him to win. Even as a little child, I had issues with people who are pretentious. I just wanted them to be punished. It didn’t matter what was doing the punishing. Anything would do, really. (I think this is also probably where I developed a love for horror movie villains too…especially ZOMBIES!!!) Sharks were particularly special though. They’re just amazing. They’re intelligent and mysterious and beautiful. They rule the seas in ways that we can only imagine. And they’re like living dinosaurs whose survival for millions of years deserves at least a modicum of respect in and of itself. What’s not to love?
What’s that? Their teeth?
I just told you that they captivate me because they can eat people. Do you honestly think their teeth bother me?!
The better to eat you with my dear…
Ahem. Anyway. So I love sharks. The bigger and more powerful, the better as far as I’m concerned. Naturally, this means that my absolute favorite living shark species is Carcharodon carcharias. So, for today’s edition of “The 30 Things I’ve Done Before the Age of 30”, I am going to tell you about the first time that I got to see a Great White in person.
Don’t get the wrong idea now. I’m not the survivor of a violent shark attack or anything like that. I might be just a tad less fond of them if one of them had bitten off my leg or something–although I do prefer to think that I would only blame myself for going inside of its watery domain. That seems to be the general consensus among shark attack survivors featured on the Discovery Channel anyway. It just seems to make people have an even bigger respect for them. It’s brilliant really.
Anyway, where was I?…
So yeah, my encounter was much less dramatic than that. I saw my first live Great White at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in 2004. That is a phenomenal aquarium to being with. They have the most gorgeous and bizarre sea creatures that I have ever seen and there is always something new and exciting going on at the aquarium. They have a shy, secretive Giant Octopus who is always a delight when he decides to come out to play. Their jellyfish exhibits have always been a particular treasure to me too. And, they have sea dragons!!
Anyway, it’s awesome. Epic even. When they put that juvenile Great White on exhibit, it launched them into a league of their own. To my knowledge, no one else has ever been able to do it successfully. Most Great Whites will injure themselves on the glass of the tank or refuse to eat. However, their shark was successful. Five others have been exhibited as well. It’s amazing to see what they’ve done. Moreover, the sharks have by and large survived being released back into the wild as well. They did have one who died soon after being released and another who died in a fishing net shortly after. Most have been able to be tagged and studied though. It’s just unfathomable that they have had such incredible success where others have failed.
It’s wonderful too. Over a million people went to see that first Great White. I was lucky enough to count myself among their number. She was gorgeous. She was really small when I saw her–it was very soon after she had been put on display. That didn’t really matter though. There was something in her demeanor that just commanded respect. Intelligence glinted in her eyes and I could totally see that she was sizing us up with every pass she made in front of the glass. We were enthralled by her–I think she knew it too. She must have thought we were ridiculous to keep staring at her as we were. As she swam in the upper levels of the tank, it was perfectly clear that we were beneath her in more ways than one. We couldn’t help but stare though. She was too magnificent to ignore.
She wasn’t the only thing in that room that was magnificent either. It was equally as wonderful to see everyone else’s reaction to her. The little children were the most hilarious. As she neared their viewing spots, they would press their faces against the glass in eager anticipation, only to jump back once she reached them and peer at her between their fingers. The adults were just as hilarious in their attempts to locate her. A lot of people thought that the Galapagos shark was the one they were looking for. Many refused to believe that it wasn’t the shark they were there to see. It was amazing how few people actually know what a Great White looks like. It was even more amazing to see the immediate dawning of understanding in their eyes when she finally deigned to show herself to them. It’s like our subconscious is imprinted with the image of the perfect shark–even if we don’t recognize it until we see it for the first time.
The best part for me was knowing that all of those people were going to come away from the aquarium with a new outlook on Great Whites, sharks in general, and the ocean itself. There’s nothing quite like seeing something up close and personal to make you care about it. A thousand Shark Week specials could never even come close in comparison. It became like a personal mission for me to send other people to see her–and the ensuing sharks as well. Since I worked at the Holiday Inn at the time, it was really easy to do too. Every visitor from afar who asked what they should do was sent off to Monterey to see a Great White shark. None of them ever came back disappointed.
They haven’t had a shark on exhibit since August of last year, but keep a look out. It’s something that you definitely have to experience for yourself. The aquarium has a fantastic gallery of photographs here that are infinitely better than anything I was able to take in the limited lighting of the Ocean Bay Exhibit room. Check them out and get excited! They could potentially acquire another juvenile Great White this year–the summer isn’t over yet!! Then go here to see what you can do to help. It’s a great cause, and fantastic karma for the next time you go surfing. Maybe then your Shark Tale will feature you running into a Lenny instead of a Frankie…
[Frankie starts humming the Jaws tune.]
Lenny: That song gives me the creeps.
Frankie: What do ya mean? It’s our theme song!…
Enjoy the rest of your Shark Week kiddies!! I’m off to watch Shark Highway now with my little gummy shark snacks… 😉
The Butcher of the Bard