Shark Week 2017, Pt. 2: Days 2 and 3

I thought that posting my recap of Day 1 (and more) of Shark Week yesterday would serve to get me out from behind the eight-ball in attempting to catch up with everything going on shark-wise right now, but all I see before me is a whole lot more that I have to do. So without further ado, let us begin the recap of Nights #2 and #3 from last week's Shark Week. (And if you think this is going to keep me from watching the new Sharknado Week flicks this week, you've got another thing coming. I already knocked out 5-Headed Shark Attack yesterday morning, and – hoo! hoo! – is it ever ridiculous. More on that film later this week...)

#5 – Shark Vortex (premiered Monday, July 24, 2017)

One of the things that I love to gripe about during Shark Week is that there is too much focus on the great white shark. I admit, the great white is the most iconic of all sharks, which is both a good and bad thing. Great white sharks are pretty awe-inspiring, have a great menacing presence, and have that incredible reputation, earned or otherwise. Also, they are my very favorite animals on the entire planet.

But even I get a little tired of seeing great whites in show after show after show. Even, or especially, during Shark Week, it can get monotonous. Great whites I can see anytime someone mentions the word “shark” anywhere. I would rather see other species of sharks, especially since there are over 500 of them. To understand just exactly how much Shark Week that might involve, we could have 15 brand new Shark Week shows every year for at least the next 34 years if we just picked a single shark species per hour to focus on each time. Sadly, that would never do for most of the shark-watching public. They seem to only want to see the big guys, the scary ones, the sharks that provide the real thrills and chills. Whites, makos, bulls, tigers, and hammerheads only please… they don’t want a special all about the catshark, the ccokiecutter shark, or the dwarf shark. I do, but most Shark Week viewers don’t. Or, because of this, are really even aware these other species exist.

However, Discovery Channel has made inroads towards this sharky utopia of mine. Their Alien Sharks series aired its fourth edition this year, and we will discuss that show fully further down in this recap. That series is a lot of fun because they travel with fishing boats that pull up a lot of by-catch from the deep (that is, fish caught incidentally, sadly, in the nets while pulling up their target fish), or with research trawlers that are expressly for fish studies, and then they free the little suckers from the nets, measure and study and sometimes tag them, and then release them back into the water. You can see a lot of rarer shark species that way on Shark Week. Another way to happen upon a lesser known species is when it kind of falls into the right category with the other big ratings fish that are being studied.

A shortfin mako.
Such is the case with Shark Vortex, where Shark Week regulars Dr. Greg Skomal and photographer/diver Joe Romeiro take to the waters of the upper Atlantic coast to study three closely related species that all have endothermic qualities, i.e. they have a form of warm-bloodedness that allows them to operate more comfortably in colder waters than most other sharks. They are able to raise their body temperature to a level above that of the water surrounding them, which aids them immeasurably in seeking out prey where others cannot go. The family Lamnidae, or mackerel sharks, are all endothermic, and two of its members that are profiled in Shark Vortex, the great white shark and the shortfin mako, are part of the top tier of shark species that nearly everyone on the planet knows for one reason or another. The white and the mako will get plenty of face-time in Shark Vortex, but the prime reason to watch the show is to get some glimpses of the porbeagle shark, yet another member of the mackerel shark family.

The porbeagle shark looks roughly like its closest cousin, the salmon shark, and tops out around the same size as well (around 8 feet). The real difference between the two is that the salmon shark is usually only found in the North Pacific around Alaska, over to the Sea of Japan, and reaching up towards along the western coast of Alaska towards the Bering Sea. The porbeagle, meanwhile, parallels the salmon shark as its counterpart in the North Atlantic, but is also to be found all across the Southern Hemisphere from the tip of Africa or central South America and down throughout the waters of the Antarctic Ocean. They are rarely seen in the wild, and especially on shark documentaries, and that is precisely why, even with whites and mako on the show’s menu, that the porbeagle contained within Shark Vortex is the real star of this show.

But first, Skomal and Romeiro had to get to the damned thing. Early on in the show, there is a sighting off Rhode Island of a large smooth hammerhead with a dark brown dorsal. The crew moves farther north. They sit at the edge of a temperature barrier in the water, with cold water on one side and warm on the other. They bait the edge and blue sharks appear right away. When a mako takes the bait, a thermal camera shows a white light behind the mako’s eyes that registers heat where the blue sharks did not, showing the endothermic nature of the mako. While filming, they capture one mako fully grabbing another similarly sized mako by the gills while fighting over the bait. While in the area, they take in the sights of other large species cruising through the area, such as a basking shark and then a whale shark.

The action moves to the even colder waters off Cape Cod, Massachusetts to meet and hopefully tag some great whites. Skomal hopes to encounter the biggest of all great whites that frequent the area, a tremendous 20-foot female named Burly. While they look about, they are given the opportunity to observe a pod of humpback whales bubble-net feeding on the surface. This is where the whales surround a mass of krill (or other small fish) in the water and exhale air from their blowholes to force the krill into tighter spaces, further creating a net with their bubbles to keep the krill contained. Then the whales will all converge on the restrained krill and envelope the creatures with massive gulps taken by their cavernous mouths, using their baleen to strain the water away from the tasty krill. It’s a pretty groovy sight seeing whales work together in this way to get dinner.

Running water through a young
porbeagle's gills while it is tagged.
Farther north, they spot another great white. Greg realizes it is Burly, whom he has failed to tag before, and attempts once more to do so. He finally succeeds this time, sneaking up on her from behind after a couple of ill-timed attempts. After tagging his beloved Burly, Skomal heads the boat up the coast to Maine to find what he calls “The Phantom,” in other words, the porbeagle. Much smaller than the other two sharks by half, the porbeagle’s bulky, short frame makes it ideally suited to colder waters. Skomal will find out quickly that catching a porbeagle will prove highly frustrating, but in order to draw one closer to them, they attempt to fish for the shark. At first, a porbeagle does get on the line, but escapes easily. They return at dawn the next day. They fish again and get a very young porbeagle on the line, and they suit up to help the fish into the boat to measure and tag it before releasing it again. We see that the proportional size of the porbeagle’s set of gills is huge in comparison to bigger species, another adaptation that helps them in this environment. The scientists hope the tag will help them gather evidence that this area off Cape Cod is a nursery area for baby porbeagles.

Shark Vortex is a lovely little special with a shark not seen on Shark Week very often. And a lot of people seem to be very surprised when they find out a small number of sharks are at least partially warm-blooded. I was at the Discovery Center in Boise, Idaho a few weeks ago visiting an exhibit called Planet Shark, and I heard at least three people exclaim that they never knew there were warm-blooded sharks. This is exactly why we need shows like this on Shark Week, and not just the usual “oooh, sharks are scary” nonsense. – TC4P Rating: 7/9

#6 – Return to Isle of Jaws (premiered Monday, July 24, 2017)

As befits the title, we have yet another great white-centric episode, and yes, it is yet another sequel to an effort from last year. Luckily, I really enjoyed Isle of Jaws during Shark Week 2016, even if I did question the veracity of one segment that read a little contrived to me. Still, I hoped at the time for a follow-up this year, and now I have it.

We once again meet cameraman and star Andy Casagrande, who could easily just get a lot of work simply filming Shark Week specials (he is in the credits for a surprising number of these shows), but has just enough charisma to perform well as a host on his own. Before Andy and his team head back to the Neptune Islands off Australia, home of the so-called Isle of Jaws, we are given a recap of last year’s visit to the area. After that, Andy and diver Paul de Gelder take to a motorized shark cage and drop it to the bottom of the area and discover, just like last year, that only male sharks are to be seen milling about in the water. Andy leaves the relative safety of the cage to get better footage of each sharks’ dorsal fins and body markings. After a while, seeing the docile nature of the males here, they decide to drive the cage to an area frequented by seals. However, swells in the water shake the cage around and rattle them against the rocks under the surface close to shore, so Andy and Paul have to abandon the cage. Standing in waist high water, they tie a rope to the cage to maneuver it out into deeper water.

Twins? Wait until the third identical shark joins them...
Much of the special is fairly repetitive, both in regards to last year's doc and also within itself, but the new episode is livened up by some terrific shots of these large males swimming in seeming comfort with each other in a way that would normally lead to fights over territory or even outright attacks elsewhere. The mystery lies in exactly why this sort of behavior seems to only occur here near the Isle of Jaws. Late in the show, as Andy leaves the cage, several of the males start to investigate both the cage and the divers out in the open. Eventually, Andy notices that a pair of the males seem to be swimming in synchronized fashion, turning at the same time and keeping in formation for pass after pass.

The pair also seem to have nearly identical birthmarks on their tailfins, leading to the possibility that they might be brothers/twins and would appear to be a scientific first. Later, after telling the other scientists of their find, a subsequent dive has them discover a third male great white with the same tail markings. The thought is that perhaps what has been found at the Isle of Jaws is a school of young great whites, which is previously unheard of activity, and especially could mean that great whites form rudimentary family bonds after all. Until further DNA testing is done, we won’t know what is really going on at the Isle of Jaws, but I would bet everything on a third in the series next year during Shark Week. – TC4P Rating: 7/9

#7 – Alien Sharks: Stranger Fins (premiered Monday, July 24, 2017)

This show is exactly my type, and the kind to which I most look forward each year (when they have them). Since I will never get a full Shark Week one year that is entirely devoted entirely to smaller, less known species, I have to embrace shows like Alien Sharks as much as I can. That they subtitled this year’s episode in honor of the current popularity of Stranger Things was an added bonus, but luckily they don’t play up the “monster” theme at all. The producers obviously just wanted it to make the latest version sound a little more eerie and also tap into some of the buzz surrounding a millennial favorite.

Sawsharks and goblin sharks are in focus here, and I fully welcome their intrusion into the usual Shark Week routine. I have no idea if Discovery planned this out or not, but later in the week there is a special devoted to the sawfish, which is actually a type of ray, so it is quite timely that we get to see the differences between sawsharks and sawfishes in the same week. For the record, sawsharks are a distinct order of sharks with a variety of species, but all have gills on the side of their bodies like most other sharks and also have two barbels that extend from their “saws” about halfway down the saw’s length.

The fourth episode of Alien Sharks starts with Dr. Craig O’Connell of the O’Seas Conservation Foundation and Dr. Jane Williamson of MacQuarie University as they set sail on a research trawler to the Bass Strait between Australia and Tasmania to find and hopefully tag sawsharks. (For those playing the Shark Week drinking game – though that would not include me – they do say “for the first time ever” at this point, a standard SW declaration.) Nets attached to the trawler by winch are pulled in to collect various specimens – the trawler is used to study fish populations – and they hope that sawsharks will be numbered amongst those specimens.

A similar situation is shown to be taking place concurrently in Tokyo Bay as Dr. Dave Ebert and marine biologist Victoria Elena Vásquez board a boat usually used for hauling in deep sea crabs to find the elusive goblin shark. First they visit the world’s largest fish market in Tokyo to see if they can locate any goblins for sale, but come up empty. So they meet a local fisherman who has been more successful catching crabs deeper in the area than anyone else, and he tells them that he quite frequently catches goblin sharks but considers them “trash” because he can’t earn money from them.

For the remainder of the hour, the action will cut between these two boats seeking entirely different types of sharks, and both will fortunately have successful payoffs for their efforts. For the viewer, the hour will hold a never-ending stream of species you normally don’t see during Shark Week. Best of all, the sharks will all be returned to the water to live out their lives after the scientists measure them, collect observable data, take DNA samples, and quite often tag the sharks to collect migration and depth data (for examples).

O’Connell and Williamson strike first by bringing up an elephant fish, also known in this case as the Australian ghostshark. This species (Callorhinchus milii) is part of the family of plough-nosed chimaeras, and are not really sharks at all but do belong to the same class of cartilaginous fishes that sharks and rays do. (They and the chimaeras are in their own subclass separate from the elasmobranchs, though in different families.) The elephant fish is a marvelous sight, with its weird snout dangling off the end of its head. O’Connell’s crew gets their sawshark pretty early on in their search, and then pull in several more sawsharks after that. This particular species is the common sawshark, also known as a longtooth or longnose sawshark (Pristiophorus cirratus). Later, they will pull a gummy shark (aka Australian smooth hound, flake, or smooth dog-shark) and yet another elephant fish.

The boat in Tokyo Bay, for my money, pulls in the wider array of cool sharks in the show, starting first with their own ghostshark, this time of the other family within the Holocephali subclass, the chimaeras. Not long after, Ebert and Vásquez help to pull in one shark after the other throughout the first day’s efforts: a cute, newborn gulper shark; a bioluminescent seal shark or kitefin (Dalachias licha); a shovelnose (birdbeak) dogfish (Deania calcia); a mandarin dogfish (Cirrhigaleus barbifer), which has barbels much like a catfish; a cloudy catshark (Scyliorhinus torazame), followed by a demon catshark (Apristurus japonicus). In later pulling of the nets, we will see them pull in an unidentified species of lanternshark, along with the rather snake-like frilled shark, which for my money is one of the coolest finds on the show (it has six gill slits where most sharks have five) and might as well just be called the Muppet shark for how it looks exactly like some frightening form of hand puppet. (There were many other species of sharks, 22 overall, that were found on their trip, and I can only wish this episode of Alien Sharks was two hours long to give them all time.)

In discussing the differences and similarities between sawsharks and sawfishes, we are told both give birth to live pups, and then are shown a video by Dr. Dean Grubb’s experience last year in encountering a pregnant sawfish where two of its babies were unable to come out of the mother because they were jammed in side by side. Grubb had to grab hold of one baby’s rostrum and pull it free, thereby helping the sawfish give birth. This, to me, made the watching of this special entirely worth it, though the rest of Alien Sharks was nothing but a love affair for me as well. Going back to the trawler, O’Connell wants to study exactly how sawsharks use the teeth on their rostrum, since he is pretty certain they don’t impale their prey with their snouts like sawfishes do. They develop a camera rig harness that they can attach to one of the sawsharks and send it on its way. A few hours later, O’Connell with search for the detached harness to see what the camera shows him, but the harness has become trapped in the only kelp forest in the area and he has no diving equipment with him to seek it out and return it. Finally, he will locate the camera floating on it own, and when they review the footage, we get “the first” footage of a sawshark’s journey across the ocean floor. Unfortunately, no hunting behavior is seen this time.

The Tokyo Bay crew has camera tricks of its own, and they pay off in spades. Ebert and Vásquez left a camera on the bottom of the bay last year to collect video of deep sea sharks and other fish, and when they view the results at a local pub, they (and we) see a hagfish, spider crabs, a sharp-nosed sevengill shark, and the same new species of lanternshark they just caught earlier on the boat. This will give Vásquez the rare opportunity to name another new species of lanternshark, just as she did the previous year when she identified the ninja lanternshark.(See yesterday’s recap for more information on that.)

The show will get down to one of those “It was our last day” or “last chance” scenarios, with the hours whittling down to mere minutes before whatever it is they were searching for is discovered “at the last minute”. Ebert and Vásquez will finally get their goblin shark, a small one that will help their theory that Tokyo Bay may be used mainly as both a mating ground and pupping ground by goblin sharks, explaining why the relatively small size of specimens captured here are only 4 feet long, when a fully grown adult goblin can reach 20 feet long. The specimen they capture will need to be revived after its journey from its normal depths to the surface, which they will manage successfully. Finally, there is a terrific moment where they test the speed and reach of a goblin’s jaws, one of the more ghoulish-looking natural acts you could ever find, it’s jaws jutting forward several inches to grab gruesomely at whatever it can get. The best that can be said is that goblin sharks certainly have a rather unique look all to their own.

Alien Sharks: Stranger Fins, if you couldn’t tell, was precisely what I wanted from Shark Week: an immensely interesting and scientific cataloguing of many species of sharks, giving me glimpses at things I normally only get to see in photos and drawing in books. If you saw my comments about her yesterday, and it sounds like I am more than a little enamored by the presence of Vicky Vásquez in the show, I am sincere in my belief that her buoyant personality is exactly what Shark Week needs in the future to help sell the public on the importance of sharks in our oceans. Celebrities are fine to figuratively put butts in seats, but while Discovery has found a number of appealing hosts for these shows from out of the scientists, divers, and photographers they engage – respectively, Dr. O’Connell, Paul de Gelder, and Andy Casagrande – Vásquez is the real deal, someone with not just the scientific experience but also an impossibly engaging personality that could possibly turn her into a franchise player if developed properly. I mentioned Steve Irwin yesterday, but on a third viewing of the show, I was kind of getting a combination of Rachael Ray and Kari Byron, only with shark creds. You might bristle at such a combination (and I am not necessarily a fan of Ray’s but I don’t dislike her), but that’s a show that I will tune into time and again. I hope Vásquez will be back for more next year. – TC4P Rating: the exceedingly rare, as if it came up from the very depths of the ocean, 9/9

#8 – Sharks and the City: L.A. (premiered Tuesday, July 25, 2017)

Sharks and the City: L.A. has everything you expect from a modern great white film documentary. Cage diving, seals, shark tagging, and a lot of worry about what happens when great whites get too close to human populations at the beach. The scenes in the water with great whites are compelling as usual though perhaps a bit generic (but one must understand that we are talking about a high quality product here, as today’s generic is of a higher standard than yesterday’s outstanding; the cinematography by Andy Casagrande and team is marvelous.) There is a thrilling section where one diver finds himself with failing equipment and has to make a dangerous break for the surface. We see some cool examples of how larger sharks might possibly bully younger, smaller whites for competition for food sources. One gets a lot of action in a short period, and anyone seeking out a shark doc could do far, far worse than this one.

But, boy, did I ever have a problem with this doc.

We live in the Southern California area, and hardly a day has gone by the past couple of years – and especially this year – in which sharks didn’t show up at some point in the daily local news broadcasts. The reason is because the population of juvenile great whites in the area’s beaches are way up over past years, and shark alerts are constantly out over the baby whites encroaching into popular swimming and surfing areas. The addition of drones laden with cameras as everyday technology in our lives, as well as the now ubiquitous usage of easily adaptable Go-Pro cameras, have led to the discovery of far more sharks swimming around us than we are comfortable knowing are out there. This, in turn, leads to more footage of these sharks on the news, and then that leads to more people unfamiliar with how sharks actually operate in our oceans going overboard with demands for something to be done about it. (I call this the Church Lady Faction, even though this has nothing to do with religion, but it takes a similar type of person – usually blue-nosed and anti-science to the exclusion of everything but human beliefs and concerns – to get wound up about such things.)

There have been numerous articles published about what exactly is going on in Southern California regarding the upsurge in great white activity, and no matter what the reasons, it is pretty much agreed that the bulk of sightings are juveniles. The occasional adult is sighted, but by and large, juveniles are the ones sticking closest to the hotter water areas near the shores where swimming, surfers and kayakers alike are not just in as close a proximity as most would like with these sharks, but also reporting much erratic behavior on the part of the sharks. Most reports credit the mass of stingrays in the area as a big part of the attraction for these sharks, as they hone their hunting skills and hope to make an easy meal. What they are not doing is targeting humans, since great whites do not have us on their menus, but naturally, accidents will occur here and there. Even with that, the accidents have thus far been rather minimal given how much great interaction there is currently.

The upswing in great white activity has been so noticeable that some popular whale and dolphin watching services have taken to adding “shark sighting” tours into their schedules as well. My wife Jen and I are big fans of one particular service, Captain Dave’s, and when Dave’s started to do their own shark sightings out of Dana Point, my wife and my mother-in-law surprised me with a tour on the very first day of operation. (Though we were the second boat to go out, we were the first to make contact.) That’s right, we went out in a 24-ft. boat with 9 other people and we zipped through the shallows (10 to 20 ft. deep) all the way down to San Clemente, and were guided by the ghost of Richard Nixon’s head to our encounter with a juvenile great white of our own. Only once did it break the surface barely with its dorsal, but otherwise remained just below the water while we floated about with the baby white for roughly 45 minutes. For me, since I am a terrible swimmer and will probably never get dive-certified to be able to go down in a cage, this was probably the closest I will actually get in the wild to a great white, and I was in a dreamland all my own the entire trip. (A fellow boat took our picture with the shark in the foreground and so we ended up on the Facebook page for the safari service. I got my own pictures of the shark as well, though none were as clear as that first one.)

It seemed to me that a lot could be made of this situation for a shark documentary, one that could enlighten the public as to all the reasons why the baby whites are here, and that could show how they are mostly oblivious to our presence as they instinctually go through their natural growth patterns and hone their hunting skills on fish and stingray, eventually working their way up to seals, all with the Southern California landscape as a backdrop. I am sure that such a special would be most beneficial to both the humans and the sharks in the area, and answer a lot of questions that people might have over the great white presence here.

Sharks and the City: L.A. sounds like it could be that show, and even started out making me think it was indeed that very show. Dr. Chris Lowe of Shark Lab has spent the past decade tagging younger sharks in the area and studying their patterns and growth. And as the lead in Sharks and the City: L.A., he gives us a whirlwind of tour of how great whites are leaving their marks in all sorts of local places offshore from L.A.: Catalina Island to see footage of a spearfishing encounter with a 15-ft. white; San Miguel Island at a sea lion colony; and a whale carcass of California where great whites have been feeding.

Chris’ theory is that the DNA he has collected from sharks at the sea lion colony are more closely related to sharks from the Guadalupe Island area in Mexico than they are from the normal California aggregation sites. And so, around the 13-minute mark, the special moves to Mexico for pretty much the remainder of a special that is supposed to be in the L.A. area. It is told to us over and over that adult sharks are all over L.A. beaches, and the fact that the ones so famously close to short this summer are mostly juveniles is never stressed on the show. (This astounds me, because Shark Lab was a part of the articles that I read about why the juveniles were here in great numbers, including this one from just four weeks ago in the OC Register:

Instead, because it is more apt to get bigger ratings for Shark Week, we get cage diving scenes off Guadalupe Island, so that we can have exciting encounters with bigger, scarier sharks. The show takes pains to point out that one must understand these sharks to avoid creating a panic, but then coats shot after shot of injuries upon sea lions at San Miguel with horror movie-style musical tones. Ultimately, Lowe’s idea about what is going on in Guadalupe is that there are too many sharks competing for too small a seal population, and so the ones showing up off the coast of L.A. are the ones who have been muscled out of Guadalupe.

You know, this is all fine, and I find Lowe's theories and conclusions to be completely sound, and in fact, even agree with them. I like Lowe and his work with Shark Lab, and I take no issue with his work normally. My issue is with appearances and objectives, and this documentary fails the immediate question at hand about the increase of juvenile great whites in the area initially stated in the premise of the program. This special is really about adult great whites in areas for the most part away from the real areas that make the local and national news with increasing regularity. This is what should be addressed here. Lowe does come across one shark in Guadalupe that he had tagged as a juvenile in Santa Monica Bay previously, and he then sees that shark moving away from Guadalupe, perhaps due to bullying from bigger sharks. He muses over the shark likely returning to Southern California, and they state flatly on the show that perhaps this sort of activity explains the increase. But that is a bullshit connection, because most of the adult sharks they are discussing as leaving Guadalupe weren’t even tagged as juveniles off the beaches of Southern California. It explains that one shark from which they receive a clear signal, but nothing more. 

And it still has little to do with the preponderance of younger juveniles in the shallows off L.A. I guess we will have to leave actual answers to that for a more direct special. - TC4P Rating: 5/9

#9 – Sharks and the City: New York (premiered Tuesday, July 25, 2017) 

Man, I really like Dr. Craig O’Connell. It may not be for reasons that he appreciates, but I like the guy. He’s a solid scientist doing some good work (I really enjoyed his special about the use of magnets around sharks last year), but there is just a touch of Jack Hanna to him. He is super excitable when things are going well with a sighting or a tag or he seems to be close to proving a theory, and his excitement over sharks is infections. But, boy oh boy, does he ever get that look in his eyes – the same one that Hanna does – and that sense of gathering flop sweat when he starts to think that maybe something is going slightly askew or even fully wrong. I mentioned something to this degree last year, but don’t get me wrong. I am not mocking Dr. O’Connell, but in fact, praising him for appearing a tad more human than many of the people who host these shows.

Dr. Craig O'Connell
Unlike the L.A. version of Sharks and the City, which as I mentioned couldn’t wait to get out of the L.A. area and hightail it down to Mexico for the bulk of its running time, the New York version not only announces its intent to concentrate on the NY Bight area – a triangular stretch of water reaching from Montauk at the end of Long Island to Cape May, the southernmost point in New Jersey. In typical interviews with locals about the prospects of great whites living in local waters, the residents seem pretty cavalier and jokey about the subject. As in the L.A. version, a floating whale carcass is investigated, but in this one, O’Connell and his team encounter a large male shark tearing into the flesh of the whale but also interacting with the camera. Going back to New York Harbor, another whale that had been rammed by a boat is studied before the navy arrives to sink the carcass further offshore. The body shows massive damage done to it by huge shark bites in the flesh. Guessing that there may be a great white right under his boat at that moment, he fishes for it, but ends up with nothing after hours of running a line. He needs more proof.

There is a discussion of the seal population, once nearly extinct in the NY area, finally rebounding, which will prove to be a boon to sharks in coming years. There was already such a rebound in Massachusetts, and with the seals came the larger sharks. O’Connell sees a resemblance between the islands in the New York area and those in South Africa, and so he and cameraman Andy Casagrande (he’s a busy guy, I tell you) head briefly across the pond to dive with the seals in the kelp beds there. They cage dive with the whites there to see not just how the sharks behave but to find how the currents, the rocky bottom and murkiness of the water roughly match that of the NY Bight area. And just like that, where the L.A. version of Sharks in the City broke away from the area it was supposed to be covering by the 13-minute mark and chiefly remained in Mexico for the remaining 30 minutes, the New York version is done with South Africa already after just about a 10-minute visit, and then zips back to its homeland to cover its announced intentions. As you have learned in today's reviews, staying on topic, or at least circling back around to it, is a big, big thing with me.

O’Connell continues fishing NY Harbor, and comes up with a dogfish via hook, and then tows a line behind his boat for hours to eventually come up with a female sandbar shark close to shore. Sharks are in the area, but he hasn’t found the female great white he wants to possibly prove that whites are pupping in this area. He moves over to the end of the Bight in Montauk, the area where Capt. Frank Mundus, the famous shark-murderer who inspired the role of Quint in Jaws, once caught a record 3,427-lb. great white in 1988. O’Connell cage-dives to the bottom at Montauk, but after the fish scurry away as if something big is in the water down there, Craig frustratingly runs out of air and has to head back to the surface. His team places a baited camera trap and eventually gathers evidence of at least nine different, juvenile great whites patrolling the waters off Montauk, which possibly points to large females using the NY Bight to give birth.

Ultimately, O'Connell returns to New York Harbor to try his luck again. (Once more, we have a "last chance" cliche in one of these shows, the most common recycled trope in fact). With a tropical storm threatening to hit the area, narrator Chris Noth – Mr. Big himself – tells us that Craig and his team pulled a 48-hr. shift on the water to capture a white before the storm hit. Craig does finally pull in a very young (possibly a month or two old) 5’5” beauty that they measure, take DNA samples, and then attach a fin cam to the shark. However, despite his obvious, screaming glee at catching the fish, when they attach the fin cam, it comes off almost immediately. (Noth says the shark is "a true New Yorker; his private life is nobody's business.) You can see the "why me?," almost Charlie Brown-like, on O'Connell's face, and it is kind of adorable. He gets results, but he is going to show you every fret and worry along the way, along with the joy. – TC4P Rating: 7/9

That's it for Days 2 and 3 of Shark Week. We will have more to come. Same shark-time, same shark-channel...


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