The great white shark Mary Lee was pinged by satellite Dec. 17 heading back north and swimming off the South Carolina shore near McClellanville, while Genie hasn’t breached the surface since her last transmission Dec. 9 near Savannah.
Mary Lee breaches the ocean’s surface often; Genie, not so much. Nobody knows why the two sharks act differently. Perhaps they, like many of earth’s creatures, have their own personalities.
This exciting time for us, as followers, has reminded me of one of my all-time favorite books and movies, JAWS. I’ve been fascinated by sharks since childhood and I’ve read Peter Benchley’s best-selling book at least twice.
After seeing the blockbuster movie in 1975, I reluctantly swam in the ocean in Surfside Beach when my family returned there in 1976. Sure, it scared the crap out of me when the blonde chick, kid and Captain Quint got munched. And the whole theater jumped when that fisherman’s head popped through a jagged hole in the bottom of his sinking boat. Still, my love of the sea was greater than the fear that had been etched into my psyche. That fear turned to respect and then to greater admiration of sharks. From then on, I wanted to know as much about them as possible. I wanted to find even more fossilized sharks’ teeth.
Peter Benchley, who died in 2006 at the age of 65, said well before his death that he regretted turning shark encounters into a national obsession. “I couldn’t write JAWS today. The extensive new knowledge of sharks would make it impossible for me to create, in good conscience, a villain of the magnitude and malignity of the original.”
Well, rest in peace, big fella. Your work also had some positive effects on shark conservation — as his widow noted at the time of Peter’s death. “The next generation found (JAWS to be) a great adventure and many of them wanted to learn about the ocean.”
Who knows how many marine biologists were inspired to enter their field of work by JAWS? And I’ve aspired to be a beach bum ever since watching Quint slide down the Orca’s deck into the vengeful jaws of one angry fish.