Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Devil's Teeth (copy)


Sad news for the literary world, Peter Benchley, author of Jaws passed away February thirteenth. He was only 65 and touring with his latest book, Shark Trouble, when he succumbed to idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

Jaws swept the reading public’s imagination in 1974, remaining on the New York Times bestsellers list for 40 weeks. This, Benchley’s first novel, not only made him famous it also made first time director Steven Spielberg a household name.

Benchley had regrets, although the book escalated his wealth, it also gave sharks a bad reputation. He was always quick to remind people it was a work of fiction, “real sharks don’t hold grudges.” Actually he became a shark conservationist and studied the prehistoric creatures extensively for Shark Trouble.

Remaining ever active in the sea world, just last year he descended the abyss in another steel cage along with his wife of forty years. Benchley had this to say about his Mexican coast observation:

"We went at a time when the females came in and the females were much larger than the males. And at times we would have 4 or 5 of the most gorgeous female torpedoes drifting by the cage. We were thrilled, excited. We'd been around sharks for so long."

These female Great White Sharks are described as “Sisters” in Susan Casey’s new book, Devil’s Teeth. Sisters, a nickname given by biologists Peter Pyle and Scot Anderson, are groups or “sisterhoods” of female white sharks that cruise the coast off Farallon Islands during shark season. The seventeen foot long behemoths have earned names like Betty, Mama and the Cadillac.

Farallon Islands (pronounced fair-alon) located just 27 miles east of San Francisco, can be considered within, “delivery status for a pizza.” During shark season, up to twenty white sharks may be circling these islands hunting otters or seals. Can you imagine 120 acres packed full prehistoric eating machines?

Devil’s Teeth exposes a secret society of sharks unheard of, beyond the sea legends of California. Biologist Pyle and Anderson have enjoyed fourteen years of uninterrupted studies, actually motoring out to the kills and filming the underwater drama. They refer to their little skiff, usually half the size of the circling sharks, as the “dinner plate.”

This non-fiction book is as informative as it is fun, packed full of harrowing, close-encountered shark stories. A book that would make Benchley proud, but still keeps me on dry land. A close encounter with Cal Ripfin, I can miss.

1 comment: