Jul 26, 2010

Shark Trouble

by Peter Benchley

Here the author of Jaws shares what he knows about sharks. Facts gathered as well as personal experiences. He refutes irrational fears, and instills reasonable ones, advising how to safely swim in ocean waters and what to do in the very unlikely case you are attacked by a shark. Sharks are something I never read much on before, so most of this information was new to me. I didn't know, for example, that the upper teeth are held hidden horizontal to the palette, and when the shark is ready to bite, they swing down ready for action. Hinged teeth! How cool (and scary) is that? Curiously enough, many people (if they don't panic) survive shark attacks because the shark is just taking an experimental bite, after which it instantly realizes you're not palatable and goes away. But a single bite from such a fearsome beast is one too many! The experiences in Shark Trouble range from up-close personal diving episodes, including the author suspending himself in a cage while a great white shark swarms around and bites the metal bars, to him standing by observing as an enormous shark is dissected for science. Very readable, quick-paced and intriguing overall. But not much depth, if you're really looking for information on sharks I'm sure there are better books out there. This one really only whetted my appetite. The main downside was that sometimes its tone was too casual for me. For example, at the beginning of the book Benchley talks about nation-wide shark panic in 2001 (of which I was entirely unaware), citing a ludicrous-sounding article from Weekly World News. I'm not familiar with that publication, so I didn't know it was a tabloid until I looked through the photos: the gaping shark jaws are pictured right next to a headline that says: 3-Breasted Woman, 3-Legged Man Have 3-Legged Baby! Credibility dropped a notch right there. Well, I managed to shrug off that silliness and keep reading: most of it was pretty interesting. It's not only about sharks; the book also features manta rays, barracudas, moray eels, groupers, giant squid and other oft-feared creatures of the sea (either telling us how harmless they really are if left alone, or warning with graphic stories of their frightfulness). Read this book before you next visit the beach. It might make you think twice about wading in the surf!

I borrowed this book from the public library, just because it caught my eye on the shelf.

Rating: 2/5 ........ 186 pages, 2002

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bermudaonion said...

Too bad it didn't explore the subjects better. I don't know much about sharks but I do remember people being in a panic over them several years ago.

Jenny said...

But don't sharks smell blood once they bite you the first time and then swarm like swimming vampires and gobble you all up?

I actually knew a guy who was attacked by a shark, but not while swimming. He was fishing with some friends, and one of his friends reeled in a shark accidentally, and the shark tried to bite this guy's friend, and he tries to pull the shark off his friend. Flesh rending hilarity ensued. (But he was okay!)

Jeane said...

Bermudaonion- Ah, so the shark epidemic fear was true? I'd just never heard of it, and having a tabloid quoted to tell me of it wasn't convincing. (Then again, I didn't visit beaches that year, being in college, so maybe that's why, I was just too insulated in academics).

Jenny- that sounds horrifying! Yes, they smell the blood, but apparently they can tell with one munch if you are worth (calorie-wise) spending the energy to kill and eat. They figure that out and go away to find something else. Although, what's to say another shark won't smell the blood and come take a test bite too?

Debi said...

Book sounds sort of fun, but like you I think I'd prefer a little more depth. Not that I should have a problem--I just spent the past week reorganizing our "library." Made many interesting discoveries--like the fact that we've got about 15 books on sharks. Seriously, who needs that many books on sharks?!! (According to my husband and 9-year-old son, we do.)

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I visited an aquarium one time and I actually saw the teeth of the shark swing out in anticipation of a passing fish! Odd especially since sharks are well fed in those places and they have no interest in the fish swimming around them -- their hunt instinct is so desensitized since they get fish sloshed to them during every feeding time of the day. A mighty interesting sight to see their teeth come out like that (not to mention, a tad frightening!).

Zibilee said...

I think that in the past few years, the public's appetite for information on sharks has been out of control. That is probably why this book was written. I know that once a year, the Discovery channel host Shark Week, with many different shows about sharks, 24 hours a day during that entire week. All in all though, it does sound like an interesting book, though it would be nice if it were a little more in depth.

Jeane said...

Debi- fifteen shark books? I bet your son knows a lot more about them than I just learned!

Coffe Book Chick- Wow, that is so cool. I'd love to see how that works. I've seen lots of small sharks in aquariums but all they do is swim in endless circles. I always miss feeding time!

Zibilee- He talks a lot in the book about media programs that are on tv just because so many people are fascinated by sharks.

Stefanie said...

My sister loves all thing shark. I don't think she has this book but from the sound of it, it's not all that great. Which is probably why she doesn't already have the book. Oh well, and here I thought I may have discovered her Christmas present already.

Jeane said...

Stefanie- well, for a light read and an introduction to the subject it's okay. But if she already knows a lot about sharks, this one probably won't add anything new.