It’s hard to believe it has been 40 years since the terrifying thriller “Jaws” hit movie theaters. And in case you didn’t know, we’re also in the middle of Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week.”
When “Jaws” was first released, I had a friend whose older sister worked at the ticket counter in the local movie theater. She was happy to let us pre-teens into the R-rated movie. I saw “Jaws” five times for free. I should apologize to Steven Spielberg but, in my own defense, I have seen that petrifying movie many more times since childhood, and I have paid for every rental.
When I saw the great white’s teeth in “Jaws,” I knew I was never going into the deep ocean again. Even snorkeling in shallow water still freaks me out. Luckily I’m a New York City dweller, where everything is safe. 😉
But seriously, the best defense against shark attacks is to stay out of the ocean. Even though it is only July, the Carolinas have already seen 12 shark attacks, yet people continue to go into the water. Incomprehensible. Typically the annual number of shark attacks in the Carolinas are between four and six.
Ever heard of that show called “Beyond Scared Straight”? Well, I suggest a new reality show: “Scared Straight Out of the Water.” It can start with film footage of the two teenagers who lost limbs in North Carolina on June 15. They were shark-attack victims of two separate incidents that occurred on the same day. A 13-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy both lost their left arms to shark bites, and both are lucky to be alive.
Reading those stories led me to “Shark Week” on discovery.com, where I spotted a list called “20 Ways to Avoid a Shark Attack.” The website also offers a “Shark Attack Survival Guide” with 13 instructional videos — including one called, “Don’t Panic Around Sharks.” Uh, yeah, right.
“Sometimes that shark he looks right into ya. Right into your eyes. And, you know, the thing about a shark… he’s got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll’s eyes. When he comes at ya, doesn’t seem to be living … until he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white and then … ah then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin.’” — Quint (Robert Shaw) in “Jaws”
Warning: Stop reading right now if you are planning a vacay this summer that includes deep-sea diving, snorkeling or kayaking — especially if your trip destination is California.
For those of you who can handle tales of terror, here are my Top 9 scary great white shark attack stories:
Francisco Javier Solorio Jr., 39, was having a grand ole time riding waves in the waters at Surf Beach in Santa Barbara County, Calif., 130 miles northwest of Los Angeles. All of a sudden, a huge set of chompers sunk into the left side of Solorio’s torso. The authorities from the local Sheriff’s office identified the killer as a 15-foot great white shark. That fatal bite occurred on Oct. 23, 2012.
Another fatal shark attack happened exactly two years and one day earlier at the same beach. On Oct. 22, 2010, Lucas McKaine Ransom, 19, who had joked about sharks the night before with his brother, was savagely bitten while boogie boarding. Ransom’s friend Matthew Garcia was only two feet away when the 18-foot shark breached the water on its side and bit Ransom on the leg. Garcia said he heard his friend yell, “Help me, dude!” And then the blue water turned red. Garcia tried desperately to help his friend but said, “He was just kind of lifeless, just dead weight.”
On April 25, 2008, Dave Roger Martin, 66, a retired veterinarian, was with his triathlon training group at Tide Beach in Solana Beach, Calif. NBC News described the shark attack: “It struck around 7 a.m., charging at Martin from below and lifting him vertically out of the water, both legs in its jaws, its serrated teeth slicing deep, fatal gashes.” His friends saw him come up out of the water, screaming, “Shark!” Then he flailed his arms and went back under water. Two swimmers raced to him and dragged him to shore but Martin didn’t make it — he’d lost too much blood.
Randall Fry, 50, was killed on Aug. 15, 2004 by a great white near Kibesillah Rock on the Mendocino, Calif. coast. Fry had gone diving with his friend Cliff Zimmerman. SFGate reported that Zimmerman described the shark as swimming in fast and coming out of nowhere. Zimmerman said he saw the dorsal fin, then the massive shark struck Fry, and the water filled with blood instantly. “I was yelling and yelling, but I knew from the amount of blood that it was fatal.”
Deborah Blanche Franzman, 50, a sociology professor, was bitten twice while swimming on Aug., 19, 2003 in 15 feet of water 75 yards off Avila Pier at Avila Beach, Calif. She was bitten on her left hip and lower right leg by a great white shark. Witnesses said she screamed for help after the shark had struck twice. The length of the killer was estimated to be 15 to 18 feet based on the size of the bites. Franzman had been swimming alongside seals in a full-body wetsuit. Suddenly all of the seals scattered. Her wounds included a severed femoral artery. She bled to death. It is most likely that her wetsuit and fins were what led the shark to her, mistaking her for a seal.
James Robinson, 42, a veteran diver, was killed while diving for sea urchins near Harris Point in San Miguel Island, Calif. Robinson had been treading water on the ocean’s surface near his boat. His crew members were putting away equipment when they heard Robinson’s blood-curdling scream and whirled around to see him drifting unconscious in a huge pool of blood. “It was pretty gruesome,” said a crew mate. “His right leg was nearly severed, and his left leg had puncture wounds on it.” His crewmates tried to revive him but couldn’t find a pulse. “They say it’s like a bullet,” one of Robinson’s fellow urchin divers said, “you never see the one that hit you. I just hope it went quick for Jimmy.” Robinson was rushed to a hospital via helicopter but was pronounced dead from massive trauma.
Tamara McAllister, 24, was killed on Jan. 26, 1989. She had been kayaking off of Latigo Point, Paradise Cove, west of Malibu in Los Angeles County, Calif. She was with her boyfriend, Roy Jeffrey Stoddard, and they were swimming and kayaking daily to train for an upcoming triathlon. Their two kayaks turned up before McAllister’s floating body was found. One of their kayaks had three large holes in it believed to be from the impact of a great white shark. McAllister was discovered face down with large sections of her legs and behind missing. The coroner reported that she had a severed femoral artery and had bled to death. Despite an exhaustive search, her boyfriend’s body was never found.
Omar Conger, 28, was free-diving for abalone in a black wetsuit near Pigeon Point, between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz, Calif. on Sept. 15, 1984 when he was struck by a great white. He thrashed frantically while the killer fish dragged him under water. Sounds a lot like the opening scene in “Jaws,” right? Well, not exactly. Unlike the film, Conger and his friend Chris Rehm were atop a surf mat when, according to Rehm, “A huge white shark came up, grabbed [Conger] from behind, and while shaking him violently, pulled him under the water.” Within seconds, the shark reappeared with its back completely out of the water, with Conger still in its mouth! The shark then let go of Conger and headed for Rehm. Rehm swam to Conger and pulled him onto the dive mat and headed for the shore, but by the time they reached the sand, Conger was dead.
Lewis Archer Boren, 24, died in his black wetsuit on Dec. 19, 1984. He was attacked by a great white while he was alone surfing at South Moss Beach, Spanish Bay, Monterey, Calif. Before his body was found, two surfers stumbled upon Boren’s yellow kneeboard, which had an 18-inch bite mark in it. The board had washed ashore on Asilomar State Beach. A few days later, Boren’s body was found by a park ranger near Pacific Grove. The authorities determined that his body had been bitten through in the same spot as the kneeboard. The massive bite wound ran from his armpit to his hip and stretched halfway across his body. I hope he died quickly. The shark that attacked him was 17 to 19 feet long.
Me? I’ll stick to the air-conditioned movie theater across the street from my apartment and enjoy popcorn this summer.
Dorri Olds is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.