December 4, 2005

Good book. Scary.

On rare clear days we can see the Farallones, a cluster of rocky islets 27 miles from San Francisco, where many ships have perished. Charlene and I have been reading The Devil's Teeth: A True Story of Obsession and Survival Among America's Great White Sharks, by Susan Casey, a book about them, and about the astonishing fact that for about 3 months a year they are a gathering place for Great White Sharks. LOTS of White Sharks! Hundreds, nobody knows how many for sure.

But a handful of scientists study them, at considerable risk and hardship. For instance, there is no safe place to tie up their whaler, which is lowered from a crane when they rush out because a kill has been spotted. Which is about the only way they have to get close to the sharks, watching for seal kills. Thousands of seals and sea lions live on the Farallones, and the sharks arrive lean and hungry, and depart much fatter in a few months.

Great Whites are BIG. Females can be 20 feet long, and 8 feet wide! They are mysterious creatures, smart, fast, warm-blooded. There's a terrible story, true, (and one I could not help laughing over, evil person that I am) in the book about some people who found an injured seal and nursed it back to health. And decided those nice islands off the coast would be a good place to release it back to the wild...in about 30 seconds a shark bit the thing literally in half!

...Later I saw the pictures myself, and they are spectacular. A two-ton, sixteen-foot male shark named Gouge [they give them names not to be cutsy, but to help keep track of them--some have been returning for a decade or more] is heaving himself out of the water only a few feet from the camera...In one image a tiny flipper can be seen hanging out of the left side of Gouge's mouth...
Posted by John Weidner at December 4, 2005 5:28 PM
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