Shark Week has done it again with their Shark of Darkness nonsense. This show goes after everyone, from the whale watching industry, to shark cage diving, to South Africa as a country, and literally broke my heart to watch.
The fake-u-mentary is supposedly based in Hout Bay, but continually shows a map of Dyer Island and Geyser Rock and refers to Shark Alley that are all in Gansbaai, ~100km to the east. So why would they say Hout Bay? If you google “boat capsized in Hout Bay”, you will find that there was a boat which capsized outside of Hout Bay in 2012, killing 2 passengers onboard. This boat was capsized by heavy swell in the middle of the day and had nothing to do with a shark, let alone a mythical one. So I can only assume that Discovery Channel chose to include this very real tragedy in order to somehow legitimize their fake-u-mentary. This is horribly insensitive.
The shark Submarine is an urban legend from the 1970’s about a large white shark in False Bay, started by journalists who wanted to see how easy it would be to fool the average newspaper reader. The Submarine shark then was reportedly “sighted” for years to come and the legend grew longer as the years went on. Everyone who has worked on white sharks has seen their version of the Submarine, but it does not actually exist. Think Loch Ness.
I am a Zoologist specialized in behaviour, and have just completed my M.Sc. from the University of Cape Town studying the anti-predator tactics of Cape fur seals in Shark Alley, Geyser Rock, South Africa. Not once did I meet the researchers Shark of Darkness: Wrath of Submarine features, because they do not exist. They are actors. However, Discovery Channel has done a bit of googling and came upon our real great white shark wound healing research.
Prop is a real great white shark that was wounded by a direct hit from a boat’s propeller in Gansbaai, South Africa. This shark’s injuries were first identified by the Dyer Island Conservation Trust. Prop’s remarkable 9-month recovery was documented (video) and the results were published in Global Perspective on the Biology and Life History of the White Shark. Prop has nothing to do with Submarine – neither the real legend or the made up story Discovery Channel produced. None of the researchers who published Prop’s recovery were contacted by Discovery Channel. Again, by including this real bit of information, Discovery is trying to legitimize their fake-u-mentary.
Shark of Darkness serves as yet another unsurprising disappointment. There is so much real shark science occurring that could be featured, why make something up?
Michelle Wcisel is a Zoologist specialized in predator/prey behaivour and the Scientific Communicator for EDNA Interactive. She has spent the past 4 years studying the behaviour of white sharks and Cape fur seals at Geyser Rock, ‘Shark Alley’, South Africa.