How to tell if a “shark in flooded city streets after a storm” photo is a fake in 5 easy steps


The combination of increasing extreme weather and social media has created, if you’ll pardon the pun, a perfect storm for sharing photos that show post-hurricane devastation (both real and fake). Many of them take the form of of a shark swimming through flooded city streets. For better or for worse, I’m known as “the shark guy” among my friends and family, which means that every time one of these pictures pops up, I get it e-mailed to me on the order of 50-100 times.

With the hopes of lightening my inbox and edu-ma-cating our loyal readers, presented below is a simple guide to determine if any given “shark after the storm” photo is fake.

1) Use your vast knowledge of shark biology to determine if a shark that size of that species could possibly be in water that deep.


The image above was one of the first “shark after a storm” pictures to go viral. It claimed to show a great white shark swimming through the flooded streets of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Irene in 2011. Take a look at how high the car’s side view mirror is above the water. That means the water level, while more than high enough to be destructive to cars and buildings, is not nearly high enough for a shark of that size to be comfortably swimming in. Also, great white sharks are not typically found in the Caribbean in August.

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Hurricane Sandy Update and Open Thread

At 450 nautical miles, Hurricane Sandy is currently tied as the second largest storm on record. Right now she’s sitting off the Carolina coast delivering massive amounts on rain to Southern Fried Science HQ, but the real trouble is going to start in a two days, when she makes landfall somewhere between Maryland and New Jersey. Too all our East Coast readers, stay safe out there and keep watching the storm tracks.

Feel free to use the comments thread to discuss the hurricane, ask hurricane safety and preparedness questions, or update everyone on the storm.

UPDATE: Google has assembled a Hurricane Sandy Crisis Map, which lists the location and occupancy of all active hurricane shelters:

UPDATE: The HMS Bounty, a 3-masted tall ship feature in the 1962 film Mutiny on the Bounty and more recently, Pirates of the Carribean Dead Man’s Chest, sunk of the coast off North Carolina. 

UPDATE: A colleague send images from the VIMS Eastern Shore Lab, showing several facilities swamped.

VIMS Eastern Shore Lab. Photo by Mark Luckenbach.

VIMS Eastern Shore Lab. Photo by Mark Luckenbach.