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SHARK ATTACK!

Shark Bites Man Off Cape Cod

Shark Bites Man Off Cape Cod Jessica Wynne / Getty Images

Stable, transferred to Mass. General.

A man swimming at a Cape Cod beach was apparently bitten by a shark on Monday. Witnesses at the Truro beach say they saw “a very large black dorsal fin” surface near the man, and that shortly thereafter the man, whose name wasn’t released, swam onto shore with bites on his legs. He was transferred to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston after being taken to Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis. “I can tell you it looked just like the movies,” said one witness. “We were in shock in what we saw. We couldn’t believe what we were watching.” While there’s been some recent panic about shark attacks on Cape Cod, there hasn’t actually been a shark-related fatality there since 1936.

Read it at Cape Cod Times

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Best & Worst

10 Celebrity Sharks

If hours of slow-motion shots of Great Whites ripping anything and everything to shreds this Shark Week still leaves you insatiable, you need to see this. From the two-headed star of ‘Sand Sharks’ to the Samuel L. Jackson killer in ‘Deep Blue Sea,’ the best and worst of cinema’s sharks.

The Most Memorable Attack: Jaws

Spolier Alert: The guy wedged between the jaws of…Jaws doesn’t make it. These memorable few seconds are sandwiched between “You’re going to need a bigger boat” and “Smile, you son of a bitch.”

The Best (Only) Flick Featuring a Two-Headed Shark: Sand Sharks

Sand Sharks, a new Jaws ripoff from this year that went straight to video does have one thing going for it: it features a two-headed shark and stars Hulk Hogan’s daughter, Brooke. OK, make that two. In the classic girl-in-a-bikini-gets-innocently-attacked-by-monstrous-shark scene, Hogan takes on the beast with two heads with little more than a Buffy-esque stake. You go, girl!

The Best Way to Kill a Samuel L. Jackson’s Character: Deep Blue Sea

Don’t blink or you might miss it. In this epic monologue from Deep Blue Sea, a hungry shark makes a bite-size snack out of Jackson. After which his enlightened colleague utters, “It just ate him.”

Sharks have a reputation that they’ll never live up to. You have a better chance of being killed by malaria or whooping cough.

As summer begins, familiar beach rites start up again. But along with the sunscreen, picnic coolers, and car caravans, there is the lurking fear that has dominated the American psyche since Jaws first struck movie screens 36 years ago: What about a shark attack? The number of reported shark attacks worldwide increased 25 percent in 2010, fueled in part by a series of strikes off the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, heightening the sense of dread beachgoers often feel when they approach the water’s edge.

Great White Shark

Ryan Pierse / Getty Images

The fear of being attacked from below the surface, by a hidden foe, taps into our most primal instincts. There are other lethal animals we might encounter in the wild—grizzly bears or tigers or … but we can see them coming. Sharks, by contrast, operate in a foreign territory where we visit from time to time. Their ability to launch a surprise strike renders us defenseless.

Here’s the truth, America: the sooner we make our peace with sharks, the better off we’ll all be.

This is not to say sharks are harmless. They are predators whose skills have been honed over millennia, and from time to time, they mistake humans for their target. They’ve got multiple rows of sharp teeth and when their teeth  break off or become worn, new ones grow in; they can detect the beating heart of creatures under the water’s surface or buried in the sand; and the bite force of a modern great white is more than three times the strength of an African lion.

And while some sharks consume tiny plankton and others eat seals, they do make unprovoked strikes on humans a few dozen times a year. Last year there were 79 attacks worldwide, according to the International Shark Attack File, the highest number since 2000 (when there were 80). But there were still only six fatalities, compared to an average of 4.3 during the past decade.

How does that compare to other causes of death, both globally and in the United States? Snake bites account for more than 100,000 annual fatalities, reports the World Health Organization. And according to the Centers for Disease Control’s 2007 statistics—the latest figures available—five Americans died from malaria, nine from whooping cough, and 613 from the accidental discharge of firearms during that year.

And what about the global epicenter of shark bites, Volusia County, Florida, which consistently leads the world in terms of reported shark attacks year after year? It had 17 unprovoked strikes in 2007 and 22 in 2008. But surfers continue to trek there undeterred, because the waves are good and the waters host blacktip and spinner sharks, which often exact only minor injuries. “It’s far from being the most dangerous place in the water,” notes George Burgess, who directs the Florida Program for Shark Research at the Florida Museum of Natural History and compiles the International Shark Attack File.

Phenomenon

How Shark Week Changed TV

Discovery's wildly popular programming begins Sunday. Peter Lauria on why we can't get enough. Plus, VIEW OUR GALLERY of Shark Week's scary stars!

At first it wasn’t scary at all. The cage I was in seemed secure, and it was submerged in only a few feet of the clear, cobalt blue ocean water of Oahu’s North Shore, shallow enough for the top to poke out and allow me to periodically come up for air. And after just two sharks appeared during my first five minutes in the water—at a safe enough distance to barely be perceptible—this swimming-with-sharks excursion was turning into little more than a tourist trap.

Or so I thought.

As I tried to frame a shot of one of the Sandbar sharks in the distance with my underwater camera, another, much larger and much closer Galapagos shark swam into focus. Then another. And another. Within seconds there were too many sharks to count, at least two dozen, all easily a foot or more in length, swimming around the cage in a frenzied circle. Enticed by the bloody, dismembered tuna used for chum, and curious about the strange structure and unfamiliar objects in the water—my cagemate, a petite brunette from Colombia, and me—the sharks formed an underwater conga line, hitting into the steel bars and plexiglass viewing window as they darted by. The brute force behind the nose-nudges caused the cage to swing violently from side to side.

Things began getting really scary really quickly. I could see my cagemate’s panicked eyes through her diving mask. But I wasn’t nervous. Swimming with sharks had been a bucket list item of mine since age 12, and those final, exhilarating 20 minutes in the water with them only heightened my desire to take the plunge again. Except next time without the cage.

The Jaws movies had piqued my interest as a child, but what really got me hooked on this exotic creature that perfectly combines speed, grace, efficiency, and aggression was Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. Apparently other viewers have felt the same way. Now in its 23rd year, Shark Week—which begins on Sunday and runs through Aug. 7—ranks as cable television’s longest-running event. And instead of waning, it is more popular than ever—the last three Shark Weeks were the three most watched ever, averaging a cumulative viewership of 27.6 million viewers over seven days, according to Nielsen data.

“Shark Week has become an indelible part of pop culture and a must-see event each summer,” says Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav. “There is no exact formula for why some franchises grab the public consciousness and never let go, but with Shark Week it starts with great storytelling, cutting edge production values, and a fascinating character: the shark!”

Click the Image to See Shark Week’s Scary Stars

lauria-shark-week_110470

Discovery Channel

CNN's Anderson Cooper, on assignment for 60 MINUTES, writes about plunging into bloody water to swim with one of the world's most vicious—and endangered—predators.

It is an odd sensation, sitting with your legs dangling in bloody water, watching enormous great white sharks swim underneath you. It is an even odder sensation knowing that you are about to plunge your whole body into that water and swim with the sharks, who are searching for food. I kept thinking of that line in The Godfather, “Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes.”

I am not one to take risks unnecessarily. I don’t jump out of planes, or bungee jump. I don’t see the point. But I had agreed to dive with the great whites because I was doing a profile of Mike Rutzen, who in South Africa, where he lives, is known as the Sharkman. Rutzen is not a marine biologist, in fact, he’s not a scientist at all. He is a fisherman who has become fascinated by great whites, and has spent more time up close with them than just about anybody else on the planet.

CLICK HERE to watch video of Andersoon Cooper swimming with the great white sharks.

Rutzen dives with the Great Whites to learn about them, and to prove the point that they are not mindless killers out to eat humans. He is not an aquatic version of Timothy Treadwell, the eccentric man who tried to live with bears in the wild, only to be eaten by them. Rutzen does take risks, but he is not under any illusion about what these sharks are capable of.

I’ve dived with Rutzen once before, and agreed to do it again because it is among the more thrilling and interesting interactions you can have with an animal in the wild. Great whites have been around for millions of years, and yet there is still a lot we don’t know about them. They’ve never been seen mating for instance, or giving birth. They can travel great distances, and getting close to them for long periods of time is difficult and obviously dangerous. Few people like great white sharks—or any kind of shark, for that matter—so the problem with that is that few people seem to care that some 70 million sharks are slaughtered every year to make shark fin soup, a delicacy in Asia. The sharks are caught in nets or long fishing lines, and their fins are cut off while they are still alive. Their bodies are dumped back into the sea. Rutzen believes if more people understood sharks and respected them and their role in the ecosystem of the ocean, they would work harder to protect them.

So what’s it like diving with great whites? In a word - terrifying. They are enormous. The sharks I could clearly see from the surface of the water were about 15 feet in length, but what you don’t realize until you are underwater and they are coming straight at you, is just how thick they are; their girth is massive, and what’s worse, they seem completely un-intimidated by humans. It turns out they don’t like scuba bubbles, which seem to make them nervous, and when they get nervous, they open their mouths and display their teeth. It is quite disconcerting. Mike Rutzen told me to try to “project confidence,” but I forgot to ask him how to do that underwater through a wetsuit.

How to Survive a Shark Attack

Does punching a shark in the nose really work? And don't grasshoppers deserve their own week, too? In honor of Shark Week, underwater cameraman Andy Casagrande answers questions from our Tumblr community.

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10 Celebrity Sharks

10 Celebrity Sharks

From the two-headed star of ‘Sand Sharks’ to the ‘Deep Blue Sea’ killer, movies’ best and worst sharks.