Well, just returned from a little road trip to our Spanish pad and caught up with some news. At Wimbledon, Murray finally lost to Federer and Federer lost to Djokovic in the final.  Serena won the ladies trophy and proved that she is almost definitely the greatest women’s singles player in the land but on the ocean, another world champ, one very lucky surfer, Mick Fanning made a great escape from the jaws, not of defeat, but from 2 Great White Sharks. Scary or what?

Jaws (dir S.Spielberg 1975) is one of my favourite films of all time. I remember seeing it along with a row full of family members and the moment when Ben Gardner’s head rolled across the hole in his sunken fishing boat made us jump out of our seats. SCARY! The Oscar winning theme by John Williams is unrivalled in being able to instil those feelings of dread and uncertainty. I remember holidaying with my sister in Southern Florida. We were down at the Keys and enjoying the sun on the beach  when we decided to go for a swim in the sea. The water was so shallow we had to wade out for ages before we got to a decent depth for swimming. I don’t know which of us it was that said about shark attacks taking place in waist deep water or less but it prompted the dah da, dah da dah da dah da…we laughed but we must have been thinking the same thing. From treading water here in the ocean, how long would it take us to get back to the beach? Too long, let me tell you. We swam like hell but we still were potential shark fodder…MORE SCARY!!

Quint (Robert Shaw) was an eccentric character in the Jaws film. He could never be described as an ordinary guy. His history was that of a sailor whose experience aboard the USS Indianapolis (which was sunk by a Japanese submarine in the second world war, leaving him and 1100 of his fellow sailors stranded in shark infested waters for 5 days) had left him with a toughness to his character and a respect for sharks.

“Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in 12 minutes. Didn’t see the first shark for about a half an hour. Tiger. 13-footer. You know how you know that when you’re in the water, Chief? You tell by looking from the dorsal to the tail fin. What we didn’t know, was our bomb mission had been so secret, no distress signal had been sent. They didn’t even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, Chief, sharks come cruisin’, so we formed ourselves into tight groups. You know, it was kinda like old squares in the battle like you see in the calendar named “The Battle of Waterloo” and the idea was: shark comes to the nearest man, that man he starts poundin’ and hollerin’ and screamin’ and sometimes the shark will go away… but sometimes he wouldn’t go away. 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’. The ocean turns red, and despite all the poundin’ and the hollerin’, they all come in and they… rip you to pieces. You know by the end of that first dawn, lost a hundred men. I don’t know how many sharks, maybe a thousand. I know how many men, they averaged six an hour… Noon, the fifth day, Mr. Hooper, a Lockheed Ventura saw us. He swung in low and he saw us… he was a young pilot, a lot younger than Mr. Hooper. Anyway, he saw us and he come in low and three hours later a big fat PBY comes down and starts to pick us up. You know that was the time I was most frightened… waitin’ for my turn. I’ll never put on a lifejacket again. So, eleven hundred men went in the water; 316 men come out and the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb”.

That scene, with the story telling and the scar comparisons and the singing  ‘show me the way to go home’ was among the best in the film. Rumour has it that Robert Shaw asked if he could have a couple of drinks before the scene was shot, to help him get into character and deliver the lines in the way he envisaged they should be delivered. However, he went a little over the top and turned up so drunk he had to be carried off the set and the take had to be abandoned ’til the next day when sober, he gave a flawless delivery.

Other quotes from Jaws will remain as priceless snippets of movie history. Chief Brody on first seeing the shark …

“you’re gonna need a bigger boat”

This was the police officer who took the job on Amity Island although he hated water and didn’t go in it but whose view was,

“it’s only an island if you look at it from the water”.

Matt Hooper, the young oceanographer who was fascinated by sharks and hired by Chief Brody:

“what we are dealing with here is a perfect engine, an eating machine. It’s really a miracle of evolution. All this machine does is swim and eat and make little sharks and that’s all”.

Some things never change
‘It’s what I do”

So, the story unfolds around the feeding spree that a giant rogue shark embarks upon around the island of Amity and the impact that it has upon individuals and the island has a whole. Quint, Brody and Hooper eventually track down the shark but before they can kill it, it kills poor Quint and eats half the Orca, Quint’s fishing boat.It is left up to Brody and Hooper to do the honours but the shark attacks Hooper in the cage that has been lowered into the water in an attempt to shoot and kill the fish with a poisoned dart. He is left for dead and Brody, teetering above the water’s edge on the ship’s mast is left to deal with the huge problem that is Jaws the Mechanical. He has thrust a gas tank into its mouth and after saying ‘smile you son of a bitch’, he shoots the tank, the fish explodes and it’s fish fingers all round.

The film has a happy ending or at least one that makes the best out of what has been a bad situation. The shark is killed, two of the heroes survive. Mike Fanning was lucky last weekend. He survived by getting in a couple of punches to the two sharks and fend off any further attack. Support was nearby and he was rescued from the water without injury.LUCKY

We don’t have a divine right to enter the water and expect to be safe from predators, particularly in places like South Africa which has an average of four unprovoked shark attacks per year, up to 75% of which have in the past proved fatal. Florida, Hawaii, The Caribbean, California, Australia and the French island of Reunion in the indian Ocean are all hotbeds for shark attacks where water sports and water leisure activities in the regions are indicated as risk factors. So if you do get into the water, particularly in any of these hot spots…dah da, dah da dah da dah da dah da, watch out.




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