Somehow, it seems to have become a tradition to publish my SHARK WEEK reviews a year after the shows actually air. Not sure why, but maybe I’ll try to break tradition this year and release them at the end of the week. No promises, though, because I intended to do the same thing last year. Ha ha.
There is one upgrade for sure, though, because I’ve created a set of headers specifically for these reviews, now. So you won’t have to look at the same picture of Umira the Accursed from MONSTER SHARK as in previous years. And speaking of monster sharks… MONSTER SHARK ON A NUDE BEACH is finishing up on Kindle Vella this month — perfect timing for both summer reading for fans of JAWS and MEG and SHARK WEEK 2023, too. Click here to get in on the exciting shark action!
My ratings go from 1 to 5 stars (or sharks), with 1 being barely worth watching and 5 being a must-see, probably with considerable good science content. A show with a 3 rating is a show generally worth watching, and it gets better from there.
RETURN TO HEADSTONE HELL (of 5)
There’s so much content in Shark Week, that somehow I missed this show last year, which my DVR says first aired 7/1/2021 — though maybe not so weird, as Shark Week didn’t start until the 11th. This program is a sequel to one that was one of my favorites of 2019, and repeated before 2022’s first new program.
Shark researchers Dr. Riley Elliot (of the fabulous SHARK ACADEMY) and Kina Scollay hear that great white sharks are coming to feed on the discarded dead cows (Norfolk Island tradition) where usually only tiger sharks rule. A cage dive reveals huge, aggressive tigers, 14-16’ long – the size of adult great whites – chowing on cow, and one of which destroys the float on their cage. Naturally, though, the show wants to find the 2 species in conflict.
After seeing footage of a small white at a local pier, they find evidence of big tigers and whites on a destroyed bait trap (with missing cameras). Later, they retrieve a fin cam and catch even more sharks lurking below. They decide to sink their cage 9 meters below Headstone Bay, below the cow carcass, and look further. This attracts 40 tiger sharks, a world record, and reveals a spiral hierarchy, from largest at the top to smaller below, taking turns as they feed. And a 17’ alpha seems to have been recently scarred by a large white, but clearly here the tigers rule the roost. They’ll have to find white sharks next time, and I wonder if this “conflict” was a marketing ploy by producers, though the show’s science seems pretty sound. Not bad, but sensationalist promotion.
GREAT WHITE BATTLEGROUND (of 5)
Shark Week 2022 kicks off with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson introducing the shows beginning with this one. In South Africa, Michelle Jewell researches great white social structures and hypothesizes that breaching is, not just for feeding, but is also a fitness or territorial communication display. She teams with Tom Heard, acoustic expert, and Dr. Enrico Gennari to test her idea by recording & replaying splashes for reactions. Michelle knows that sperm whales use breaches to communicate and has traveled to record and check whale apparent responses. Will this work with white sharks, too?
Playing shark splash to whites approaching bait next to the boat makes them turn aside — and later seems to repel smaller sharks from Michelle’s shark cage, too. But whale breach draws in a 17’ female white, who seems very interested. Smaller breach sounds do seem to cause sharks to come in, perhaps to assert dominance. While whale breaches attract only massive sharks. Is it for a feeding opportunity or mating, remains unclear. There’s much more to find out about how white sharks interact with sound, and whether they use breaching as a means of communication. Interesting show, pretty heavy on science — with a strange, seemingly unrelated title.
JACKASS SHARK WEEK 2.0 (of 5)
Last year, I would have given this show just one star (shark), if not for the fact that one of these idiots actually got bitten by a shark, and that made it worth a 2nd star. Will this year’s version sink even lower? And… It starts with even more graphic footage from last year’s “jump the shark” fail shark attack. Ugh. Gruesome. Are they stupid enough to do something similar? They start with experiments to demonstrate bite force, which involves sticking their hands into a scaled-down clamp trap. Next, they send a guy dressed in chainmail “armor” to test bites with a “sword” covered in dead barracuda. (500psi, enough to crush a human skull.)
Next, one of them goes into a tank with an electric eel to see how the eel repels bull sharks. Yeah. Ouch. Then they put a guy in a glass-bottom boat to shock sharks, but when he does, they shock him. Yeah. Next, they cover themselves in hagfish slime as a shark repellant and the bit guy goes diving to recover from last year. Then the fat guy goes shark fishing in a tiny boat. Naturally, a shark takes the bait and flips over the boat. Because sharks eat surface birds, they then put a guy in a bird suit in a shark cage. Pointless. They then show sharks will eat lionfish, which are poisonous. Then they wear shiny disco suits at night to attract sharks. Finally, they just have the shark-bit guy dive “normally” with sharks to prove he can and that sharks aren’t maneaters. Not much of a lesson, but the best we’ll get. I guess this shit is popular, or they wouldn’t have done a 2nd one. Marginally better but still pretty stupid
I’m giving this 2 stars (sharks) because of the end message of shark love, but it maybe really deserves just one..
GREAT WHITE OPEN OCEAN (of 5)
This show starts in 2020 with shark expert Jimi Partington in a small Plexiglas box floating above a huge white shark, in what seems a stunt crazy enough for Jackass (or at least Dicky Chivell). As baitfish gather below, the shark goes for both fish and man, shattering the Plexiglas box into a million shards. Cue titles, and at this point I’m thinking this must be a fictional film — but some mid-show research turns up that it’s actually a documentary — which makes everything to come more amazing and moving and forces me to revise my review in mid-stream.
Backflash to some time ago to set up the incident, as Partington looks for mega-sized great white sharks in the open ocean. Then, the attack scene, which is perhaps the most spectacular thing I’ve ever seen on Shark Week — even in slow-mo, and even seen again and again from many angles. At first, I thought it was a special effect, and because Discovery has had a bad record of doing fake dramatic docs (the megalodon shows), I don’t really believe it until I find Partington as a real scientist in my review of TIGER SHARK KING from 2020’s Shark Week. Miraculously, Partington survives the incident, unhurt, and swims to the boat while the shark thrashes nearby. This scene would have cost a fortune to do with special effects. Yet, here it’s real.
A year later, battling PTSD, Partington flies to New Zealand for a “get back on the horse” shark experience. He does well in his first cage dive. Then, he wants to try “snout touching” whites, and stands on a platform while they lure sharks to him. Weirdly, the shark he touches on the “nose” is one that followed him in his cage all day. On the boat the next morning, Jimi shows signs of a stroke. Fortunately, the boat is close to shore, and they medivac him via helicopter, to Christchurch, where the hospital saves his life. (I have to wonder if the shark following him the previous day sensed his impending illness.)
Returning home to Jersey UK 6 weeks later, Partington begins extensive rehabilitation, starting with only being able to say 2 words: Shark and Mum. As of July 2022, he’s recovered much and says he remembers everything, but just can’t find the words. His life highlight remains a 2017 submarine dive he did off Guadalupe. (Before I started reviewing Shark Week programs.) But because of the stroke, he will never be able to dive again. It’s a long way back, but his friends and all those of us watching wish him well.
I also wish Discovery had made it clear this film was a documentary, and not one of their infamous fictions, but I can’t blame the filmmakers for that. A great end to the first day of Shark Week 2022.
SUNDAY 2022 SUMMARY (of 5)
Aside from Jackass, this was a very good start to the week. One very strong show, and a super documentary about shark expert Jimi Partington, plus a good show that somehow didn’t make shark week last year as the pre-show. Let’s hope the rest of the week eliminates the jackasses and concentrates on more good stuff.
STRANGER SHARKS (of 5)
Another straggler from 2021. Were these only on Discovery+ and I didn’t find them? In any case, this show sends engineer/scientist YouTube star Mark Rober and Stranger Things co-star Noah Schnapp to the Caribbean/Bermuda Triangle to experiment on what might attract sharks for a deep sea dive. With them are actual shark researchers Ande Casagrande and Luke Tipple. First they test GoPro cameras, which don’t attract sharks even when they use a Matrix-like rig. “Super chum,” a fish smoothie works fine, though.
They explore a “haunted” lighthouse and then see if bio-luminescent goo will attract sharks at night. Maybe, but probably it’s more the ship lights. Then they finally sub dive with both super chum torpedoes and bio-luminescent goo. They don’t go super deep, but the attract the usual reef sharks and, for the first time, nurse sharks. So, not a lot of super science here, but a definite love of sharks and some fun visuals.
AIR JAWS: TOP GUNS (of 5)
Shark researchers Andy Casagrande (camera) and Dickie Chivell (bait) want to photograph the largest ever jumping great white. Larger sharks have become hard to find (even in Mossel Bay), but they catch some nice ten-footers, and then get some good pole-cam shots on one up to 13 feet. They also break the tow-cam out of mothballs to try for some close-up action, and then the advanced night cam, and manage to get from 13 to 14 feet. Not a record, but Dickie has the crazy idea to use a dummy to simulate a 20’ shark going airborne. It’s a silly idea, and of course the water doesn’t scale up, but since this show is all about the visuals, it kinda works. Not a lot of shark science here, but the pictures are hard to beat, as is the message to keep these sharks protected.
GREAT WHITE SERIAL KILLER: FATAL CHRISTMAS (of 5)
Shark researchers try to find the shark that killed surfer Thomas Butterfield on December 24, 2021. The show interviews the surfers who found the body, long after it happened, an eerie touch, accompanied by the usual spooky music. Researchers from the previous shows in the series — which ran dry — shift to this incident, a new “hot spot” for great whites. The question, “Is this the serial killer’s new hunting ground?” tells us pretty much all we need to know about the slant of this new episode. The GWSK series has always been more about scare than science for me.
Researchers examine the victim’s boogie board and wetsuit. More shark incidents are happening on the California coast, but no one knows why. They include an interview with a surviving bite victim. And of course, they play up the idea of some sharks as “serial killer.” But wouldn’t “anchor point,” a serial killer term, be more accurately described as “feeding ground”? Bite evidence indicates a 17-18’ shark killed Thomas, and the show suggests it might be a tagged shark that size, Po Girl (sp?) who passed Morro Bay around that time.
Would it be too hard to slant these attack shows as “What can we learn from this,” Discovery, rather than playing the “serial killer” and fear angle? The science here is slim and the gruesome content high.
RISE OF THE MONSTER HAMMERHEADS (of 5)
Dr. Tristan Guttridge, his wife Annie Guttridge, (shark photographer) Andy Casagrande, and their associates want to find out if giant hammerheads spotted in the Florida Keys and the Bahamas (Andros) are related, or perhaps even the same fish. This year, they’ve using rebreathers (to avoid air bubbles) and have brought a robotic stingray (robo-ray), the hammerheads’ favorite food, to try to attract the huge fish. Robo-ray gets attention, but not enough for Tristan to get a genetic sample. His wife’s team, however, without the tech, manages to get the needed genes.
They then switch to the keys, where the high tech doesn’t help, again, but Annie’s team, using traditional bait methods, manages to catch an eleven-footer and gets the genetic sample. So, it turns out that both groups of hammerheads share a common ancestor. Their placed tags show one hammer swimming between the keys and Andros, too. Sadly, they don’t find any of the monster hammerheads, but the search continues. A good show with interesting science, despite the sensational title.
MEGA PREDATORS OF OZ (of 5)
The sensational opening to this show implies that Australian great white shark populations are growing out of control (and possibly dangerous). Researchers Lauren and Charlie and their team want to find out what these sharks are eating. Tissue samples can reveal that as can poo; so they go for both. They also want a fin tag and an internal tag to gather more data, though a storm moves in, making recovery of the tags extra difficult. From the data collected, they theorize that juvenile great whites are eating larger prey usually reserved for adults, driving the larger sharks to seek new prey, perhaps closer to shore. They then get a stomach sonogram of a mature female shark, to discover her diet. Final data seems to show that Australian sharks vary their diets as circumstances change, though it’s unclear if the younger ones are driving the older ones in shore by taking more oceanic prey. Despite the sensationalist start, this was a very serious scientific show.
MONDAY 2022 SUMMARY (of 5)
The Great White Serial Killer series continues to piss me off. Heavy on the fear and the worst aspects of the shark attack shows, it always seems to be out to support its sensationalistic premise rather than investigating what’s happening, why, and what might be done about it. Other than that, Monday’s shows were quite good and largely science focused. So, I won’t drag the rating for the whole day on one very bad show. Two good days in a row so far, which is great. (Though I wonder if I’m getting soft on these shows in my “old age.” 😀 )
EXTINCT OR ALIVE: JAWS OF ALASKA (of 5)
Wildlife biologist Forrest Galante investigates what shark is causing mysterious wounds on sea mammals in Alaska. His likely suspects are the Pacific Sleeper Shark and the Salmon Shark, both very rare, though it’s possible some new shark has come to these frigid waters, too. They dive and use various baits and ROVs, and encounter a singing pod of orcas. Locating a sleeper shark, they bait deep hooks and after a week catch one to tag. After releasing her, they rub her nose (ampullae of lorenzini) to immobilize her, and interact until she returns to the deep. This species seems totally non-aggressive; not the Jaws of Alaska.
They then locate a salmon shark, one of the great white’s closest relatives. Forest stalks one of the super speedy sharks with a motorized surfboard and then free dives to feed one by hand. It takes fish, but not a pork chop; so, they don’t seem to like mammals. Then they manage to lure 2 sharks, who compete to be highest in the water column, and compete against Forrest, too. But like the sleeper, they aren’t aggressive toward the large mammal. Forrest suspects that changing ocean conditions have lured great whites to Alaska.
This is another 2021 show that didn’t make last year’s Shark Week. I don’t know why, as it’s probably the best program they’ve shown this year.
IMPRACTICAL JOKERS SHARK WEEK SPECTACULAR (of 5)
Impractical Jokers is apparently a hidden camera show that I’ve never seen, and since the ep starts with barf, I’m not sure I need to. The regular they’re working with is Dr. Craig O’Connell, who was foolish enough to work with the Jackass idiots in 2021. But I guess he’s in on the pranks and playing straight man, and at least the show seems centered around teaching these crazy white men NOT to be afraid of sharks… by putting them in scary situations. They amp a guy’s fear to see if it attracts sharks; it does. They dump chum on a guy and then see if shark repellent will chase the fish away; it does. They play dolphin sounds; some attract, some repel sharks… maybe. They tag a shark and one hallucinates seeing a Red Devil Shark. Silly stuff. But maybe better than Jackass. Maybe.
JAWS VS. KRAKEN (of 5)
Dr. Tristan Guttridge speculates that some scars seen recently on the white sharks of Guadalupe Island may have been made by large squid, either Humboldt (red devils), octopus squid, or giant squid. Master of Science Lily Rios-Brady knows about squid and neuroscience and has come to help with experiments. They bait some rigs with fish and others with squid, and the sharks seem more interested in and agitated by the squid. A squid-like LED at night lures not only a white shark, but a seal that barely escapes it. They use bait on ropes to test whether sharks can adapt and change their tactics for fast-moving prey; they can. On a night dive, the finally see a Humboldt squid, and almost in its wake, a great while. But any actual encounter remains in the realm of CGI. In the end, though this is a good show, it has too much (slightly cheesy) CGI and scary music for me to give it top marks. Maybe next time, they’ll get actual video.
PIGS VS. SHARKS (of 5)
The Exumas, Bahamas, are famous for swimming wild pigs — and tiger sharks, but are the sharks eating the pigs? Dr. Austin Gallagher investigates. They do a dye test to see if pig blood could drift out to from shore to where the tigers lurk; it could. The pigs sometimes swim at night, when the tigers clearly like to hunt. They catch a tiger to do some work up and swab its butt (yep) for traces of pig. Pig DNA turns up in the swab, but it could be from just swimming through pig reek. A frenzy of reef sharks doesn’t seem interested in the pig decoy, though a tiger shark is willing to take a bite. Since titers will famously eat anything, I’m not sure this means much; I’d be more impressed if they fed it a pork chop. Austin sums up at the end, but concludes that pigs are on the menu, when I’m not sure that what they’ve shown supports that — though certainly I wouldn’t want to be a swimming pig there. But there are lots of pretty shark images, and some Robin Leach-style narration that’s amusing… But not for too long.
RAGING BULLS (of 5)
Australia suffered 8 shark-related deaths in 2020, the most in 95 years, 6 attributed to white sharks, 2 to bull sharks, plus 2 recent near-fatal bull attacks. Bull shark attack survivor and shark conservationist Paul De Gelder wants to know why this spike. He and Dr. Johan Gustafson go to Fraser Island, known for its bull sharks, to investigate. A bait box cam they put in the water is quickly circled by bulls before being swallowed whole by a tiger shark. Nevertheless, they decide to go diving. Paul’s air hose blows in a near-shore dive, requiring an emergency ascent from 20 meters. They tag a bull for long term observation, and put a fincam on a small scalloped hammerhead. Sadly, a few hours later, the hammerhead is killed, probably by a bull. They go to the attack’s location for further research. Gustafson finds himself surrounded by sand tigers, though he sees 1 bull. A bait trap in warmer shallow water reveals even more bulls. The team speculates that rising water temperatures are enticing bulls to hunt closer to shore, and bringing them into more contact with humans. A good show with some interesting sharks, scientific research, and a bit of annoying scary music.
TUESDAY 2022 SUMMARY (of 5)
Despite a great start with the previously unseen episode of EXTINCT OR ALIVE, the rest of the shows weren’t as strong today as Sunday or Monday. And while reruns earlier in the day gave me a better appreciation of shows that combine entertainment and research, tonight’s shows leaned entertainment-heavy with CGI sharks vs. squid, swimming pigs, and the Impractical Jokers. So, I’m giving the day a shark/star less than the previous days in 2022.
SHARK ROBER (of 5) a.k.a. MARK ROBER’S SHARK EXPERIMENT
Mark Rober is an engineer/inventor with a huge following on YouTube for his videos of squirrel mazes, glitter bombs for package thieves, etc. He and marine biologist Luke Tipple go to the Bahamas to test sharks’ ability to smell blood in the water. They test cows blood vs. urine vs. fish oil vs. nothing (control) dripping from anchored floating surfboards. Seeing that the sharks seem more interested in the cow’s blood than the rest — and because you can’t import blood to the Bahamas — they call out a phlebotomist, donate their own blood, and revise the experiment the next day: Human blood fast drip, slow drip, and control. The sharks seem disinterested in it all. Conclusion, it probably takes a LOT of human blood in the water to attract sharks.
Feeling safer, Rober now wants to get some great matrix-style camera shots of sharks, which Luke and other experts feed from a bait trap. And he gets some cool shots. I think I’ve seen at least parts of this half-hour program online, so the program listed later in the week may be the same, or may be different.
ISLAND OF THE WALKING SHARKS (of 5)
Forrest Galante is back and in Papua New Guinea to study three species of “walking sharks.” Vicky Vasquez, MSc and shark specialist, meets Forrest at a fish market, and within minutes, they’ve found someone who says he can take them to the first species. Despite having other plans, they hop in his boat and, sure enough, the guy has a pen full of Paupuan epaulette sharks to show. (He catches them for the aquarium trade.) Forrest trades the man a speargun for the sharks. (He says buying sharks with money encourages such things.) He then tags and releases them, collecting more data in an afternoon than all the previously collected info on this species. One down, two to go.
They move to the far side of the island to look for their next species. Using a plumber’s camera, Vicky locates the next shark deep in a reef. They sink a baited fake reef and the next day rind a hooded epaulette shark. After taking its vitals, they release it back into the wild. Off across the island again to find the leopard epaulette shark. After finding a scary cave full of skulls, they meet a tribe who can point them toward the final shark. Many dives later, they get impatient, bait a reef, and then that night catch some leopards. After collecting data on their catch, they release them with one question remaining: Do they leave the water and walk? They set up surveillance ashore near the reef to try and see this unique display. Luck and planning are with them, and they capture video of a shark walking with most of it above the water — a first for these species. 5 weeks later, the man they gave the speargun to, Elias, sends them video of another shark walking. Heavy on science and adventure, this is a great show.
MECHASHARK LOVE DOWN UNDER (of 5)
Researcher Kina Scollay returns on his quest to observe white sharks mating, and he’s brought his shark-shaped submarine/cage back with him. From past years, they think they have some idea where white sharks might meet to mate, and how to follow a shark there with the sub. But the sub attracts enough attention from a pair of males who hit and temporarily sink it, perhaps as part of “courting” the sub. They modify Mechashark so that Kina can use its pectorals for displays to ward off aggression — which only partly works, as the sharks seem to like chasing the sub. But the lit-up Mechashark gets even more unwanted attention.
Because “crazy” is not apparently enough, Kina decides to do a night dive to see if that’s when white sharks mate. (It seems to me it’d be smarter/easier to use one of Greg Skomal’s torpedo-ROVs to follow sharks, day or night.) So, it’s back to daytime dives, and trying to follow sharks. He sees courting, again, but once more, can’t keep up. He hopes to do better next year. Lots of great white footage, but I’m not sure this approach is the best — or if it will ever work.
MISSION SHARK DOME (of 5)
Shark Dome is basically an acrylic and aluminum air bubble that allows Andre Musgrove to free dive at depth without returning to the surface. He, Dr. Austin Gallagher, and Christine De Silva hope to use it at various locations to get closer to white sharks and discover their birthing grounds. Obviously, this is a dangerous idea, like a high-tech diving bell, but they hope lack of bubbles will help them get closer to the sharks. Andre can hold his breath for 3 ½ minutes. He’ll have that time to do his work and get back to the dome for more air; before the start of this show, he had never dived with white sharks before. They’ll start by ultrasounding females to see if they’re pregnant and train in a regular cage, with and without air tanks.
They find a pregnant female and get it to swallow a tag, which, when it surfaces 6 weeks later, reveals the shark has traveled from Guadalupe over 1000 miles to the Sea of Cortez. They travel there to see if they can find the pupping zone and deploy the Shark Dome. Andre dives in dodgy conditions, including murky water and at night. They find white sharks, but are unable to ultrasound them. Andre makes my heart pound, though, holding his breath and trying. Guy’s got brass balls. I’m not sure this is the best-designed platform to do this, but they remain determined to try again. Plenty of adventure and thrills here, and some nice white shark footage, but not a lot new. Still, points for trying and enthusiasm.
GREAT WHITE COMEBACK (of 5)
In 2017, two killer whales chased off the population of large great whites from the east cape South Africa, and they haven’t yet returned. Shark experts Alison Towner, Enrico Genarri, and photographer Andy Casagrande hope to find where the sharks have relocated (assuming the orcas didn’t kill them all). They move west to Mossel Bay, hoping to match sharks they find against Alison’s catalog of sharks and their body patterns. They tag a big male shark, “Bear,” and follow it west to Bird Island, but that strikes out so they split the team to follow leads on opposite coasts.
Andy diving in a kelp bed turns up a rare 7-gill shark, but no whites. Alison follows a shoal of sardines nearly a mile long and 2000 feet wide, trailed by sharks. They dive to the shoal, and get amazing images of what looks like a wall of fish. When visibility drops, spinner sharks dive into the “bait ball,” scattering the small fish and making astounding-looking chaos. They follow that shoal for 5 days, but find no recognized white sharks; another dead end. But Bear returns to Mossel Bay, so the team takes a last stab there. Listening for satellite and using underwater cameras, they discover Mini-Nemo and another of Alison’s tagged sharks in the bay. Further tracking of Bear suggests he may return to the cape, so perhaps the sharks will return. I get sick of “great white shows,” but this one is very good with some amazing visuals.
WEDNESDAY 2022 SUMMARY (of 5)
Another solid night of shark shows, good on science, short on fear. I’d prefer we have fewer great white shark shows, but at least we saw some other sharks during them, and had two outstanding shows with great visuals and good science. Jettisoning the “Shark After Dark” segment really seems to have improved Shark Week’s average so far — though I miss Bob the Shark, who is sadly relegated to NFT commercials.
TRACY MORGAN PRESENTS: SHARKS! WITH TRACY MORGAN (of 5)
Celebrity shows are often the low points of Shark Week (along with “true attack” stories), but when the celebs actually love sharks — as Tracy Morgan claims to — they usually turn out better. This one seems to be in the clip-show tradition of the previous (highly amusing) Snoop Dog shows, with some of our usual shark experts thrown in for shark facts. Though the show leans comedy, they do have short segments dealing with shark science. The first looks for big mako sharks. Paul De Gelder also deliberately kayaks with great whites. Then it’s looking for bull sharks near Miami. After that, it’s testing to see if orca sounds will drive blue sharks away from bait. Seems to, and can you blame them? Orcas love to kill sharks and eat their livers (with fava beans and a nice chianti). It’s not as good as the Snoop show, but what is? Hard to dislike a show with this much shark love (and some science, too). It even made my wife laugh a few times… and me, too.
SHARK HOUSE (of 5)
Though he spends a lot of time baiting and playing with sharks, Dickie Chivell has been described in previous Shark Week shows as a “professional crazy man.” Now, he plans to use a shark house to live at the bottom of the ocean to find South Africa’s missing shark population (scared off by murderously hungry killer whales, you’ll recall). Alison Towner, shark researcher, shares a 2022 video of orcas preying on a great white in Mossel Bay. (Bad news for Wednesday’s Great White Comeback.) Dickie and his friends design and build an underwater “shark house,” like a metal and glass beehive that he plans to live in for a week on the seafloor 28’ down. Hello, Down There this ain’t; it’s very cramped and claustrophobic, especially at night.
Occasionally, Andy Casagrade comes down to dive with him. They see some seven-gill sharks and stingrays as big as a man, playful seals, and eventually a young adult great white, which Dickie saw last year on Bird Island, 500 miles away. Caught without a cage, more whites move and surround Dickie and Andy. They call for a cage to be dropped, and avoid getting chomped by the 3 big fish until it arrives. Dickie actually lets one come straight at him and bump his camera with its nose, which Andy describes as “sketchy.” But it proves the sharks are returning to Gansbaii (Gans Bay), and a week later 7 obligingly show up for a tour boat. More stunt than science, the show still had some compelling images and scenes. Extra star/shark for brass balls.
MONSTER MAKO UNDER THE RIG (of 5)
Maverick Makos in the Gulf of Mexico are choosing offshore oil rigs as a home, though they migrate thousands of miles to Rhode Island, too. Andre Musgrove and Dr. Austin Gallagher will try to observe the migration in the Dry Tortugas. While Dr. Greg Stunz, Dr. Kelsey Banks, Paul De Gelder, and Julia Wheeler will study the sharks off of Texas’ shores. TheTexas oil rigs’ 300’ tall legs turn into artificial reefs as they collect marine life, and become their own eco-systems. The Tortugas team uses a similarly built communications tower as their stalking grounds, where they’re harassed by bull sharks. The Texas team sees only one mako, but does encounter a jumping spinner shark. Moving to another location, the Tortugas team finds a shiver of dusky sharks and some scalloped hammerheads, which don’t get along.
Team Texas visits a mid-ocean reef, and finds a turtle and some aggressive tiger sharks. A night dive reveals more tigers and a mako that nearly catches them as they surface. Finally, at a decommissioned rig with no platform, they catch a mako, which leads them on a leaping chase. When it’s worn out, they sample it and satellite tag it. Torguta finally finds a mako, too and Andre free dives to sample it. The two teams declare success, and watch as the tagged mako migrates up to Rhode Island. With strong science and a lot of different sharks and marine life, I declare this show a great success, too. (Though the robotic tuna didn’t do much.)
TIGER QUEEN (of 5)
Kinga Philipps, journalist, explorer, and shark conservationist goes to the Turks and Caicos where she meets up with local expert Judy Dirckx to see why local tiger shark populations seem to be almost entirely female. After encountering two large females, Kinga talks to Austin Gallagher (frequent on Shark Week 2022) about where to search next. Diving with Austin brings in more female tigers first with free driving and then scuba, plus some sneaky reef sharks. Next plan is to catch, sample, and tag a female (which they do), maybe leading them to the males.
Then they set some baited camera traps (BRUVs) to see if perhaps the males are more active at night. On a scouting daytime dive, Kinga finds a 14’ great hammerhead. Her nighttime dive quickly turns “sketchy,” (shark diver lingo for “really dangerous”). Only females again, though, so they move on. Finally, off of a tiny remote island, they find a male — and he’s swimming with a female. This seems to be where the males hang. Lots of beautiful shark footage in this one sometimes accompanied by lovely (rather than scary) music. But they should stop putting bait in plastic boxes for sharks to bite.
THURSDAY 2022 SUMMARY (of 5)
Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age, but it seems to me like the Shark Week programs have been consistently better this year than previously. And tonight’s shows address a previous shortcoming by having more female shark scientists. (IIRC, women make up around 50% of shark researchers.) That coupled with some strong science shows with beautiful images of sharks and undersea life make this the best night of 2022 so far. Great night. Thanks, Shark Week!
JAWS VS. THE BLOB (of 5)
Dr. Craig O’Connell wants to know if a new population of new sharks is coming to Guadalupe Island, driven there by a warm water phenomenon called “the blob.” If young, small great whites come to this area, will the huge adult females living here just eat them? Madison Stewart (Shark Girl) and Andy Casagrande join Craig in his search. Diving in the usual spot, they find sub-adults, but no juveniles. A local suggests they try in more shallow water, which works, though a juvenile white tries to eat their remote. So they think they’ve found a juvenile lair off Guadalupe, driven there by warmer waters.
They dive in the juvenile lair in the Twin Canyons drop off, and when a big female shows up, she physically drives off a smaller shark. Some of the young are battle scarred, and one has even lost most of its dorsal fin; they know where to target each other. Wanting to test whether the young sharks can communicate with the older ones via body language, the team lowers a video screen (and projector) into the water. The CGI screen shark lowers its pectoral fins, and a bigger shark turns away.
Diving deeper, they again observe the 17-foot adult driving the juveniles into the shallows. They turn on the screen shark again, and lure the larger shark to it near the surface. When they do, the juveniles reassert their presence deeper down. The young sharks are using the shallower water to escape the adults, and also to hunt prey. The blob has driven the juveniles into Guadalupe with the adults, changing interactions. This is a good show completely concentrated on science, even with the shark cinema.
CLASH OF KILLERS: GREAT WHITE VS. MAKO (of 5)
Dr. Riley Elliot (Shark Academy) believes that great whites and makos come into conflict at one point in their migrations, in a remote and dangerous spot off New Zealand’s NE coast. Commercial diver & photographer Sam Wild joins Riley for this expedition. They observe great whites in their southern feeding grounds before cold waters moving in start their migration. Then they tag a mako in its feeding grounds to better follow mako migration. At White Island, an active volcano, they observe a marlin feeding frenzy, and then use a fake marlin to lure in some makos. Using the satellite tag as their guide, they set sail for dangerous waters where two oceans meet. Unfortunately, a sudden storm forces the team into port to wait.
During their layover, they consult a Maori fisherman about native knowledge of the migrations. With storms threatening, Riley lowers a horizontal plexiglas cage into the water, to try and observe more natural mako behavior. His horizontal body makes him look more like a fish to the makos, but no great whites appear. Tag data says that whites move through the deep without eating as they migrate, and thereby probably avoid makos, which continue hunting near the surface as they migrate, Riley concludes. So, the clash of the title never occurs in this otherwise good show. I can’t dock it for a title someone at Discovery probably stuck it with, though. Taking a drink whenever a mako bites a camera would leave you very drunk by the end of this show.
SHARK WOMEN: GHOSTED BY GREAT WHITES (of 5)
Shark Scientist Alison Towner assembles a team to look for sharks she’s come to know that have vanished. Her team (Zandile Ndhlovu & Leigh De Necker, the titular Shark Women) starts at Gansbaai with split assignments. Alison and Leigh dive in murky waters off Dyer Island to retrieve a data receiver Alison hasn’t checked in a year. Data shows sharks moving by the island, but not lingering. Zan freedives a kelp forest in the great white’s domain (she can hold her breath over 4 minutes). She finds other sharks and an array of life in the kelp, so clearly lack of prey is not a factor in the whites disappearing. It all traces to 2017 when 5 or more white sharks were killed by the predatory killer whales (orca) Port and Starboard, who cleared out the sharks’ traditional hunting grounds.
Alison decides to check deeper waters where whites have been reported, to see if they’ve switched to hunting further offshore. They send down a BRUV camera system. They find one but keep looking. Enrico Genaro reports Mini Nemo, one of Alison’s 6 missing sharks, has been in Mossel Bay, west of where he used to hunt. Using a trio of unique decoys, they get breaching sharks, and a natural predation — astoundingly, the first time Zan has ever seen great whites, despite more than a thousand hours diving in their domain. As Zan cave dives, Alison tags a great white, which they name in honor of Zan. The day’s efforts result in finding Wadell, the 2nd of Alison’s 6. Orcas then arrive and drive the whites away again.
The team moves further down the coast to East London, where newly christened Shark Zandi has fled — possibly to feed on prey at the sardine migration. Alison spots a bait ball from an ultralight, and Leigh and Zan get there in time for a dolphin and spinner shark feeding frenzy. Alison even spots a great white from the air. So though they only found 2 of the missing 6, they learned a lot. Another strong science show for the week and the night.
THE GREAT HAMMERHEAD STAKEOUT (of 5)
Yay, a show not in any way about great whites! Dr. Tristan Guttridge and James Glancy go to Andros Island to investigate a burgeoning population of great hammerheads. Because it must be “in” this year, part of their research includes living in an underwater rebreather “tent” built by Mike Lombardi for up to 10 hours to do prolonged dives. They locate the tent between the shallows, a sea channel, and a mile-deep drop off, though the deployment proves tricky. They start their 10 hours at 4am, conducting dives in and out to the deep and the shallows. They do have lights and a sonar system to help with the night diving. (And apparently an extra camera man they don’t talk about.) The sonar shows tiger sharks in the dark like the bugs in Aliens as they collect their camera traps, which reveal great hammerheads near the dropoff.
Their next trip is to the channel, where they find another great hammerhead, a good sign for a hot spot. Topside base provides them with hot tea, and I assume fresh air tanks, when they return to their tent. A hammerhead comes to check them out, but they’re decompressing and can’t go out to see it. Around noon, they’re headed on their final trip: the tidal flats, where the hammerheads seemed to be heading. The flats are full of life including lemon sharks and reef sharks, which swarm the divers. From the shallows, they surface for the first time in 10 hours. Tristan concludes hammerheads cool off in the deeper waters and then come to hunt smaller sharks and rays in the flats. Despite the tent feeling a bit like a stunt, another fine scientific show.
FRIDAY 2022 SUMMARY (of 5)
Friday seems to have been a grand slam for Shark Week, with me giving all the shows 5 stars/sharks. Which makes me wonder if I”ve gotten too “soft” on the shows. Maybe I shouldn’t just give 5 stars for good science content and no nonsense. Maybe I should give those 4 stars and reserve 5 for shows that really wow me — like “The Island of Walking Sharks.” Perhaps I’ll adjust my ratings before I post all these reviews on my site. For now, though… I’m surprised and pleased that the content has been so good, and Friday takes over the lead for the week.
MONSTERS OF THE CAPE (of 5)
Dr. Craig O’Connell teams with filmmaker Mark Rackley to study shark incidents off of Cape Cod and try to figure out ways for people and sharks to co-exist at Cape beaches. They talk to locals about recent incidents, and to some shark baiting offshore. (Hopefully far offshore.) When they spot a floating seal carcass in the water, Rackley leaps overboard with camera while O’Connell tries to tell him to stop. The photographer puts himself right next to the shark as it feeds, resulting in some spectacular shots — and near heart failure for O’Connell and the rest of the crew. As Rackley enthuses after returning to the boat, a very relieved O’Connell says, “I’m glad YOU had a good time.” This has to be the craziest thing I’ve ever seen anyone do with a great white — nuttier than even some of Dickie Chivell’s stunts.
After more talks about recent attacks — some of which have happened in clear water conditions — they (and other experts) suggests that some of the white sharks’ interactions are not investigation or predation, but are actually territorial — to move intruders from their hunting or mating grounds. O’Connell and Rackley then deploy an ocean buoy that can play sounds to attract or repel sharks. Playing explosions seems to lure the sharks to the buoy; playing orca (killer whale) sounds seems to repel them. Then O’Connell tests the newest version of his shark barrier made of PVC pipes and electro-magnets. (See previous Shark Week shows.)
Conditions are NOT ideal, but they deploy the barrier anyway in murky waters in white shark feeding grounds. Despite an early shark encounter during setup, the divers still go in to see if the barrier works. They attract many sharks, but none of them try to get through the barrier. This iteration of the barrier, with wave-powered electromagnets, seems to have really done the job. The team hopes that perhaps combinations of these deterrents may help protect beaches in future. Having grown up on Cape Cod beaches, I hope so. Show gets good marks for science, but points off for scary music and narration and a very reckless — if spectacular — bit of shark photography. Sadly, Cape Cod shark researcher (and personal fave) Dr. Greg Skomal, appears only in a clip.
SHARKS IN PARADISE (of 5)
Natives of the Tahitian Archipelago have many stories about the sharks that live there, but the fish are revered, rather than feared. Kinga Philipps and Dr. Christian Guttridge have come to “paradise” to learn about that. Tiger sharks, needing 100 pounds of food per week, tend to swim alone, but not in these islands, and they often stick in one place. They dive with some of the native tigers and find a pregnant one. They then go looking for a stock of food that could support tigers who do not migrate. Reef sharks? Perhaps.
Next, they go looking for oceanic white tips based on local stories, hoping there will be as many sharks as they’ve been told. First, they find silvertips — a species I don’t know — chasing a school of rainbow runners (fish). After a close-call with the free-diving explorers close to shore, the silvertips retreat as a white tip comes in and gives them all a good looking over. Kinga even has to ward it off with her swimfins.
They dive on a reef “pass” teeming with marine life, but not the “wall of sharks” locals had promised… Until the sharks show up… Hundreds of sharks — the wall they were promised — and there’s plenty of food to support them. They speculate that Tahiti marine life, including sharks, are thriving because both sharks and the marine life they feed on are protected. Here there is no overfishing, and it’s like going back in time. They hope the idea will spread to other areas. A strong show with good science and beautiful pictures — and just a little scary music.
SATURDAY 2022 SUMMARY (of 5)
With only 2 new shows, Saturday is the lightest day of Shark Week — and now it’s over. Well, the shark reruns will continue until they start pushing Naked and Afraid on Sunday afternoon. But aside from the Discovery+ bonus shows that I’m too worn out to watch right now… This is it. Based on 2 shows, another good day, and I’m gonna round up to 5 stars/sharks, because I really did mark down the first show tonight, “Monsters on the Cape” for music and recklessness; otherwise, it, too, was a 5-star show.
SHARK WEEK 2022 FINAL SUMMARY
Lots of familiar faces on Shark week, with numerous shark scientists and conservationists (and photographers) appearing in more than one show. Happily, the returning folks are serious about sharks and science. Maybe that’s why this has been the best Shark Week since I started reviewing the shows (when David “Why Sharks Matter” Shiffman stopped doing them (around 2019, it looks like from my site — though I thought I’d had this tradition going longer). It’s fun to review all the shows in Shark Week, but it’s also a lot like work. So, I can’t say that I’m sorry it’s over. Maybe next year, I’ll go a little lighter on review details to give myself a break.
There are also some extra shows on Discovery+, which I assume is where some of the shows I hadn’t seen before came from this year. I’ll try to get to them after I take a break, maybe even a vacation — or staycation, anyway. (Damn pandemic!) But for now, I’ll wrap it up with the basic cable offerings. I think it helped this year to do away with the after-shows — though I did miss Bob the Shark, who only did the NFT ads, as near as I could tell. In the place of the chat (and often self-promotion), we got more serious shark shows. And how could I complain about that?
Even the Jackass show was better this year, though it was still the worst show of the week. I didn’t care for the Impractical Jokers, either, though it was less annoying than Jackass. Tracy Morgan was fine, doing the same type of show that Snoop Dogg did last time, if not quite as well. At least all the comedy shows this year reflected some respect — and even love — for sharks. Even the “serial killer” show wasn’t as bad as the “eaten alive” shows have been in the past — though I’d forgotten I gave it a lower mark than Jackass, for the scare factor. We even got some shows helmed by women shark scientists, though not as many as I would have liked. So, with the bad shows better than usual, and the good shows even stronger, I’d have to say this was a near-perfect shark week. And if I’d only judged the last half of the week, It would have gotten a perfect score. Good job, Discovery! (But next year, how about some actual Greg Skomal shark work!)
Best Shows of the Week: “Island of the Walking Sharks,” “Great White Open Ocean,” “Extinct or Alive: Jaws of Alaska,” “Great White Comeback,” and “Monster Mako Under the Rig.” Though with SO many 4- and 5-star/shark shows this week, you’ll find plenty of good bitey, sharky viewing!
FINAL RATING FOR 2022 SHARK WEEK: (of 5)
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