I’m breaking with tradition here, by actually publishing my reviews of SHARK WEEK 2023 during 2023! (Ha ha.) And as I mentioned last time, I also have a nifty new header from the set I created earlier for the 2022 (and beyond) set of SW reviews.
This was a strange year, as I actually took a vacation at the end of the week, and thus had to finish the reviews not in July, but when we got home in August. I don’t think that affected my opinions, though.
And in my opinion, this Shark Week was the best one since I started my annual reviews, and probably the best SW in memory. (And I think I’ve been watching the event since it started — or at least since we first got cable.) In any event, great work, Discovery! Keep up the good work in coming years!
Now, on with the reviews!
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.
BELLY OF THE BEAST: FEEDING FRENZY (of 5)
A team including Austin Gallagher, Dr. Alison Towner, Matt Dicken, and Zandi Ndhlovu decide to create a realistic fake whale carcass filled with chum — and a scientist — to study great white sharks feeding off of Cape Town, South Africa. It’s a nutty idea worthy of Dickie Chivell, but also a pretty clever ploy, as white sharks do hunt with sight as well as their other senses. As an added incentive, they add a “bursting whale” simulated blood explosion. Then Gallagher, piloting, stands in the decoy’s back and tags a shark.
Zandi is up next in a deep sea night deployment, looking for larger sharks, but finding few over 14’ long. So, they move northeast to a reef on a known whale migration. This time, an 18-footer arrives while divers are still in the water prepping the decoy. The huge female bumps the decoy, accidently releasing the blood explosion, sending everyone scurrying to get out of the water. A drone shows the chaos and worry from above. Austin trying to tag her, though, gets them a lot of scares and a “Nantucket sleigh ride” (tow) before success. They hope the tags will help them better understand the species.
Despite the gimmick of the fake whale, there’s a lot of good footage here and actual science as well. A good start to 2023’s Shark Week.
JAWS VS. THE MEG (of 5)
Shark Week always has to have a Megalodon show, and Dr. Tristan Guttridge, Andy Casagrande, look into how whites and megs competed with each other with the help of paleontologist Dr. Sora Kim. New data indicates megs ate other sharks — like Great Whites — not whales as previously believed, and the two species are unrelated. To collect data they go to New Zealand and work with captain Kina Scollay. They test speed by baiting sharks, and because Casagrande is here, you know there’ll be great shark footage.
Then they use an RC boat to test the turning radius for various size great whites — and lose some little boats. Then they test their teeth/bite, rating each test vs. the Meg. The bite is the only one the Meg has won so far. They now want to know if smaller sharks will challenge larger a.k.a. “dominance.” (Not too much.) They then run a computer art simulation, which has the Neg beating a pair of white sharks — but there’s no real science or conclusion here, which hurts my rating. There are some great images of sharks, though.
SERIAL KILLER: RED SEA FEEDING FRENZY (of 5)
Brandon McMillan, attack investigator, goes to Egypt to discover why there’s been a sudden increase in Red Sea shark attacks. The presence of Ralph Collier and the title (plus spooky music) practically assure this will be a sensationalistic “scary shark” show. Reports say that oceanic white tips are responsible for a majority of the attacks, which is unusual for so close to shore. Egyptian-American diver Fouad takes Brandon to Brothers Island to see the sharks. They need no chum, because white tips quickly investigate disturbances, and the sharks are aggressive, even unprovoked.
Some theorize that the sharks are hungry, and that’s pushing them in toward shores where there are bathers. It’s possible people feeding reef fish was part of the problem, before being outlawed. There’s also a steep drop off 100’ offshore, into deep ocean — white tip territory. Diving without cages in the ocean, Brandon and Fouad are quickly surrounded by white tips in their attempt to see what the USS Indianapolis disaster feeding frenzy might have been like. They barely get out of the water.
It turns out that dead livestock in the Red Sea from sunken ships preceded a number of attacks. The sharks may be following the corpses into shore. The conclusion that it’s man changing their environment may be responsible for the changing shark habits may be true, but I wish they’d spent more time on that and less on scare. Very glad we got a show about white tips, though. Still, points off for the title and “serial killer” tradition.
SHARK WEEK OFF THE HOOK (SUNDAY BONUS SHOW) (of 5)
A clip show celebrating the 35 years of Shark Week (starting in 1988 — before I had Discovery on cable). They have present-day scientists & researchers looking at some of the most spectacular footage from previous years. There’s definitely a “stupid human tricks” element here — but it also shows how much we’ve learned since Shark Week started. Probably the craziest moments are the first, with a lucite cage shattering, and the last with Dickie Chivell (of course) shoving a shark out of a transparent cage with his hand. Often, I might mark down for this kind of sensationalism, but I thought this retrospective worthwhile.
SUNDAY 2023 SUMMARY (of 5)
At the end of last year, I decided I’d be tougher on the Shark Week shows, and because of that, shows in this Sunday’s kick-off probably have fewer stars than I might have given in the past. There were no bad shows tonight, just shows whose “tack” I didn’t think helped the science (Meg & Serial Killer). But we also got a good retrospective show. So, with two 3-shark (star) shows and two 4-shark films, I’m going to give this a round up — because really any start to Shark Week that does NOT feature Jackass or some stupid comedy shows is a good start.
GREAT WHITE FIGHT CLUB (of 5)
Michelle Jewell studies shark communications and comes to Stewart Island, New Zealand, to look into the scarring patterns on Great Whites. She consults with a NZ shark scarring expert, a huge man called “Blowfish” to try and find out what the scars may mean. They set out a decoy shark to see how others respond to it. (Coming from behind and biting the belly or tail is a kill shot.) Fish uses a “black widow” walking cage to set out cameras and finds himself surrounded by aggressive females. Andy Casagrande shows up to help them with some night diving, as they try to see if big females controlling their territory are inflicting scars on smaller males. They get the usual excellent scary footage, but even when the divers are in peril, the show never goes for the fear factor with sharks. Jewell concludes that big females are biting smaller males to chase them off. Her enthusiasm for her studies and good images make this the best show of the week, so far.
MONSTERS OF THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE (of 5)
Brooke Anderson, Dr. James Sulikowski, and Jon Dodd venture to Bermuda to discover what took out a mature 10’ porbeagle shark, that they had tagged, at 2400’ down during its migration. They team up with Dr. Tristan Guttridge and Skye Minnis to investigate, with whites, makos, and big squid as possible suspects. (They write off frilled sharks as too small.) They send down cameras and baited cameras to see what they can find. As they’re searching, they lose another tagged porbeagle, and a glider drone was also attacked at the same depths.
They now suggest a 20’ blunt-nosed six gill, which are known to be in the area and can attack in packs, and makos are still on the list, too. Catching a six-gill, they discover its teeth don’t match the glider damage. Temperature data from the 2nd killed porbeagle indicates it went into the stomach of a white or a mako. Guttridge and Minnis caught a huge shark on camera from above, so they couldn’t positively identify it. They decide to try again with a more elaborate deep bait & camera trap. And they catch a glimpse of of what they all think is a 20’ white shark. Mystery solved, and another really good program with a variety of sharks. (The only silly thing is the Bermuda Triangle tie-in of the title.)
ALIEN SHARKS: STRANGE NEW WORLDS (of 5)
The Alien Sharks series of programs has a tradition of excellence to uphold. We’ll see if Forest Galante and Christine de Silva can keep the streak going by looking for rare sharks in South Africa. Sevengill sharks are under threat not only from humanity, but rogue orcas Port and Starboard. Checking the kelp beds, they find pyjama sharks (striped catsharks), and catch a couple mating. Forest then fishes for white-spotted wedgefish (flash shark) with some catch and release anglers, while Christine keeps looking for sevengills with her specially designed cameras. Astonishingly, they catch one and tag it (after catching a ragged tooth shark). Forest then tries Seal Island, but only finds the orcas Port and Starboard, not sevengill sharks. Christine finds leafscale gulper sharks in the deep, but no sevengills, either. Acting on advice to look where the orcas aren’t, Forest decides to check the harbor (orcas avoid humans) and strikes gold with a pair of broadhead sevengill sharks. Lucky man. Christine, meanwhile, has gathered info on enough unique deep sea life to write several scientific papers. And we’re lucky to see a lot of great sharks and undersea creatures in another great shark program. Tradition of excellence upheld.
MONDAY 2023 SUMMARY (of 5)
Maybe I’ve gotten soft again overnight, or maybe Discovery’s execs have gotten smarter about what they’re putting on TV, but I thought tonight’s Shark Week shows were really good. Each one featured interesting science and a diverse crew of scientists. And two of them spotlighted sharks that are not great whites. I doubt you’ll ever finding me arguing for less representation in scientists or programming. I only hope that the rest of the week can be as good as Sunday and Monday (especially Monday) have been. Keep it up!
MAKO MANIA: BATTLE FOR CALIFORNIA (of 5)
Mako sharks are resurgent off of California and due to abundant prey are reported to reach 14’ and 1500#. Dr. Craig O’Connel, Fo Zayed, and Kendyl Bernet mount an expedition to study these fish. They get spectacular footage of a mako repeatedly breaching, generating speed in excess of 50 mph., though no one is sure how this helps hunting strategy. Makos’ teeth change shape as they get larger, perhaps to tackle large marine mammals. Kendyl dives with the big mako dubbed “Rocket” and watches it wolf down their bait. They team with a local shark tagger and put his matrix-style rig into the water. They get some blue sharks to try the rig, but when a mako shows up, so does a white shark. They both circle the bait until the white veers away, apparently not wanting to mess with the mako.
Photographer Mark Rackley has created a “bottomless pit” mat-and-pipe system that can conceal divers from sharks and prevent them from breach and other attacks. Diving, their bait draws in both Rocket and a 12’ great white, too. Rocket gets the bait, the white nearly gets O’Connel and Rackley. Based on what they’ve seen, it seems like the California makos have evolved to out compete other large predators. Another really good show for the 2023 Shark Week.
RAIDERS OF THE LOST SHARK (of 5)
Often-wacky shark fanatic Dickie Chivell wants to find a large shark called Duchess who’s gone missing. He teams with researcher Matt Dickens to find her. Dicky has created a fast, mobile shark cage that he calls “the mako.” On the Mako’s test run, a shark hits the motor, rendering the craft dead in the water. Despite the narrow escape, they fix the craft and jump right back in, along with a traditional cage.
Later Dickie dives to retrieve a receiver that may give them clues to white sharks and Duchess. On the way down, he finds some ragged tooth sharks; on his way to the surface, he’s swarmed by black tip sharks and has to carefully plan his ascent. Based on the receiver data, they pick a spot and “chum bomb” to see who’ll show up. The bomb brings sharks, but it takes a while for a white to arrive. Still not Duchess. So they chase a diver’s potting of a large female up the coast. They find plenty of white sharks, and after a close call/camera bump, finally Duchess. This is a pretty good show with plenty of sharks and even finds its goal, but amid this week’s excellence, it feels a little off.
MONSTER HAMMERHEADS: KILLER INSTINCT (of 5)
Dr. Tristan Guttridge and his wife Annie theorize that Andros Island Hammerheads may be eating other sharks to achieve great size. There are some videos, but they need a tissue sample for proof. They assemble a team with Khrys Carroll, Skye Mennis, freediver Rontaa Bain, and super shark photog, Andy Casagrande. To discover what the hammerheads are eating they must obtain tissue samples from close up. They create a bunch of realistic prey robots to help lure in the giants they want. A wreck dive gets a big hammerhead to show, but it wrecks their shark decoy before they can get a sample.
A night dive near a drop-off (using rebreathers) lets them deploy octo-bot (which lights up) which attracts a massive hammerhead. Some big fish takes octo-bot, but they still don’t get a sample. Next, they take robo-ray to the shallows, split into two teams, and deploy baited cameras. Again, they lure in a big fish but fail to get a sample — and nearly lose their decoy. Tristan and Annie, though, have better luck just fishing, and they bring the shark up to get their sample. They need more samples, but also samples from potential prey; these samples are easier to get.
Results 29% of the Andros’ Great Hammerheads’ prey are stingrays; 71% is other sharks. Mission accomplished and because Andy Casagrande is in the show, you know it’s got great shark footage.
TUESDAY 2023 SUMMARY (of 5)
Another really good night of shark shows. The first and last (Mako & Hammerhead) were excellent. The Dickie Chivell show got points off for lack of diversity (yeah, the sausage fest bugged me in comparison), an emphasis on scary commercial breaks, and Dickie taking a few of his usual crazy risks. Still, if not for the rest of the week, I might have been easier on the show. It certainly wasn’t bad, just not something I’ll likely rewatch — as opposed to many of the rest so far this year. We’ll see if tomorrow breaks the good show streak or continues it.
AIR JAWS: FINAL FRONTIER (of 5)
Since orcas Port & Starboard have killed or chased away the jumping great white sharks from South Africa, Andy Casagrade hopes to maybe find more breaching sharks in New Zealand. But though there are sharks, over 2 weeks, they show no inclination to jump. So, Andy calls in Jeff Kurr, the original shark breaching expert. They search for sharks with scars inflicted by seals, which the sharks must be eating. Baiting and cave diving, they see some huge scratched up sharks. They get a better seal decoy from an NZ special effects artist, and then troll for sharks. On the last day, in the final hours, they get the breach — only the 2nd ever captured in New Zealand. This is a beautifully shot show, as one would expect, but with only an Air Jaws moment as the goal, not of huge scientific value.
FLORIDA SHARK: BLOOD IN THE WATER (of 5)
Tristan Guttridge and Paul de Gelder head to the shark bite capital of the world: Florida. 70% of worldwide shark attacks are now in the US, and 40% of those are in Florida. To find out what is making places more dangerous, they will test the sharks’ senses for finding prey from a distance: sight, smell, sound. Is some local condition disrupting these senses, causing sharks to mistake humans for prey? They cloud some clear water and discover bull sharks become more aggressive. This is their hunting zone, so avoid swimming in murky water.
Next, they test smell by setting up a real and a decoy barracuda, and with the scent of food in the water, the sharks take one as readily as the other. So, humans should avoid where there’s the scent of prey, such as fishing docs and prey animals like seals. Finally, they test a speargun and some noisemakers to see if the novel sounds attract sharks. They do; novel sounds and splashing attract them. But also Florida is on black tip migration routes, and it may be these smaller sharks are biting because they feel threatened and mistake humans for a large predator.
The lessons: stay away from murky water. Stay away from places with the scents of prey. A good show that recaps many things we already know as well as some new ideas., but points off for bloody recreations of attacks. The actual photos of the victims were enough.
COCAINE SHARKS (of 5)
With bales of drugs being thrown out of planes into the ocean to avoid the cops, are sharks eating the drugs — and is it affecting them? Tom “The Blowfish” Hird has researched the effects of cocaine on fish, and he teams up with local expert Dr. Tracy Fanara, environmental scientist. They locate a float path for drug drops, and then dive to see if any sharks are acting unusually. They find a slightly “cocked-swimming” hammerhead, and a sandbar shark that spins in circles unaccountably. A test with fake swans and fake square bales of cocaine has the sharks going for the bales rather than the birds. Then they create a fish power concentrate and lure sharks in to see what their dopamine response might be to this type of over stimulation. They get pretty crazy.
Then, they drop fake bales of the stuff to simulate a cocaine drop. The sound of the bales hitting the water attracts sharks (novel sounds, remember?), and naturally, bales are bitten. Honestly, with no actual cocaine to test with, this show seems pretty silly. Though the ending message that everything flows to the sea, and we don’t know what effect our drugs are having on sea life, is worthwhile. And there are some nice shark pictures.
WEDNESDAY 2023 SUMMARY (of 5)
Another pretty good night. The popular Air Jaws franchise has run thin, but Casagrande and Kurr were amusing and made a pretty show. The Florida show was gorier in is recreations than it needed to be, and re-stated things we know, but overall good. And the Cocaine Sharks premise seemed interesting, but then didn’t have any actual cocaine to test with — so, really it was all speculation. Still, a better night of shows than we’ve often gotten, continuing a strong year for Shark Week.
JAWS IN THE SHALLOWS (of 5)
Great white sharks are now turning up off of popular New Zealand beaches. Dr. Riley Elliot & his underwater cinematographer wife Amber Jones want to know how many sharks are here, where do they come from, and what’s attracting them now? To solve these questions, they start tagging sharks — including many juveniles — in the area. They take samples to, and then swab shark mouths (!) 800 miles away to see if the young sharks near the beach are from the same population. And yes, swabbing shark mouths is as dangerous as you think. Tense moments. While waiting for DNA, they observe bronze whaler sharks and great whites 100 yards from a popular beach.
A theory as to why great whites are now attracted is because of container ship wreck that formed a new artificial reef in the area, perhaps attracting more seals and shark prey. Diving to the wreck they Riley & Amber find it covered with kelp and fish — but no seals. Plenty of sharks, though. And surfacing they do spot seals, and then on rocks at the shore, too, with pups. They found over a dozen great whites in the Bay of Plenty, from pups to sub-adults, which may indicate a nursery or pupping ground. The off-coast shipwreck has brought in seals and other prey. But solutions to prevent shark bites and fatalities are still to come. Good show. Strong on science. Good visuals, too.
MONSTER MAKO: FRESH BLOOD (of 5)
Dr. Austin Gallagher & Dr. Kesley Banks are studying mako sharks off of southern California and Catalina Island with underwater photographer Andre Musgrove. It’s possible that makos are now talking down the prey of great whites, seals and sea lions. Sampling the shark tissues may give clues to their diet. There are two teams, Kesley studying small makos; Austin’s team is looking for larger fish. Andre and Rosie Moore will be doing free diving from “shark dome” while Liv Dixon helps topside. From the dome, they interact with a sea lion, blue sharks, and a Moa Moa, the ocean’s largest bony fish, which looks like a huge dinner platter. They find a big mako, but it eludes them on their first dive.
Meanwhile Kesley samples several small makos. Austin’s team relocates and he and Liv dive in a kelp forest with a sample spear and a 360-degree camera. Having seen a big white nearby, it’s back to the dome for a night dive. (Which seems insane, if you ask me.) A ray comes to visit, and some large blues, but the blues scatter when a big mako shows up. But it remains just out of sample range. So they try again during the day, and find it, but the currents are too rough. They call Kesley in and decide to actually hook a mako, risking the 12’ fish may leap aboard the ship. Then it’s like a scene from Jaws as they try to tire the mako as it leaps to slip the hook. Score one for old-fashioned fishing, as they bring it in and sample it. And their data from small and large fish suggests big makos are hunting sea lions and seals — just like great whites.
Another exciting show with high science content.
SHARK VS. SNAKE: BATTLE OF THE BITES (of 5)
Tiger sharks are mysteriously dying on the west coast of Australia. Forrest Galante suspects that sea snakes may be responsible, because tiger sharks will eat anything. The dive on a reef looking for dodgers and find plenty of reef and other smaller sharks, and a shark “cleaning station,” but no tigers. Diving with locals, his crew dons sea snake-patterned gear and then tries a snake-shaped lure. Eventually, one of the tigers does hit a lure, but can a sea snake bite hurt a tiger shark? Shark skin is too tough, so the snake could only bite the mouth or gut as it died. But experts have never tested sea snake venom on tiger shark flesh. Forrest goes diving for snakes and instead finds a leopard shark, a grouper, a tasselled wobbegong, and all sorts of other cool things, but no snakes.
After some advice from an aboriginal elder, he uses an underwater wakeboard to try to cover a lot of area searching — and finds an elegant sea snake, which I’m not sure is a good result. Catching deadly snakes on land seems foolish to me; in the water, it’s insane, but they manage, and then milk it. Don’t try this at home. The also test the whether the snake can bite through shark skin, it can, but the interior skin, it can. Now they need some fresh shark tissue to test while the snake venom is fresh. He manages, and then takes the samples to a lab for testing. And it turns out snake venom could kill a tiger shark, either outright or by slowing it enough that it couldn’t breathe through swimming. Forrest considers the mystery solved. I’d like to have the bodies tested.
THURSDAY 2023 SUMMARY (of 5)
With two strong science shows and one pretty good one, this is another great night for Shark Week. The Forrest show had some good sea life moments but was also too focused on spectacle to get perfect marks. With two days (5 shows) to go, this may be the strongest week since I started reviewing — but we’ll have to wait to find out, because stuff going on IRL will delay my final two nights of reviews. Be sure to watch, though, and let me know what you think. Also please with Jason Momoa’s hosting. Always sorry that wraps on Thursday, and I wouldn’t mind seeing him a shark cage next year.
TROPIC JAWS (of 5)
Are great white sharks, traditionally cold-water predators, adapting and moving into warmer waters? Dr. Craig O’Connell and Madison Stewart “Shark Girl” go to Indonesia (a capital of illegal shark fishing) to investigate. Are the whites coming from Japan or Australia, and if so, why? Diving on a remote island, they see blacktip sharks, and nearly get swept out to sea by currents. Picking a deeper dive site, they find a pack of gray reef sharks and even spot a great hammerhead, but no whites.
So, Madi talks to local fishermen (who she’s trying to turn from shark hunters into giving shark tours) and discovers the whites may be following schools of tuna. Craig bodges together a super chum machine and they go 6 hours offshore to test it. They attract some sharks including a dangerous silkie, and almost get hurt when the chum is swarmed. But in the end they can only theorize that great whites are following the high concentration of food in the area down the sea ridge from Japan.
DEADLY SHARKS OF PARADISE (of 5)
In recent years, Brazil has become a shark bite hotspot. Attack survivor Paul De Gelder and Marine Biologist Danni Washington, join Brazilian Shark scientists Natalia Alves Bezerra and Bianca Rangel and travel to the Brazilian island of Noronha — which is both a resort and a marine sanctuary — to find why tiger sharks, usually migratory, are now making their home here and attacking people. Diving at an attack site, Paul and Danni find nurse sharks, Caribbean black-tip reef sharks, but no tigers. A spot where tigers had been spotted eating a dead whale turns up nurse sharks, lemon sharks, stingrays, barracuda, but again, not the tigers their Brazilian allies want to tag.
A near-shore night dive reveals more lemon sharks and is super scary for the divers. Their baited cameras (bruvs), though, finally yield the tiger they’ve been hunting for. With that info they go diving again and spot tigers, but the fish keep moving away from them into deeper water, before finally checking out the humans. (But there was no tagging; not sure why.) They do find a tiger with a net wrapped around her, and decide they need to try to rescue that tiger from her predicament. To do that, they go fishing, but sadly can’t find them again. Then the tagging of sharks to find pupping grounds and other info starts, by catching them on special drumlines and bringing them alongside the boat. When one shark gets tangled, a cameraman risks life and limb to free it. After catching five female tigers, they also snag a newborn to tag. This capture means that this area may be a pupping ground and nursery for the young. And the tags seem to show that the island now has a permanent tiger shark population. Points off for amping the scares, but otherwise a good show.
THE HAUNTING OF SHARK TOWER (of 5)
Shark photographer Andy Casagrande and shark scientist Kori Burkhardt visit a nearly abandoned Coast Guard station, which looks like an oil platform, off North Carolina that is a rumored hunting ground of an elusive great white shark. Frying Pan Tower, dubbed “one of the most dangerous places on the planet,” is reached via helicopter and the only way down to the ocean, 75-100’ below, is a rickety looking sling/sled-and-cable setup. The shark spotted hasn’t been seen again because the tower’s webcam is broken. Andy and Kori must dive during slack tide — about a 90-minute limit — or risk being swept out to sea, and if they see a great white, there is no easy or fast way out. This is a “scary shark” show that earns its scares. They see plenty of marine life, including a large sand tiger shark, but the webcam seems a total loss, and as time runs out, they struggle to find their escape sled and a scary ride back to the top.
Next slack tide is midnight, and of course both Andy and Kori are up for a crazy night dive — as if daylight diving is not sketchy enough here. But with no great whites the scares are mostly in their heads, and the next day they decide to check out a wreck nearby, where they have video of other divers encountering a great white. Sand tigers and plenty of marine life, but no whites, so they move on to another sighting area. Shark scientist James Sulikowski is trying to find and tag great whites, and our duo teams up with his crew. Fishing with chum, they catch and tag a big male white shark. In the end they decided it’s probably a combination of environment, food, and water temperatures that has lured whites to the area of the tower. A good show, but points off for using great white footage apparently not from the show to illustrate the lurking shark at the “haunted” tower.
FRIDAY 2023 SUMMARY (of 5)
Another very good night of 2023’s Shark Week, though a couple of the shows got points taken away for over-dramatizing the situations and using footage not native to the show itself. Still, the 2023 streak of excellence continues. We’ll see if the Saturday shows can finish strong.
DAWN OF THE MONSTER MAKO (of 5)
Underwater cinematographer Joe Ramiero and marine biologist Lauren Ramiero is looking for mako sharks bigger than the standard 8-foot-long ,400# beasts. Joe hand fed and photographed an 11-footer, but history and a photograph indicates they may grow to 14 feet. When they get that big, they may be mistaken for white sharks, but even whites will avoid these fast, deadly sharks. The Ramieros go to the Azores and dive a blue shark hotspot with local expert Jorge Fontes, to find the overlapping species. They help tag the blues, but then the blues swarm in as a pack and they must get out of the water. Moving into deeper water, Lauren sets up a BRUV (baited camera rig) she’s designed for the bottom of the ocean. They don’t find the mako, but do find a rare sixgill shark.
They move to their next site, the Azores Bank, where a big mako has been seen. But what they find first is a small pod of sperm whales, the largest flesh-eaters on the planet, who are alleged to be able to incapacitate makos (and other creatures) with their sonar. A very rare sight, but no makos, so they source local fisherman, who clue the Ramieros that big makos follow swordfish and marlins. So, they chum with swordfish and try a night dive. This brings first smaller makos, and then a 13-foot female big enough to chase the divers out of the water. Despite the danger, the Ramieros are thrilled to find one of their monsters. Now they need to be studied more to help protect them. Great show.
MEGASHARKS OF DANGEROUS REEF (of 5)
Dr. Lauren Meyer is looking for adult white sharks over 14’ in length with cameraman Colin Thrupp, because sightings of such fish are getting rarer. They put down BRUVs (baited cameras) in South Australian waters and find Port Jackson sharks, gummy sharks, and even a southern eagle ray — a lot of prey items, but no whites, until… Rescuing a BRUV goes wrong, and their cage gets tipped on its side. The one that comes to check them out is only a 10 footer, though. So, they relocate to Dangerous Reef, where a big shark was recently spotted feeding on a whale. But they have little luck, until something bites their “yo yo” camera system 9 miles off shore. That great white does damage to the housing, and the camera shows images of it trying to swallow the rig whole, but it’s still not what they want.
The team moves on to South Neptune island, last stop before Antarctica, where the waters are colder and deeper to see if they can find the 14-foot plus sharks they’re looking to tag and study. And they find a big female, but she isn’t where they can tag her. They decide to try a feeding tag, which the shark must swallow (and they will later recover). Trying to keep the smaller sharks away from the “pill” proves tricky, but they manage it and later recover the tag. Data on the six or seven feedings over 18 days will give them new information about white shark habits. What they’ve found also suggests the big sharks may now be avoiding the commotion of the cage diving industry, preferring quieter waters.
SATURDAY 2023 SUMMARY (of 5)
Only two shows on Saturday, 2023 — Dawn of the Monster Mako and Megasharks of Dangerous Reef — but both of them were strong on science with great images. So, 2023 Shark Week finishes on a high note.
SHARK WEEK 2023 FINAL SUMMARY
Looking back over Shark Week 2023, I tried to be hader ass on my ratings, marking down otherwise good shows for scary music or editing and even dropping in footage not native to the show. But despite all of these things, this was probably the best Shark Week since I started seriously reviewing them in 2019 (5 years now!). Astonishingly, there were no junk shows this year — no un-funny comedians, no “superstar” crossovers or other such pap — only shows with fairly serious to super-serious science. What a relief! Good job, Discovery! It’s almost like they listened to their critics this year and gave shark fans what we wanted: MORE SHARKS!
Also, the ratio of female to male shark scientists was the highest I remember it being, which I understand is more representative of the field, with a good number of non-white researchers as well. This representation made this year’s shows feel more like the real world, and also shows that shark science is not just for the privileged few. That has to be a good thing for saving sharks worldwide.
I’m not going to recap the best shows of this year, because there were just too darn many of them. See the individual day reviews. Most excitingly, despite my trying to be tougher on the shows, this year still achieved the highest rating for a week yet. And since I don’t believe in half stars, it averages up to a perfect 5 out of 5. Again, good job, Discovery! This gives me great hope for Shark Week 2024.
FINAL RATING FOR 2023 SHARK WEEK: (of 5)
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