SANTA BARBARA – Chancellor Henry Yang was walking from his office in Cheadle Hall to the University Center today when, in a move that experts said could damage his close relationship with students, he was eaten.
Yang is the fifth such administrator to be eaten by flying great white sharks, dubbed “Air Jaws” by local spectators.
If that’s not a plea for shark conservation, I don’t know what is.
My mistake was in watching a Discovery Channel film a few weeks ago called “Air Jaws.” It was directed by a UCSB post-doc, Rocky Strong, and featured Rocky doing fun and silly things like crawling onto a really huge, floating, slippery, rotting whale carcass to film great white sharks as they ripped off and devoured 40-pound chunks of whale meat.
The audience reaction was mixed.
The guys in the audience, in unison, joined me.
“Coooooool,” we said.
“Eeeeewww,” said the one girl.
Shark feeds are not for everyone.
Sharks themselves are not for everyone, and this sucks. There are something like 400 species of shark out there and only about three of them can be reliably depended on to eat people, not that we should hold this against the other 397.
Those three are tiger sharks, bull sharks and Jaws.
I’ve got Jaws on the wall in my office. It’s a small Jaws, about a foot long, and it sings. Dances, too, to the theme from the movie. Then it sings Mack the Knife (“Oh the shark has pretty teeth, and he shows them pearly white”), all while wiggling enthusiastically. We had to put it up in front of a nail to keep it in place, so that it didn’t wiggle its way down and crash, teeth first, onto an unsuspecting writer.
Air Jaws strikes again.
Last year, someone stuck a cigarette in its mouth, and now Jaws sings away from his perch while looking like a blackjack dealer.
Everyone should have a shark. Everyone should learn about sharks.
The people who really need to learn are the ones in the aquarium, who keep telling infuriating, blatant lies to their impressionable children who will no doubt grow up to be dairy farmers or something else where they won’t see the ocean much.
As in (pointing at goldfish), “Oooh, it’s a good thing that shark is behind the glass!”
Yes, I think to myself, because otherwise the water would run out and it would die.
Aquariums rarely have interesting sharks. They can’t keep them. The longest stay in captivity for a great white shark is 21 days at Sea World in San Diego and the only great white successfully held in captivity, in Australia, started eating its tankmates.
Instead, aquariums stock up on things like the 8-foot sevengill sharks at Monterey Bay (which, according to the Shark Almanac, are “pugnacious when caught,” but don’t really ever eat people). Or they get leopard sharks (phsshtt) or sand tiger sharks, which are really mean-looking and have really sharp teeth that they use … to catch fish (they are reportedly named sand tiger sharks because aquariums wanted to scare people and “sand shark” was not frightening enough).
It is a very scary world out there when it comes to naming sharks.
Marine biologists, excitable people that they are, have come up with their own creative ways of naming sharks.
For example, the large sharks in one of Jean-Michel Cousteau’s exhibitions off Dangerous Reef in Australia got such names as Peaches, Rosy, Foxy, Daisy, Isabelle and the absolutely unforgettable Murf.
On this expedition Cousteau and his technician, Eddie Paul, made a fake shark to test how a large shark would react to another large shark. They named the fake “Allison,” after a former girlfriend of Paul’s.
“Allison” the shark was ripped to pieces by another shark, which is one of those exciting fantasies shark scientists have. I think I understand why the real Allison isn’t with Eddie anymore.
Then there is the king of fake sharks: “Bruce,” the shark in Jaws (a few feet longer than the world-record great white and with greatly oversized teeth). Most of the scenes in the movie utilize “Bruce,” but there is some real shark footage. The scene in the cage is a real great white shark, shot with a midget in the cage to make the shark look bigger.
The midget had never been diving before. Word is there was a small accident while he was trying to exit the cage. The stuntman, Carl Rizzo, didn’t come back.
That’s the problem with Jaws: every time people see it, they don’t come back. But there’s no need to be afraid. You’re 50 times more likely to get struck by lightning than eaten by a shark. Until, of course, Air Jaws is patrolling the campus.
Eric Simons is very proud that three of the four columns he’s written this year have been about fish. Oh, and he’s also the editor in chief of the Daily Nexus.
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