Greetings everyone, 
What your seeing above is the 2013 advertisement for SHARK WEEK!! And it is definitely not the seals favourite week of the year… poor Snuffy. Well KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON! Is what we say here on Biobunch, though calm is the last thing people feel when they hear the word Shark and this unexplainable terror is partly due to the image portrayed by the infamous shark movie… 
Jaws is often blamed for being the sole reason as to why some of us find it so hard to enter the water any further than just below our waist, it was the image of sharks being these serial killing machines that plagued terror on our subconscious and led to rationalizations such as ‘I can’t go any deeper there could be a shark out there, and not just any shark. A Great White.’ We are here to tell you that this indescribable fear was not caused solely by JAWS, that being said you could easily argue that both the book and the movie was the final nail in the coffin. We believe that it was the isolated shark attacks that occurred in New Jersey 1916 that put sharks in the coffin primarily the Great White and may or may not have been the inspiration for the movie Jaws. But as our knowledge on sharks increases if we were to looks at these series of attacks would the Great White still be a prime suspect or would our gaze go to another one of its cousins?

What happened in the New Jersey Attacks?

The concept of a ‘rogue shark’ is not new a shark is called this when it starts to attack human beings and spotted in areas with high amounts of human activity usually because they are old or injured and even desperate. It was this idea of a 'rogue shark' that the  entire movie of Jaws was based upon, and it was this phrase that was presented in all the local newspapers when this shark attacked 5 victims in two very different places. Before we delve into the murky waters of whether it was in fact the Great White shark or another shark entirely that was responsible for the attacks we will first give an over view of how each victim came to meet this deadly fish.  
Victim 1: the first victim was 25 year old Charles Vansant who was out on an evening swim at a resort in Beach Haven, somewhere along the swim the shark had taken a fatal bite the lifeguard that was watching rushed to his aid but he had already bled to death when he hit the shore.
Victim 2: Five days later and 45 miles north in Spring Lake Charles Bruder a young bellhop met a similar fate to Charles Vansant.
Victim 3: This carnivorous bloodthirsty fish then travelled 30 miles north of Spring Lake into Matawan Creek. July 12th marked the day when this shark claimed its youngest victim 11 year old Lester Stillwell who was playing in the creek just 16 miles up from the river mouth, when the shark attacked.
Victim 4: died heroically as Watson attempted to save Lester but was fatally injured during his brave act and died.
This image shows all that attacks apart from the very last victim who was lucky to escape the shark
Victim 5: Joseph Dunn was the luckiest one, the teenager was bitten in the creek less than half an hour after 11 year old was consumed.
When a small town such as Beach Haven in New Jersey has suffered such a shock as a series of shark attacks it is thought that they go through 5 different stages in order to come to terms with the recent events. (This same stages were also shown in the Jaws film by the way).
  1. Shock
  2. Denial- This is the idea that it couldn’t have been a shark  and that there must be some other sort of explanation. In the case of New Jersey they began to blame the attack on passing sea turtles and even a killer whale! You might remember that in the movie Jaws this stage was seen when the Medical examiner dismissed Chrissies murder as  sharks attack and ruled that it was down to a tragic boating accident.
  3. This stage brings the feeling that if we could just shuffle it under the carpet it may just disappear. In other words if we don't make a big deal of it, it wont happen again. In the movie Jaws the mayor decided to push what happened to the sharks first victim aside allowing for the first wave of tourists to dip their toes in the water, which then lead to the death of another child.
  4. Then come the thought that leaving the problem alone is not working so now it is time to kill some sharks. The mother of the child that had been murdered immediately put a bounty on the shark, which triggered an amateur shark hunting spree, when the professional shark hunter Quint then arrives.  
  5. Finally reality sets in, people then believe that it is time to bring in the professionals who may have a better knowledge on what is going on. This causes the final member of the jaws hunting crew to arrive, who is none other than the marine biologist Matt Hooper.

The scientists brought in to New Jersey decided that it was in fact the Great White shark who was behind these attacks through the process of elimination, they had found themselves narrowing it down to 4 species and applied basic concepts of behaviour of these shark species and the location of each attack. They then came up with the Great white. It is extremely important to remember that the knowledge on sharks back then was very, very little.
It was 2 days after the last attack that  an 8.5 foot shark was caught in Raritan Bay. Upon examination Dr.Lucas had apparently found a shinbone of a boy and what was thought to be a human rib. Of course this evidence was seen as conclusive. No further thought was placed into how the great white could have been responsible for the three attacks that occurred in freshwater, a very unusual habitat for the Great White as they cannot handle the changes in salinity. 

So why was the great white singled out as the only option of the attacks?

Well not much more to go on than the medical examiners word of the stomach contents of the great white that was caught.
However 60 years later, evidence was presented in a book on sharks written by Richard Ellis. He brought in the idea that there may have been a different shark who was responsible, or possibly many sharks!

The New Jersey Events revisited!

The first two attacks took place in the ocean one 70 miles and the other 25 miles miles away from Matawan Creek, meaning the same shark then went on to attack 3 other people in Mattawan Creek. To be honest when you think of it like that, it seems like a pretty crazy shark… or it wasn’t just one shark!
Meet the Great Whites formidable cousin, with a stronger bite force than the Great White no wonder it is in the top 3 most dangerous sharks!!
You will be surprised to know that the Great White is rare in New Jersey waters and they are also not known to swim in freshwater because as we previously stated they cant handle the changes in salinity. HOWEVER! The Bull Shark is more abundant and known to haunt the river mouths and penetrate far up FRESHWATER rivers where three of the attacks occurred.  
The new york times reported that the suspected shark was trapped in Matawan Creek where all the public then saw that the creek was teeming with sharks so the possibility of the attacks being because of more than one shark.
A later article read that ‘a giant shark plunged through the chicken wire that had penned it in at Matawan Creek and escaped in to the ocean’ this means that a shark had already made this journey from the sea to the creek!! Meaning that the culprit may not be the Great White that was caught! Well that’s just mind blowing.

In conclusion it might just be that Great Whites took a devastating blow for the Bull Shark who got off lightly. No one will ever know what shark was responsible for the attacks at New Jersey, but one thing is for sure the Great White was not primarily responsible for each of those attacks. These attacks coupled with Jaws the film have now caused Great Whites to plummet to an endangered status, what a devastating loss this would be as they are the apex predators on their food chains. 
Do you guys think that Jaws would have still been a Great White if the New Jersey attacks was said to have been caused by a bull shark and not a great white? If the movie Jaws had not been made would the great whites population status been better?

Over and out!

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