In Search Of…S04E04 Immortal Sharks
We open on a) music with a driving rhythm and b) frikkin’ sharks. Nimoy gives a super buildup to the great white sharks, and sharks don’t even need a buildup. It’s very cool. The visuals are a little ropey by today’s standards, but not bad for its time.
Basically, this episode is a documentary on Sharks, sandwiched between the episode on Australian flying saucers and the episode on the lost colony of Roanoke. A lot of it is shot in Western Australia, making me wonder if the producers were trying to get their money’s worth when they sent a crew to Australia for the UFO episode.
There’s some sweet footage of a shark taking chunks out of a dead whale. This episode is a weird reminder to me as an Australian that our whaling industry closed down surprisingly recently. Commercial whaling was already in steep decline and a ban was instituted in 1979, but the last whaling company in Albany, Western Australia, had already voluntarily closed down when this happened.
Sorry for the aside. I tend to think of whaling in Australia as something relegated to the dim and distant past, and it’s weird to remember that it was still going on in my lifetime. The episode even has some arty footage of the abandoned whaling station.
The next bit is just a straightforward documentary on sharks, with some weird 1970s twists, like killing a blue pointer shark to use as bait. It’s pretty gruesome and unnecessary. Otherwise the footage is interesting, and the diver they talk to is pretty down to Earth. He talks about how little was know about great whites. More interestingly he talks about how, as a kid, he improvised diving masks from an old gasmask and a hose. I’d like to know more about how that worked, honestly
And then we get some sweet footage of a great white from a shark cage. The best bit is when the animal is looking at the propeller of the diving boat and wondering whether to eat it. Nimoy talks up how terrifying the creature is, which he kind of has to do because mostly it’s just floating about, calmly.
We move onto an interview with another Australian diver who talks about being attacked by a shark himself. Photos show that he was quite badly injured, which makes the strange glee with which he tells his story all the more interesting. He believes that sharks are beautiful creatures, even after what one did to him, which is kind of neat.
Then Nimoy wonders whether great white sharks are immortal, Because of course you do.
Moving on to SeaWorld in San Diego to talk to marine biologist Ray Keyes. Over footage of sharks in tanks, Keyes talks about… well, about shark biology. It’s an interesting talk, though possibly a little dated. The sinister music played over the scene adds a lot to what might be a fairly dry speech.
Finally, Keyes says that not much is known about shark aging. This part is really interesting. I’d always heard the line that we don’t know how long sharks live in the wild, but I never quite understood why sharks are singled out when surely we can’t examine how long, say, a tuna lives in the wild. But apparently it’s quite easy to tell the age of a bony fish from growth patterns in bones in their ears. As cartilaginous fish, sharks don’t have these bones.
See? I actually learned something from this episode. Keyes says he can’t confirm how old sharks can live but estimates possibly up seventy to eighty years.
Keyes looks fairly restrained in a plaid shirt, but our next interviewee is an Australian marine biologist from the University of New South Wales who wears white pants and a tropical shirt. He even has his shirt open to show off chest hair and necklace, the whole works. His says that the great white shark has no natural enemies. It’s not depicted in the footage, but my guess is that he goes on to burn, baby, burn — possibly in some variety of disco inferno.
Nimoy then says something, but I miss it. He’s standing on a beach and some men in old timey frogmen suits walk past him and its distracting. But he finishes with what he assures us is an unpleasant story.
It involves a heavily moustachioed Melbournian who tells his story being attacked by a shark. The re-enactment is mostly stock footage of sharks culminating in a guy bleeding from what’s left of his leg. It’s surprisingly shocking at first, but the camera holds on the scene for too long and it loses some impact.
The diver talks about how fearless the great white shark is, like a non-melodramatic Quint.
Back to the stupid ‘immortal shark’ thing. Basically the great white shark has no natural enemies and we can’t prove that it dies of old age, but probably it does because of course it does, but what if it doesn’t?
After a fairly neat monologue about how awesome sharks are, we utterly fail to answer this question. Which is fair enough, I guess.
“This is the final view of what divers see before a great white closes in for the kill.”
“He knows that white death still waits.”
Sharks: 9/10, Music: 9/10, Nimoyness: 10/10, Actually informative: 10/10, Immortal Sharks: 0/10. Overall: 38/50. Distinction.
2 thoughts on “In Search Of…S04E04 Immortal Sharks”
This was an In Search of… episode on sharks. No doubt inspired by JAWS, which had every 70’s TV show producing their own ‘shark’ episode of one type or another. I crack up at the “immortal” angle they postulate – and then essentially ignore until the end – when the pose the question again – and give not even a theory as to the answer. The perfect rerun pairing for this episode is the classic HAPPY DAYS 2 part episode where Fonzi jumps over the shark. ABC really pushed that story line – with every show from HAPPY DAYS to THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN featuring sharks. Can’t wait to see some more reviews. Season 4 of In Search of…. has some real comic episodes.
Good luck on your new project! Don’t forget about your In Search Of… fans!
I have fans! Good to know, lol. Seriously, thanks for the kind words.
Thanks for the background on the episode. I knew about the Happy Days shark thing but I didn’t realise that it was related to Jaws. Jaws is such sn old favourite, its easy to forget what a huge cultural phenomenon in its day. I was quite young in the late ’70s but I do remember at least two different shark-related cartoons and a popular shark based board game.