The True Story Behind Jaws

Today begins the much anticipated Shark Week on Discovery. I’ve always been fascinated by marine wildlife. Fascination, along with a healthy dose of respect. That respect first came from the movie Jaws; one of my favorite all-time movies.

What many do not know is Peter Benchley’s inspiration for the book upon which the movie is based was a week of terror that took place off the coast of New Jersey in 1916. It is briefly mentioned in the movie as Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) and Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) try to convince Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) the shark terrorizing the waters of Amity island actually exists and they should close the beach.

Chief Brody (Roy Scheider), Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), and Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton)

Michael Capuzzo’s Close to Shore is an incredible non-fiction account of the harrowing days in 1916 when a Great White shark attacked swimmers along the Jersey shore, triggering mass hysteria and launching an extensive shark hunt. This is an incredible read that has been meticulously researched. These attacks were the first documented shark attacks in the country and for individuals who just recently discovered the benefits of “sunbathing,” learning there were creatures in the ocean that could kill children simply enjoying the water was shocking.

So as you are watching Shark Week, I highly recommend you check out Close to Shore and learn how New Jersey played an important part in the history of shark attacks, research, and lore. And maybe as I do, have a healthy respect for marine life while you enjoy your time in the water.

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