Shark Trouble

Shark Trouble

4.5 15
by Peter Benchley

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Master storyteller Peter Benchley combines high adventure with practical information in Shark Trouble, a book that is at once a thriller and a valuable guide to being safe in, on, under, and around the sea. The bestselling author of Jaws, The Deep, and other works draws on more than three decades of experience to share information about sharks and other


Master storyteller Peter Benchley combines high adventure with practical information in Shark Trouble, a book that is at once a thriller and a valuable guide to being safe in, on, under, and around the sea. The bestselling author of Jaws, The Deep, and other works draws on more than three decades of experience to share information about sharks and other marine animals.

“Shark attacks on human beings generate a tremendous amount of media coverage,” Benchley writes, “partly because they occur so rarely, but mostly, I think, because people are, and always have been, simultaneously intrigued and terrified by sharks. Sharks come from a wing of the dark castle where our nightmares live—deep water beyond our sight and understanding—and so they stimulate our fears and fantasies and imaginations.”

Benchley describes the many types of sharks (including the ones that pose a genuine threat to man), what is and isn’t known about shark behavior, the odds against an attack and how to reduce them even further—all reinforced with the lessons he has learned, the mistakes he has made, and the personal perils he has encountered while producing television documentaries, bestselling novels, and articles about the sea and its inhabitants. He tells how to swim safely in the ocean, how to read the tides and currents, what behavior to avoid, and how to survive when danger suddenly strikes. He discusses how to tell children about sharks and the sea and how to develop, in young and old alike, a healthy respect for the ocean.

As Benchley says, “The ocean is the only alien and potentially hostile environment on the planet into which we tend to venture without thinking about the animals that live there, how they behave, how they support themselves, and how they perceive us. I know of no one who would set off into the jungles of Malaysia armed only with a bathing suit, a tube of suntan cream, and a book, and yet that’s precisely how we approach the oceans.”

No longer. Not after you’ve read Shark Trouble.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Peter Benchley

“Benchley is a master.” —Chicago Tribune

“Benchley’s a fine, smooth writer, taut of technique,
inventive of language.” —The Washington Post, about Beast

“Benchley’s pacing is irresistible. His descriptions of complex action, machinery and marine life are as colorful and vivid as a tropical reef before pollution set in.”
—The New York Times, about White Shark
That's right: Jaws author Peter Benchley has written a nonfiction book about sharks! Apprehensive that not even his terrifying novel has convinced us to be safe in the water, Benchley splices together real-life shark attack stories and practical advice about how to stay safe in the surf. Not neglecting other sea monsters, Benchley explains how to avoid encounters and how to handle them if they do occur.
In this offspring of Benchley's 1974 novel, Jaws, he states he would not have written that book knowing what he now knows about sharks. This book is full of personal experience and anecdotal evidence to impress upon his readers the wonder and mystery of the undersea world. Advice about how to swim in the ocean and how to prevent unwanted encounters with the dangerous creatures of the deep is interspersed with accounts of close encounters with these very creatures occurring on his diving excursions for The American Sportsman television show and National Geographic writing assignments. It sets the record straight with supporting statistics about the media-hyped shark attacks in the summer of 2001. This would be a valuable tool to get junior high and high school boys involved in a little more demanding reading on a subject they find interesting. There are 16 pages of b/w photographs, mainly of sharks and the filming of the movie, Jaws. Benchley dispels a large number of myths commonly believed about sharks and advocates for their preservation. The book includes a short story about a fishing village that illustrates the ocean ecosystem and how it relates to humans who depend on it for their livelihood. It includes information on moray eels, killer whales, barracudas, rays, squid, and other sea creatures to "avoid" and "respect." Fast, informative and entertaining reading. KLIATT Codes: JSA;Recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2002, Random House, 186p. illus.,
— Ann Hart
Library Journal
Last summer, the media fueled a shark attack scare when in fact the number of incidents was below average. This year seems primed to be the "Summer of the Shark Book," in which authors interested in the predatory fish capitalize on last summer's hype just in time for this summer's beach crowd. Shark is an anthology of excerpts from previously published books and articles, including Peter Benchley's Jaws, Eugenie Clark's Lady with a Spear, Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, and Jean-Michel Cousteau's Cousteau's Great White Shark. The only apparent common thread is that the selections feature people being attacked by sharks or sharks being attacked by people. The fact that this is part of the "Adrenaline Book" series is a good clue as to the nature of this volume. Benchley's Shark Trouble is intended more as an argument against the hype than more fuel for it. The author's introduction emphasizes how much has been learned since he wrote Jaws in 1974 and that sharks, including the most fearsome ones, are in much more danger from humans than humans from sharks. A chapter called "The Summer of Hype" sets the record straight on last year's media hysteria. Other chapters discuss the real dangers of swimming in the ocean (e.g., tides, rips, and other currents) and how to avoid getting caught. Some personal shark anecdotes add excitement as well. Benchley's solid and informative book is recommended for public and school libraries, especially where there is an interest in the ocean and scuba diving. Shark is not recommended; libraries would do better to purchase the publications that it highlights, plus a few other classic shark books, such as Thomas H. Lineaweaver's The Natural History of the Shark. [John A. Musick and Beverly McMillan's The Shark Chronicles: A Scientist Tracks the Consummate Predator is coming in September from Holt. Ed.] Margaret A. Rioux, MBL/WHOI Lib., Woods Hole Oceanographic Inst., MA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
From Benchley (White Shark), a compendium of shark facts, tales, and personal encounters that feels as insightful and trustworthy as anything ever uttered in Jaws. Benchley has done as much as anyone to give sharks a dose of menace, so it's only fitting that he should put together this account in hopes of shedding light on shark behavior while also giving suggestions about how to minimize chances of trouble—or, if desired, maximize chances of seeing. Benchley explains that every time you enter the ocean, you are entering shark territory and may be regarded as fair game—though, in fact, sharks are happier shredding a seal or sea lion, whose return on energy expended in attacking and eating are much greater (humans are too bony and protein deficient). The author catalogues sensible do's and don'ts—don't swim near seal and sea lion colonies; don't swim at dawn, dusk, or night, when sharks move into the shallows; don't swim alone or in turbid water; don't wear shiny jewelry or make erratic movements. Many of Benchley's personal stories are drawn from scuba dives, and there's plenty of advice about how to dive safely—being good, for example, at recognizing territorial displays. Curios-sharks with the face of a pig, others that can fit in the palm of your hand-make these creatures appear as strange and vulnerable as the rest of us, while at the same time (would it be Benchley otherwise?) scary creatures abound, from sea wasps and sea snakes, marauding groupers and bluefish, on to man-eating sharks: great eating-machines, more ferocious than any Bengal tiger. Consider the dazzling speed of the mako: "a gray ghost in the distance one second, right in front of you the next, gone the next, back again the next." If you're looking for an antidote to being spooked by Jaws, there's information here to provide it. But there's just as much to spook you anew.

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Random House Publishing Group
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5.15(w) x 8.01(h) x 0.47(d)

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Read an Excerpt

South Australia, 1974
Swimming with Nightmares

Let's start with a story about sharks: Dangerous Reef, in the Neptunes Islands, 1974.

Blinded by blood, nauseated by the taste of fish guts, whale oil, and putrid horse flesh, I gripped the aluminum bars of the shark cage to steady myself against the violent, erratic jolts as the cage was tossed by the choppy sea. A couple of feet above, the surface was a prism that scattered rays of gray from the overcast sky; below, the bottom was a dim plain of sand sparsely covered with strands of waving grass.

The water was cold, a spill from the chill Southern Ocean that traversed the bottom of the world, and my core body heat was dropping; it could no longer warm the seepage penetrating my neoprene wetsuit. I shivered, and my teeth chattered against the rubber mouthpiece of my regulator.

Happy now? I thought to myself. Ten thousand miles you flew, for the privilege of freezing to death in a sea of stinking chum.

I envisioned the people on the boat above, warmed by sunlight and cups of steaming tea, cozy in their woolen sweaters: my wife, Wendy; the film crew from ABC-TV's American Sportsman; the boat crew and their leader, Rodney Fox, the world's most celebrated shark-attack survivor.

I thought of the animal I was there to see: the great white shark, largest of all the carnivorous fish in the sea. Rarely had it been seen under water; rarer still were motion pictures of great whites in the wild.

And I thought of why I was bobbing alone in a flimsy cage in the frigid sea: I had written a novel about that shark, and had called it Jaws, and when it had unexpectedly become a popular success, a television producer had challenged me to go diving with the monster of my imagination. How could I say no?

Now, though, I wondered how I could have said yes.

Visibility was poor—ten feet? Twenty? It was impossible to gauge because nothing moved against the walls of blue gloom surrounding me. I turned, slowly, trying to see in all directions at once, peering over, under, beside the clouds of blood that billowed vividly against the blue green water.

I had expected to find silence under water, but my breath roared, like wind in a tunnel, as I inhaled through my regulator, and my exhales gurgled noisily, like bubbles being blown through a straw in a drink. Waves slapped against the loose-fitting top hatch of the cage, the welded joints creaked with every torque and twist, and when the rope that tethered the cage to the boat drew taut, there was a thudding, straining noise and the clank of the steel ring scraping against its anchor plate.

Then I saw movement. Something was moving against the blue. Something dark. It was there and gone and there again, not moving laterally, as I'd thought it would, not circling, but coming straight at me, slowly, deliberately, unhurried, emerging from the mist.

I stopped breathing—not intentionally but reflexively, as if by suspending my breath I could suspend all animation—and I heard my pulse hammering in my ears. I wasn't afraid, exactly; I had been afraid, before, on the boat, but by now I had passed through fear into a realm of excitement and something like shocked disbelief.

There it is! Feel the pressure in the water as the body moves through it. The size of it! My God, the size!

The animal kept coming, and now I could see all of it: the pointed snout, the steel gray upper body in stark contrast with the ghostly white undercarriage, the symmetry of the pectoral fins, the awful knife blade of the dorsal fin, the powerful, deliberate back-and-forth of the scythelike tail fin that propelled the enormous body toward me, steadily, inexorably, as if it had no need for speed, for it knew it could not be stopped.

It did not slow, did not hesitate. Its black eyes registered neither interest nor excitement. As it drew within a few feet of me, it opened its mouth and I saw, first, the lower jaw crowded with jagged, needle-pointed teeth, and then—as the upper jaw detached from the skull and dropped downward—the huge, triangular cutting teeth, each side serrated like a saw blade.

The great white's mouth opened wider and wider, until it seemed it would engulf the entire cage, and me within it. Transfixed, I stared into the huge pink-and-white cavern that narrowed into a black hole, the gullet. I could see rows and rows of spare teeth buried in the gum tissue, each tooth a holstered weapon waiting to be summoned forward to replace a tooth lost in battle. Far back on each side of the massive head, gill flaps fluttered open and shut, admitting flickering rays of light.

A millisecond before the mouth would have collided with the cage, the great white bit down, rammed forward by a sudden thrust of its powerful tail. The upper teeth struck first, four inches from my face, scraping noisily—horribly—against the aluminum bars. Then the lower teeth gnashed quickly, as if seeking something solid in which to sink.

I shrank back, stumbling, as if through molasses, until I could cringe in relative safety in a far corner of the cage.

My brain shouted, of all people, ought to know: HUMAN BEINGS DO NOT BELONG IN THE WATER WITH GREAT WHITE SHARKS!

The shark withdrew, then quickly bit the cage again, and again, and not till the third or fourth bite did I realize that there was something desultory about the attack. It seemed less an assault than an exploration, a testing. A tasting.

Then the shark turned, showing its flank, and by instinct I crept forward and extended my hand between the bars to feel its skin. Hard, it felt, and solid, a torpedo of muscle, sleek and polished like steel. I let my fingers trail along with the movement of the animal. But when I rubbed the other way, against the grain, I felt the legendary sandpaper texture, the harsh abrasiveness of the skin's construction: millions upon millions of minuscule toothlike particles, the dermal denticles.

The shark was moving away, upward; it had found a hunk of quartered horse, probably ten pounds, possibly twenty, dangling in the chum. The shark's mouth opened and—in a split-second mechanical replay of the bite on the cage—it swallowed the chunk of horse whole. Its gullet bulged once as the meat and bone passed through on its way to the gut.

Tantalized now, the shark turned again in search of something more to eat. It bit randomly, gaping and snapping as if hoping that the next bite, or the next, would prove fruitful.

I saw a length of rope drift into its gaping mouth: the lifeline, I realized, the only connection between the cage and the boat.

Drift out again. Don't get caught. Not in the mouth. Please.

The great white's mouth closed and opened, closed and opened; the shark shook its head, trying to rid itself of the rope. But the rope was stuck.

In a fraction of a second, I saw that the rope had snagged between two—perhaps three or four—of the shark's teeth.

At that instant, neurons and synapses in the shark's small, primitive brain must have connected and sent a message of alarm, of entrapment, for suddenly the shark seemed to panic. Instinct commandeered its tremendous strength and great weight—at least a ton, I knew, spread over the animal's fourteen-foot length—and detonated an explosion of frenzied thrashing.

The shark's tail whipped one way and its head the other; its body slammed against the cage, against the boat, between the cage and the boat. I was upside down, then on my side, then bashed against the side of the boat. There was no up and no down for me, only a burst of bubbles amid a cloud of blood and shreds of flesh from the chum and the butchered horse.

What are they doing up there? Don't they see what's going on down here? Why doesn't somebody do something?

For a second I saw the shark's head and the rope that had disappeared into its mouth—and that's the last thing I remember seeing for a long, long time. For when the shark's tail bashed the cage again, the cage slid down four or five feet and swung into the darkness beneath the boat.

I knew what would happen next; I had heard of it happening once before: the shark's teeth would sever the rope. My survival would depend on precisely where the rope was severed. If the shark found itself free of the cage, it would flee, leaving the cage to drift away and, perhaps, sink. Someone from the boat would get a line to me. Eventually.

But if the rope stayed caught in the shark's mouth, the animal might drag the cage to the bottom, fifty feet away, and beat it to pieces. If I were to have a chance of surviving, I would have to find the rope, grab it, and cut it, all while being tumbled about like dice in a cup.

I reached for the knife in the rubber sheath strapped to my leg.

This isn't really happening. It can't be! I'm just a writer! I write fiction!

It was happening, though, and somewhere in the chaos of my beleaguered brain I appreciated the irony.

How many other writers, I wondered, have had the privilege of writing the story that foretells their own grisly demise?

Meet the Author

After graduating from Harvard, Peter Benchley worked as a reporter for The Washington Post, then as an editor at Newsweek and a speechwriter in the White House. His novel Jaws was published in 1974, followed by The Deep, The Island, The Girl of the Sea of Cortez, Q Clearance, Rummies, and Beast, among others. He has written screenplays for three of his novels, and his articles and essays have appeared in such publications as National Geographic and The New York Times. He has written, narrated, and appeared in dozens of television documentaries. He is a member of the national council of Environmental Defense and is a spokesman for its Oceans Program.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
May 8, 1940
Date of Death:
February 12, 2006
Place of Birth:
New York, New York
Place of Death:
Princeton, New Jersey
Phillips Exeter Academy; B.A. in English, Harvard University, 1961

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Shark Trouble: True Stories About Sharks and the Sea 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
the_girl_with_a_voice More than 1 year ago
Anybody else find it deliously ironic that the author of JAWS( resonably blamed for generating the intense fear, phobia, and, in some cases, sheer hate of sharks) has written a book promoting them. I understand that he loved sharks before JAWS and probaly didnt realize it would cause so much damage to their reputation... that is alot of guilt. I am sure he wrote this book for many reasons but i cant help but think one of these is damage control... any ways this book is great and so is his other book "Shark Tales"
Guest More than 1 year ago
A great book about sharks, how to swim safely in the ocean and with sharks, and diving experences the Peter Bentley has had.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sharks are scary,but i love the book its very amazing and you should read it to!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A realy good book for nook
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love to read about sharks, but what i love the most is to read the "truth" about sharks. Not all the time you can sit back and read about sharks without finding some fiction about them. Personally i would blame books like the infamous "JAWS" for the disastrous killing of sharks (of all types and sizes), and we need more books like "SHARK TROUBLE" to open the minds of those who believe in everything they hear and see. I am a certified diver and in my very first dive i saw a couple of Bull sharks, it was one of my most beautiful experiences to see them so calm and minding their own business. It was just b.e.a.u.t.i.f.u.l., and i am glad i saw them. Really recomend this book, you won't be dissapointed, and you will learn all you need to know about sharks.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading this book and I thought that it was like the best book that I ever read. He made everything so interesting and he got me interested in Sharks and the ocean again. I was mildly interested in them when I was little and he renewed that interest. Now I am next to being obsessed with the subject. I hope he writes another book like this because that can't be all of the stories that have happened to him!:) So that was my opinion! Super...wonderful, great.
Anthony Clendenen More than 1 year ago
Shark finning and/or killing they r pretty much same thing and i think that ppl should like shaarks mmore dont be predujice towards sharks learn about them b4 u judge them and form your own opinion on sharks sharks are running out of time only u can save them i support this book and author
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book made me feel an entire range of emotions and I couldn't put it down. With each story told I went into it with more and more interest. 'Jaws' scared me, but 'Shark Trouble' made me feel more at ease with the ocean and all of its amazing inhabitants.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Peter benchley gives us the real scoop on The Summer of The Shark. He clears up all the media hype and gives us the truth about sharks. Although Sharks, and the sea in general, should be treated with a healthy respect, there is no reason not to enloy it, and he teaches you just that. Great summer read, I loved it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
EXTREMELY INTERESTING NON-FICTION! Benchley and his family are all certified divers. Not only does he give information about sharks, but also detailed descriptions of encounters with them while diving. He also describes encounters with a manta ray, orcas, great barracuda, etc. There is also information about how to survive ocean hazards such as riptides and undertows, and periodically little trivial physics facts are included. Did you know that if you bleed while down deep in the ocean, your blood appears black, that an animal may appear 30% larger underwater because the water can act as a lense, that some squid have claws in their suckers, that the dorsal fin of an orca may be 5 or 6' high, that great white pups are 4 or 5' long when born? I learned all this from PB's fascinating book. It is easy and light enough reading for a child but interesting for anyone. He has a humorous writing style.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Save the sharks!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its good for a book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Even if he made them up these stories are great! My husband, who loves the ocean, fishing, diving, read this book last year and recommends it to everyone.
Jodi Johnston More than 1 year ago
In school we had to do a newspaper arcticl and i did mine on sharks and how we need to save them! I mean when i go to collage in gonna be a marine biologist and iv been studieing sharks for about seven yrs now plz help to save or sharks!!!!!!!!!!!!!