Monday, August 13, 2007

Fire up the "Orca", we need to sell newspapers

The Sun newspaper ran a grainy photo of a shark off the British coast. They also published a guide to the the world's deadliest sharks and even offered their readers a chance to download the the theme to the "Jaws" movie as a ringtone. They even published a series of stories of stories that claimed a great white shark or two lurked off the Cornish coast near the popular resort of St Ives and the beaches emptied within hours.

Kevin Keeble, 52, a security guard, stepped forward with a terrifyingly clear photo of a shark that he claimed proved the existance of the sharks. The "Great White Shark", with blood dripping from it's open jaw and teeth, was quickly dubbed Britain's very own "Jaws." That picture was carried on the front page of the Voice's rival newspaper, the Newquay Guardian under the headline "Great White spotted in resort waters." A copy of the Guardian's front page ran in the Sun that same day.

Mr Keeble's picture does indeed appear to be a great white shark but most experts have dismissed it as nonsense that it was taken off the British coast. Some have stated that any sightings of sharks in that area were probably of basking sharks, which are common in the area this time of year or they may be a much smaller species of shark. Mr Keeble himself has admitted that he had taken the photo in South Africa, while on a fishing trip.

"I took the picture while I was on a fishing trip in Cape Town and just sent it in as a joke. I didn't expect anyone to be daft enough to take it seriously," Keeble stated to the Newquay Voice newspaper.

His picture which appeared in the August 1 2007 newspaper didn't earn him any money he claims. He stated that he didn't think it would ever become as large a story as it has and if he had been paid for the photo, he would headed back to South Africa on another fishing trip. Experts have pointed out that it would be difficult to prove that it had been taken in Britain but observations of it have many believing that the water in the picture is not typical of what is found in the Atlantic off north Corwall.

The Sun has declined to comment so far but sources have reported that the shark editions have "sold like hot cakes." The Newquay Guardian also has enjoyed an increase in circulation as "copies have flown off the shelf." Matt Dixon, the Guardian's head of content has said that as far as he was concerned, the story hasn't been proven to be a hoax yet, although they have not been able to contact Keeble again.

"The Sun seems to run this story every summer. Just because parliament has gone into recess does not make this a great white shark," stated marine biologist David Sims of the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth.

The release of the movie "Jaws" in 1975 sent people screaming from the ocean waters anytime they thought they saw a shark-like object. It was based on Peter Benchley's novel and he had been inspired to write it by the 1916 Jersey shore shark attacks. Those attacks were a series of attacks along the New Jersey shore between July 1 and July 12 in which four people died and one was injured.

Attacks by sharks outside of the very warm, southern states like Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas are rare but that summer, thousands of people were driven to the waters along the Jersey shoreline resorts. It led resorts to enclose their beaches with steel nets to protect the swimmers and shark hunts to eradicate the "man-eating" sharks. Scientists have debated which shark species was involved and if there was only one responsible since that 1916. Shark attacks are still rare but they seem to continue to inspire fear from many swimmers.

I suppose that Kevin Keeble is enjoying a good laugh over a beer with his "fish story" while the newspapers rake in the dollars with a much more believeable story than one about the "Loch Ness monster."

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