Discovery Channel’s Shark Week is upon us and cruising through its 22nd annual run. Beginning on August 2 for the 2009 season, Shark Week premiered “Blood In The Water” on its first night. “Blood In The Water” is a movie about the series of shark attacks at New Jersey beaches in 1916, the scene of the first multiple shark attacks in U. S. history, including one in a creek — Matawan Creek.
A fresh water shark attack? A shark in a creek? What a terrible idea for a movie — right? Aren’t they stretching credibility just a bit too far? And haven’t we seen enough bad shark movies? But “Blood In The Water” is a true story, one that inspired the classic Peter Benchley novel “Jaws.” It is a story of death and injury by shark bite. One of those shark attacks occurred at Matawan Creek, New Jersey, in 1916.
But sharks are salt water animals, aren’t they? How is it that a shark survived in fresh water?
“Blood In The Water” recounts the a 12-day period in 1916 where five people were attacked by sharks. Four were killed. The survivor was one of three people bitten at Matawan Creek, a place where sharks normally are never seen.
Lester Stillwell and Joseph Dunn were swimming in Matawan Creek when they were attacked. Stanley Fisher, 25, who was part of a party that attempted to rescue Stillwell, was also attacked. Stillwell and Fisher died from their wounds. Dunn, who was bitten on the leg, survived. Although it was said he would lose his leg, he did not.
Although many believed that the shark that killed the two at Matawan Creek was a Great White shark, there are others who believe it was a bull shark. Bull sharks have been found in various fresh water sources, sometimes far upriver or upstream in some cases, their high tolerance for fresh water nearly unique among shark species. And bull sharks are aggressive, counted among the triad of killers that generally attack humans that includes the Great White and the Tiger Shark.
The Matawan Creek shark was described as being ten feet long.
A Great White was killed in Raritan Bay (which Matawan Creek feeds into) a few days after the incidents and its stomach contents was found to match some of the victims. It was stuffed, put on display, and became a popular window attraction at a local newspaper office.
But what caused the shark attacks to occur? Scientists are unsure, but it is speculated that the recent activity on the beaches attracted the sharks. The popular pastime of going to the beach was just beginning to be a popular pastime.
And the Matawan Creek shark attack? Another unknown.
But were all the 1916 attacks carried out by one shark? The possibility exists, but it is also possible that the 1916 shark attacks could have been the work of two, three or more sharks. “Blood In The Water” is a mystery that will never have a definitive answer.
“Blood In The Water,” Discovery Channel