As a resident of the Jersey Shore and an ardent mapmaker, it is almost inevitable that I’d be interested in its history. So it was especially intriguing for me when, a few years ago, a local acquaintance started talking up the Shark History of the area. Several excellent books were recommended, “12 Days of Terror” and “Close to Shore”, which describe the singular Shark Attack events of the Summer of 1916.
It was so engrossing, almost too hard to fathom, that I was inspired to make a “Summer of Blood” Shark Attack Map which depicted all of the locales from the first attack in Beach Haven, LBI north to the last ones in the Matawan Creek. It was fun and enlightening to illustrate the series of attacks which became the eventual backstory for JAWS. Now, the 100th Anniversary of these grizzly attacks has arrived. Nothing like them has happened before or since, so those 12 days in early July remain unique and continue to pique our imaginations.
Imagine the start of an especially hot summer; polio is rampant in the cities; President Wilson relocates the Summer White House near Sea Girt; the world press is gathered at the Jersey Shore; the US is about to enter World War I; German U-boats patrol off the coast. And then sharks start attacking swimmers! This confluence of events and the ensuing frenzy were almost too much to imagine. How could anyone with a pulse not be fascinated by the daily reports? Steven Spielberg certainly thought so. And now, 100 years later, we look back and rekindle that same fascination all over again. There were never any final explanations or resolutions. Why did these attacks happen and could they happen again? Clearly our interest in sharks continues to grow. The ocean is an endless source of mystery and wonder.