Quick! Which shark has the highest testosterone level of any animal in the animal kingdom? I’ll give you three options:
- bull shark
- tiger shark
- great white
If you answered #3, you didn’t watch Shark Week on the Discovery Channel two weeks ago. It seems like the obvious choice, but the answer is actually the bull shark. A bull shark’s testosterone level comes in at about 900 ng/ml. To put that in perspective, the average adult male’s testosterone level is about 40 ng/ml. I’d like to think that with the beard I’ve been growing, my score would be around 52.
Guys dig Shark Week. In a time of year when there is no pro football, no pro basketball and when it's impossible to get excited about a 162-game baseball season until about five games before the playoffs, we need this. We need an outlet for all 40 of our testosterone points!
I know an embarrassing amount of shark facts as a result of Shark Week. They are mystifying creatures. They're older than dinosaurs. I think the mass appeal of sharks is simply the fear we have of them, and their pure dominance of the open ocean.
A lot of us are interested in sharks, but nobody wants to see one in person, as that means you’re about to be eaten. So we settle for letting the poor cameramen employed by the Discovery Channel do the hard part for us. (God, I hope those guys get paid well. They fully deserve a beachfront-property-type salary for what they do.)
For all the same reasons we dig Shark Week, it doesn’t stop many of us from going in the water. The shows are entertainment; it doesn’t feel real. When you watch Unsolved Mysteries or any of those type of crime shows, does it stop you from going out at night? No. It’s the classic, possibly ignorant, “It’ll never happen to me” defense that keeps your social routines the same.
One show that aired during Shark Week turned that theory upside down for me. I forget which show it was, as that week was a blur of shark shows for me, but some marine biologists had tagged a bunch of great white sharks with monitors and had been documenting their migratory patterns. It was en effort to get a better sense of the great white's long-term behavior.
According to this show, they documented three different great white sharks actually swimming under the . I repeat: Great white sharks have been swimming underneath the Santa Monica Pier.
That took me right out of the television show and into reality.
The pier is a definite tourist attraction. I don’t hang out there a ton (other than Thursdays for the ), but it’s such a landmark for us Santa Monica residents. It blows my mind to think that while there are people eating cotton candy, riding on and eating shrimp, there are great white sharks casually coasting between the wooden poles holding those structures up.
With a lot of the island oceans you see in these Shark Week documentaries, the water is either a very clear light green or blue. But ours is a dense, deep blue with next to zero visibility. That makes this particularly scary. If sharks weren’t terrifying enough already, now I know that they roam my particular beach, and I won’t be able to see them coming. (Not that I could do anything about it if I did see one coming, but still, even scarier.)
Santa Monica can seem like such a safe haven from anything bad sometimes. Don’t like the grit and grime and disgustingly stale, polluted air of downtown Los Angeles? Come west to Santa Monica: You’re safe here and there’s a pleasant ocean breeze. Don’t like the wackiness and eccentricity of West Hollywood? Keep coming farther west to Santa Monica: That kind of stuff doesn’t happen around here (at least not as much). We have the trendiness of Los Angeles with the nice, happy beach people of Newport Beach.
So maybe while watching Shark Week, I had that same Santa Monica mentality. As long as I’m not off the coast of Australia, a Pacific Island or False Bay in South Africa, the coast is clear for me in the ocean. But as soon as the host of that show said they had documented multiple great white sharks not only coming close to the Santa Monica Pier but actually weaving their way through the support beams, sh-- got real.
Shark Week actually worked. I’m a little scared to go into the water now.