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In a post-Jaws/Discovery Channel world, unearthing fresh data on great white sharks is a feat. So credit Susan Casey not just with finding and spotlighting two biologists who have done truly pioneering field research on the beasts but also with following them and their subjects into the heart of one of the most unnatural habitats on Earth: the Farallon Islands. Though just 30 miles due west of San Francisco, the Farallones--nicknamed the Devil's Teeth for their ragged appearance and raging inhospitality--are utterly alien, which may explain why each autumn, packs of great whites return to gorge on the seals and sea lions that gather there before returning to the Pacific and beyond. That Casey, via her biologist buddies Peter Pyle and Scot Anderson, can even report that sharks apparently follow migratory feeding patterns is a revelation. Throughout The Devil's Teeth, Casey makes clear that year upon year of observing the sharks have given Pyle and Anderson (and by extension, us) insights into shark behavior that are entirely new and too numerous to list. The otherworldly Farallon Islands, meanwhile, also dominate Casey's engaging tale as she charts their transformation from ultradangerous source of wild eggs in the 19th century to ultradangerous real-life shark lab and bird sanctuary today. Despite the plethora of factoids on offer, Casey's style is consistently digestible and very amusing. She also has a knack for putting things into perspective. Take this characteristic passage:
The Farallon great whites are largely unharassed. They might cross paths with the occasional boatload of day-trippers from San Francisco, but they're subjected to none of the behavior-altering coercion that nature's top predators regularly endure so that people can sit in the Winnebago... and get a look at them. This is important because despite their visibility at the Farallones, and despite the impressive truth that sharks are so old they predate trees, great whites have remained among the most mysterious of creatures."By book's end, it's hard to know what's more captivating: The biologists' groundbreaking data, Casey's primer on the evolution of the Farallones, the islands' symbiotic relationships with the sharks, the gulls and sea lions they attract, or the outpost's resident ghosts. Frankly, it's a nice problem to have. --Kim Hughes
Getting to Know the Great White
The outer edge of the fearsome Maintop Bay, a spooky, boat-eating stretch of water that makes everyone uneasy. Not surprisingly, the sharks seem to love it. (Susan Casey)
An 18-foot shark investigates a 6-foot surfboard. (Peter Pyle)
A shark attack at the Farallones is not usually a subtle event. (Peter Pyle)
Scot Anderson (in orange) observes a feeding. Also in the boat are director Paul Atkins and cinematographer Peter Scoones of the BBC film crew that visited the Farallones in 1993 to film The Great White Shark. (Peter Pyle)
The Farallones researchers see some action from a shark named Bluntnose. (Peter Pyle)
An unquiet cove: Just Imagine (Casey's temporary home) at its moorage in Fisherman's Bay, 150 yards west of Tower Point and 200 yards east of Sugarloaf. (Susan Casey)
From its startling opening description of scientists racing to the bloody scene where a shark has decapitated a seal, this memoir–cum–natural and cultural history of the Farallon Islands—"the spookiest, wildest place on Earth"—plunges readers into the thrills of shark watching. Casey, a sportswriter with recurring dreams about deep-sea creatures, "became haunted" by the 211-acre archipelago 27 miles west of San Francisco when she saw a BBC documentary about Peter Pyle and Scot Anderson, biologists who study the great white sharks there. The islands are the only place on Earth where scientists can study the animals in their natural habitat. These evolutionary ancients (sharks lived 200 million years before dinosaurs) can be as large as Mack trucks, eat suits of armor, are both fierce and friendly, and, according to Casey, are an addictive fascination for those lucky enough to encounter them. Casey's three-week solo stay on a yacht anchored in shark waters is itself an adventure, with the author evacuating just hours before the yacht disappeared in a storm. Her suspenseful narrative perfectly matches the drama and mystery of these islands, their resident sharks and the scientists who love them. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
This book is about much more than sharks and islands.
It is about curiosity cultivated to the point of passion and commitment. Read more
I bought this because it was recommended by Outside magazine. Although parts of the book were interesting regarding the Farallon Islands and their history I was frequently annoyed... Read morePublished 11 days ago by SapStar
Casey's obsession is all engrossing. I almost felt that I wanted to get out to the islands myself. A fascinating read.Published 22 days ago by Mandy J Ward
Fantastic read! Susan Casey is a master storyteller, and both this book and The Wave are impossible to put down. Read morePublished 2 months ago by stewvox
I found this book fascinating years ago and my opinion has not changed the second time round. Amazing research in highly inhospitable conditions but the results are truly awesome.Published 2 months ago by debbiemc26
I read this book several years ago and just repurchased to give to a friend. My copy, I already gave away ! I love to pass on great books. Read morePublished 2 months ago by R. Byrnes
"When a two-ton animal takes a taste of you, it doesn't do much good to apologize." - Peter Benchley
25 miles from where customers order tall lattes and casually... Read more
Riveting story! Makes me want to see a Great White face-to-face - from a sturdy boat!Published 3 months ago by astrid