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Twelve Days of Terror: A Definitive Investigation of the 1916 New Jersey Shark Attacks

Fernicola, Richard G. Author

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Here is the definitive account of the infamous and, heretofore, unexplained shark attacks that serve as the horrifying real-life inspiration for Peter Benchley's Jaws.

In July 1916, with the nation entangled in World War I and New York City in the throes of a deadly polio epidemic, the tri-state population thronged the Jersey Shore in search of respite from the stifling mid-summer heat. The Atlantic's refreshing waters proved to be utterly inhospitable, however. In a shockingly brief span of just twelve days, four swimmers were violently and fatally mauled by a marauding shark (or school of sharks), and a fifth was seriously injured, escaping within inches of his life. By the third week in July, national newspapers were headlining reports of "Battles Against Man-Eating Sharks" above the battles of war across the ocean.

In this thoroughly researched, first-ever full account, Dr. Richard Fernicola, considered to be the leading expert on the attacks, presents a riveting portrait of these twelve days of terror as they occurred against the historical backdrop of America in 1916. With the perspicacity of a private eye, he immerses himself in the specifics of the events as he carefully examines clues and reconstructs evidence in an effort to resolve what scientists have been arguing over for decades. Was a rogue shark or a school of sharks responsible? Was it a bull shark or a great white shark? Was the shark's motivation hunger or fear? Through primary sources and face-to-face interviews with witnesses, Fernicola pieces together a conclusive, if controversial, theory regarding the character and the cause of these mysterious attacks.

Part fascinating social history, part spellbinding detective story, Twelve Days of Terror is one of those rare books that proves truth can be stranger, more dramatic, and more terrifying than fiction.

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In July 1916, with the nation entangled in World War I and New York City in the throes of a deadly polio epidemic, the tri-state population thronged the Jersey Shore in search of respite from the stifling mid-summer heat. The Atlantic's refreshing waters proved to be utterly inhospitable, however. In a shockingly brief span of just twelve days, four swimmers were violently and fatally mauled by a marauding shark (or school of sharks), and a fifth was seriously injured, escaping within inches of his life. By the third week in July, national newspapers were headlining reports of Battles Against Man-Eating Sharks above the battles of war across the ocean. In this thoroughly researched, first-ever full account, Dr. Richard Fernicola, considered to be the leading expert on the attacks, presents a riveting portrait of these twelve days of terror as they occurred against the historical backdrop of America in 1916. With the perspicacity of a private eye, he immerses himself in the specifics of the events as he carefully examines clues and reconstructs evidence in an effort to resolve what scientists have been arguing over for decades. Was a rogue shark or a school of sharks responsible? Was it a bull shark or a great white shark? Was the shark's motivation hunger or fear? Through primary sources and face-to-face interviews with witnesses, Fernicola pieces together a conclusive, if controversial, theory regarding the character and the cause of these mysterious attacks. Part fascinating social history, part spellbinding detective story, Twelve Days of Terror is one of those rare books that proves truth can be stranger, more dramatic, and more terrifying than fiction.

Review:

In July 1916, a time of record-setting heat and a raging polio epidemic, beachgoers along the New Jersey shore confronted a greater terror still: lurking in the water swam a shark, or perhaps several sharks, that had apparently developed a taste for human flesh. Within less than two weeks, the offending fish killed four swimmers and badly injured another, setting off a wave of panic that kept visitors well out of the water and threatened the state's thriving tourist economy.

Officials were quick to react. President Woodrow Wilson, himself from New Jersey, sought and received $5,000 from Congress to eradicate the villain. Unsure of which species was to blame, commercial fishermen and state police alike destroyed every shark they encountered, while some conspiracy-minded journalists hinted that the attacks had somehow been triggered by German U-boats plying the waters off New Jersey.

Those strange events of 1916 are not much remembered today, except, perhaps, by fans of Peter Benchley's novel Jaws, whose origin lies in the attacks. Richard Fernicola revives the incident with this thoroughgoing investigation, which offers solid information on the natural history and behavior of the many shark species that populate the Atlantic, and which hazards educated guesses as to which kind of shark did the fatal mischief--and why. --Gregory McNamee

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Book Description Lyons Press, 2001. Book Condition: New. Brand New, Unread Copy in Perfect Condition. A+ Customer Service! Summary: In July 1916, with the nation entangled in World War I and New York City in the throes of a deadly polio epidemic, the tri-state population thronged the Jersey Shore in search of respite from the stifling mid-summer heat. The Atlantic's refreshing waters proved to be utterly inhospitable, however. In a shockingly brief span of just twelve days, four swimmers were violently and fatally mauled by a marauding shark (or school of sharks), and a fifth was seriously injured, escaping within inches of his life. By the third week in July, national newspapers were headlining reports of Battles Against Man-Eating Sharks above the battles of war across the ocean. In this thoroughly researched, first-ever full account, Dr. Richard Fernicola, considered to be the leading expert on the attacks, presents a riveting portrait of these twelve days of terror as they occurred against the historical backdrop of America in 1916. With the perspicacity of a private eye, he immerses himself in the specifics of the events as he carefully examines clues and reconstructs evidence in an effort to resolve what scientists have been arguing over for decades. Was a rogue shark or a school of sharks responsible? Was it a bull shark or a great white shark? Was the shark's motivation hunger or fear? Through primary sources and face-to-face interviews with witnesses, Fernicola pieces together a conclusive, if controversial, theory regarding the character and the cause of these mysterious attacks. Part fascinating social history, part spellbinding detective story, Twelve Days of Terror is one of those rare books that proves truth can be stranger, more dramatic, and more terrifying than fiction. Bookseller Inventory # ABE_book_new_158574297X

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