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

Fernicola, Richard G.

Published by Lyons Press
ISBN 10: 1585745758 / ISBN 13: 9781585745753
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Synopsis: In July 1916, with the specter of American involvement in World War I on the horizon and New York City in the throes of a deadly polio epidemic, the tri-state population thronged the Jersey shore in search of a respite from the stifling midsummer 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 account, Dr. Richard Fernicola, the leading expert on the attacks, presents a riveting portrait of these twelve days of terror against the colorful 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 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 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. (6 x 9, 368 pages, b&w photos, illustrations)

Richard G. Fernicola is recognized as the foremost authority on the New Jersey shark attacks of 1916. His research became the basis for the highly acclaimed television documentaries Legends of Killer Sharks and Shark Attack: 1916, which aired on the Discovery Channel and The History Channel. He is also actively involved in the preservation and rescue of marine mammals.

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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Title: Twelve Days of Terror: A Definitive ...
Publisher: Lyons Press
Binding: Paperback
Book Condition: Good

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