“Shark Week” Veers Into Fiction . . . Again

Researchers claim they were duped into participating in mockumentaries that aired during the Discovery Channel’s weeklong celebration of all things shark.

By | August 13, 2014

A 4.5 meter great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) scavenges a whale carcass in False Bay, South Africa.PLOS ONE: doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0060797Has the Discovery Channel officially jumped the shark? Many critics are asking if the programmer is eschewing the role of educational science programmer for the allure of reality TV after the start of the annual “Shark Week.” And bona fide shark researchers are claiming that Discovery producers flat out lied to them about how their interviews would be used for programs that appeared during the weeklong shark programming bonanza.

On Sunday night (August 10), Discovery kicked off this year’s “Shark Week” by showing a fictitious shark story, “Shark of Darkness: Wrath of Submarine,” that was dressed up to look like a serious documentary. Although it contained brief on-screen warning about events depicted in the show being “dramatized,” the program failed to mention that the story, about a mythical 35-foot-long great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) that attacked humans off the coast of South Africa, was completely fabricated. Zoologist Michelle Wcisel, based in South Africa, told the Epoch Times that “Shark of Darkness” is a “fake-umentary.”

“Everyone who has worked on white sharks has seen their version of the ‘Submarine,’ but it does not actually exist. Think Loch Ness,” she said. “I am a zoologist specialized in behavior and have just completed my [master’s degree] from the University of Cape Town studying the anti-predator tactics of Cape fur seals in Shark Alley, Geyser Rock, South Africa. Not once did I meet the researchers [in] ‘Shark of Darkness: Wrath of Submarine’ features, because they do not exist. They are actors.”

Discovery caught similar heat for last year’s “Shark Week” lineup, which included a “documentary” about a fictitious megalodon. Shark researchers nearly universally derided the show.

And now, two marine biologists are claiming that Discovery producers duped them into providing interviews that ended up in similarly sensationalist programs. One of the researchers, Jonathan Davis of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, was interviewed by Shark Week producers, who used the footage in “Voodoo Shark” about a legendary shark named “Rooken” that is said by some to stalk the bayous of Louisiana. “I asked a few of the crew members, including the producer, what the show was going to be about,” Davis told io9. “I never got a straight answer, and the producer seemed to avoid the question. I was just told it would be combined with some other filming to make one show about Louisiana shark research.”

Davis added that the producers spliced together his interview footage to make it seem as though he believed in the existence of the fictitious creature.

Shedd Aquarium postdoc Kristine Stump is making similar claims about the interviews she granted “Shark Week” film crews. Stump, who studies hammerhead sharks, was taped by Discovery Channel cameras for what she thought would be a serious documentary on the fish. “The basic premise was a camera crew was dropping in on real scientists doing actual hammerhead research,” Stump told io9. “We’d talk about the research goals and the challenges we face in trying to achieve those goals.” But her footage ended up in “Monster Hammerhead,” a program to be aired later this week on Discovery which apparently focuses on a mythical hammerhead that has supposedly been swimming Florida waters for 60 years (well beyond the animal’s documented lifespan). “‘Monster Hammerhead’ does not match the description of what we filmed," Stump said.

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Avatar of: Ken Pimple

Ken Pimple

Posts: 43

August 13, 2014

This is appalling. Scientists should boycott the Discovery Channel for a while. Discovery should not abuse the trust of scientists this way. I feel confident that many scientists would be happy to give a few quotations for a spoof if they are told it is going to be a spoof. 

Avatar of: Dennis Bryan

Dennis Bryan

Posts: 1

August 13, 2014

The scientific community lies about science everyday.  Discovery Channel is an entertainment channel attempting to reel in viewers to watch advertisements.  The scientfic establishment tells us that evolution is true and still cannot explain where water came from. 

Avatar of: BruceK


Posts: 10

August 13, 2014

So I am shocked, _shocked_, to learn that a TV channel would prioritize ratings over substance.

Avatar of: JohnnyMorales


Posts: 28

Replied to a comment from Dennis Bryan made on August 13, 2014

August 13, 2014

Doctors are part of the scientific community as are geologists who work for oil companies.

Since you think they are all liars you should just stop seeking medical care and stop using anything using oil products as fuel to protect your stupid self.

Your life as you know it today is a product of science.

They computer you used to type your idiotic comment for example is PURE sciencific innovation.

Amazing how such things can be produced by so many liars.

Avatar of: JohnnyMorales


Posts: 28

Replied to a comment from Dennis Bryan made on August 13, 2014

August 13, 2014



Oh and yes Science can tell you where water comes from.




You just don't understand the explanation. And in your mind when you don't understand something you assume it's a lie, because you mistakenly assume you should be able to understand anything if it makes sense.




Same goes for evolution, there is no problem with the theory.




The problem lies with your inability to understand it.


Avatar of:

Posts: 1

Replied to a comment from Dennis Bryan made on August 13, 2014

August 13, 2014

You should probably provide some evidence of this "lies about science everyday" assertion. As a community, scientists are dedicated to conclusions based on evidence, that is, truth.

Avatar of: Mightbechris


Posts: 1

Replied to a comment from Dennis Bryan made on August 13, 2014

August 15, 2014

Water comes from the combination of two hydrogen molecules and one oxygen molecual. The formation of water began as the volcanic eruptions of early earth spewed rich chemical soups into the atmosphere. One byproduct of that was rain, and boom, that's where water comes from. In the context of this planet anyway.

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