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Nature is stunning. When the natural world is preserved at its most untouched condition, it helps nature to flourish in a partnership where only the best remain. This fight for a life without human influence is meaningful in every way. It is also worth watching. Susan Casey documents her time on the Farallon Islands in her memoir, The Devil's Teeth, which she heard about from a documentary. She was so impressed by the great white sharks that she asked for permission to research these "ocean death machines." She joined Peter Pyle and Scot Anderson, two biologists who had dedicated their lives to research the lives of the fish and their characteristics in their biological niche environment.
Susan Casey describes a Pristine Island far off the coast of the San Francisco Bay Area that was full of natural life. The Farallon Islands, which were a hotspot for watching marine life activities that involved sharks of all kinds play their role in the food web, devouring seals, sea lions, and other kinds of animals and fish that lived in the ocean. The sharks had remained mysterious, especially having survived longer than trees or any other species on earth, with little knowledge about them known to human beings. A high lens that had been placed in 1855 to improve visibility on the island from the watchtower was replaced by an automatic beacon in 1972. 18-feet long lighthouse had become a wreck and was, then “colonized by mice, smeared with guano, and squirting neon-green lime” (Casey 45). Casey describes the Mirounga Bay as having spread out like a carpet towards the south, which brings the image of a soft and green grassy island. Her obsession with the sharks had driven her to this part of the world that was completely distinct from human interference. Life on the island was scary but awesome for people with a passion for the sharks.
Peter, Scot, Nat, and Brown were the other regular occupants of the Farallons and took turns watching at the Shark watch near the lighthouse that had been created by Scot in 1987 (Casey 46). The island was formed of rocks jutting from the ground with dangerously steep inclines that required care when maneuvering. In the times of huge action when the sharks attacked the seals and the ocean and air were filled with blood, it was still a fatal for one to hurtle towards the scenery as the land tilted between 30 and 50 degrees from the horizontal. Also, it was formed of unstable due to the underlying “loose carpet of granite chips, decomposing bid corpses, and skitter stones” all of which made it easier for one to slide towards his or her death (Casey 47).
Scot and Peter maintained a scheduled 12-hour watch in the lighthouse to observe the action in the oceans. Sometimes their efforts were useless and in others, it bore fruit. Their objective was to study the trends of the mysterious great white sharks. They had made a point to name them in a bid to identify them for easier studying purposes. Having conducted these studies for over a decade, some of the animals such as Spotty had always accompanied other commonly identifiable sharks to the Farallon Islands. These ‘ocean killing machines’ had been greatly misunderstood and, while there were many misconceptions, only few individuals were actually interested in devoting their time to finding out the truth about them. Scot, Peter and their team of biologists were the few people who were willing to fight against the dereliction of the Islands and the disruption of the natural ecological balance that was brought by the shark-hunting spree that had been popularized in the 1960s. It was thought that these animals simply attacked without formation. In the real sense, they did so in calculated moves. The fact that they visited the bay area in September of every year indicated a cyclic pattern that was backed by intelligent behavior. For instance, Spotty always travelled alongside Cocktail. This kind of relationship may have been an opening towards the knowledge on the formation of relationships among these mysterious animals.
There are many protected animal and plant species that would have gone extinct due to the massive attacks and overutilization from either human activities or natural causes that result from the overpopulation of other predators. Ms. Casey narrates that the pristine island and other natural scenes that were on the American soil were protected by the law. However, sharks and other fish that lived in the ocean off the coasts of the mainland remained vulnerable to acts such as finning, a practice that obtained the fins of sharks to use in cultural practices in Asian rituals (Casey 56). One of the most significant attacks on these oceans and the Farallon Islands was the invasion by Lawrence Groth, the founder of the Shark Diving International. Being a fan of sharks and deep sea diving, he came up with a business idea that involved ferrying people to the Farallons to observe the ‘great white adventure’ tours and cage diving (Casey 53). He exhibited little care or respect for the animals or their ecosystem and all he wanted was to see their killing actions more often as it would prove profitable to his company. Peter’s and Scot’s efforts to rid the island of human invasion were futile due to the non-existent or weak laws protecting the oceans (Casey 55). Groth’s attempt to bribe them into agreeing to a deal also hit a dead end as they cared more for research and preserving the pristineness of the island and its waters.
The Farallon Islands were a great place for shark observation because they were less invaded compared to those in South Africa or New Zealand. For the impatient, it was fruitless expedition as some of its visitors tried to woo the sharks with dead fish and animals. However, the patience exhibited by Peter and Scot often paid off. At one point, after acquiring a new boat, which was longer than their ‘dinner plate’, Scot made various trips in the ocean near the Islands. He and his team waited for days without seeing the sharks. However, they were treated to a different kind of scenery. The pristine nature of the island welcomed the resident birds of the North Pole and the Serengeti and other regions of the world. At one time, he witnessed a pink-backed pelican perch in the middle of brown pelicans “like an exotic stuffed toy that had fallen from the sky” (Casey 53). This scenery presented the natural beauty and essence of a pristine region in preserving ecological balance. In March 1993, PRBO, Center for Marine Observation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife, and Earth Islands Institute among other environmental organizations proposed a bill to stop the massive human interference of the ocean life and the islands (Casey 65). This fight signified the consolidation of efforts to control the dereliction of pristine areas of the world.
Casey, Susan. The Devil's Teeth: A True Story of Obsession and Survival Among America's Great White Sharks. Henry Holt and Company, 2006. Print.
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