Chasing Shadows: My Life Tracking the Great White Shark (Hardcover)
Dr. Greg Skomal, one of the leading great white shark experts in the country, reveals the true nature of these mysterious apex predators, as well as the fascinating story behind their history and startling resurgence
With its quaint villages, local restaurants serving up lobster rolls, and miles and miles of warm, sandy beaches, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, is famous for being America’s carefree seaside getaway. But in August 2012, the first confirmed white shark attack in almost eighty years occurred in the region. As shark sightings quickly began to increase on Cape Cod and elsewhere, and large beachside billboards warning about the growing shark population became a common sight, a boogie boarder died after being attacked by a great white shark in Cape Cod’s shallow waters.
What had changed to cause news of human-shark interactions to go from being a rarity to being the new normal? As some citizens called for shark culls, nets, drone surveillance, and other extreme solutions, interactions between local residents and scientists, politicians, and those responsible for public safety became tense and frantic.
Dr. Greg Skomal, a shark biologist whose lifelong passion has been to gain a more refined understanding of great white sharks, was at the center of it all. This is the story of the great white shark’s return to the eastern seaboard, told through the life of the scientist who found himself in the oftentimes thankless position of having to balance conservation efforts and the drive to do important science with panic and fear in the court of public opinion. Greg has spent decades on a quest to tag, track, and demystify this animal, using every high- and low-tech method at his disposal, including those he invented, and he frequently comes face-to-face with these shadows of the deep. He leaves no stone unturned in his pursuit of the secrets behind the largely unknown lives of these charismatic creatures and in his duty to solve the intricate puzzle of how humans can coexist alongside them.
Chasing Shadows is a too-rare conservation success story about restoring an apex predator to an ecosystem that provides a profound, new understanding of a beast so notoriously fierce that it’s nearly impossible to imagine how vulnerable it truly is.
Dr. Greg Skomal—in addition to being an accomplished marine biologist, underwater explorer, photographer, and author—is a leading white shark expert in the Atlantic. He is a senior fisheries biologist with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and currently directs the Massachusetts Shark Research Program. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Massachusetts Intercampus Marine Science graduate program; an adjunct scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Massachusetts; and a member of the Explorers Club and the Boston Sea Rovers. Greg has authored dozens of scientific research papers and has appeared in a number of film and television documentaries, including programs for National Geographic, Discovery Channel, PBS, and numerous television networks. He is a regular on Shark Week and Shark Fest and is the author of The Shark Handbook. He holds a master’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and a PhD from Boston University. He lives with his family in Marion, Massachusetts.
Ret Talbot is an award-winning freelance journalist who covers ocean issues at the intersection of science and sustainability. His work can be found in publications such as National Geographic, Discover, Mongabay, Yale Environment 360, and other venues. As a science writer, he has embedded with marine scientists around the world, including places like Papua New Guinea, Sulawesi, and Belize, and he frequently works closely with scientists to bring compelling stories about science to a general audience. He lives on the coast of Maine with his wife, Karen Talbot, who provided the illustrations for this book.
"Fans of Jaws and Shark Week will love this book, but it’s also a compelling read for anyone interested in oceans, wildlife, conservation, or scientific adventures. An excellent title for readers who’ve ever been at the ocean’s edge and wondered what was out there." — Library Journal (starred review)
"A thrilling and compassionate account for shark enthusiasts." — Kirkus Reviews
“At last: the story of tracking the ocean’s most charismatic and controversial predator, compellingly told by the man who has learned more about the Atlantic great white shark than any other person alive. You must not miss this fantastic book! I could not put it down.” — Sy Montgomery, New York Times bestselling author of The Soul of an Octopus
“Readers will appreciate the opportunity to get an intimate look into [great white] sharks’ lives from the safety of dry land.” — Publishers Weekly
“When my late husband, Peter Benchley, started writing Jaws, he thoroughly researched available data on white sharks, but in the early 1970s, scant scientific data existed. Chasing Shadows chronicles the research we’ve learned in the decades since and provides fascinating details about the great white shark in the northwest Atlantic, why it is an evolutionary marvel, and how it differs from other species of sharks. As a diver and shark advocate for the past fifty years, I reveled in reading the arc of transformation, from an era of ignorance to today, where shark conservation is applauded and admired. It offers a stirring but candid account of shark conservation success that addresses the complexities, risks, and ramifications for both people and prey.” — Wendy Benchley, ocean conservationist and marine policy advocate
"Well written and action driven, Skomal's memoir makes his passion evident and inspiring." — Booklist
“An exhilarating and illuminating ode to the ocean’s most misunderstood gangsters. As seals have gradually returned to the shores of Cape Cod since the 1970s, so too have white sharks, spurring high drama and anxiety in waters thick with swimmers and surfers. Told through the eyes of a leading white shark biologist, this nuanced account of the restoration of an apex predator to its historic range demystifies an elusive creature that's less monster than fish. A fascinating story filled with wonder and awe, Chasing Shadows seeks to reconcile our primal fear with our ecological conscience, exploring what it truly means to coexist with wild things.” — Emily Voigt, author of The Dragon Behind the Glass: A True Story of Power, Obsession, and the World's Most Coveted Fish, a PEN America Literary Award finalist
"Vividly written, gorgeously developed, and as terrifyingly suspenseful as a dorsal fin slicing across the surface...Chasing Shadows is also the story of our profound and critical cultural relationship with sharks and how the controversial return of an apex predator to the North Atlantic might just be the conservation story that we all desperately need to read right now..." — Richard J. King, author of Ahab's Rolling Sea: A Natural History of Moby-Dick and Ocean Bestiary, and visiting professor at Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA
"The fascinating behind-the-scenes story of the re-emergence of great white sharks on Cape Cod—a tale of science, high emotion, and drama from the man at the epicenter of it all. Chasing Shadows is an absolute page-turner!" — Brian Skerry, wildlife photographer and filmmaker
“Chasing Shadows is steeped in awe for a creature both dangerous and endangered, scrutinized and elusive, reviled and revered. Greg Skomal and Ret Talbot ask us to consider all of these things at once, for therein lies the possibility for both humans and sharks to thrive along these shores.” — Catherine Schmitt, author of The President's Salmon and science communication specialist at Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park
"Jaws made us fear the great white shark. Scientist and leading shark expert Greg Skomal also terrifies us with his first-hand stories in Chasing Shadows. But far more importantly, Skomal makes us all appreciate the creatures for their beauty, their ferociousness, and the vital role they play in the food chain as a key indicator to the health of our oceans." — Doug Most, author of The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America’s First Subways