Boothbay Harbor Rotary Club

Just when you thought it was safe ...
Mon, 03/04/2024 - 7:45am

    Last week’s speaker was author and scientific writer Ret Talbot, from Rockport, who has just co-authored the book “Chasing Shadows,” a source for everything you might ever want to know about white sharks in the western North Atlantic.  His co-author, Greg Skormal, is a specialist on the species, and his wife, Karen Talbot, is a scientific illustrator who created the drawings for the book. 

    Ret explained that the rebound of white sharks in New England waters is real – and stressed how unusual it is to restore an apex predator.  He likened the situation to that of bringing back wolves to Yellowstone, and pointed out that since the wolves’ return, the entire ecosystem of Yellowstone has changed, and for the better. Here, in the Atlantic, he said that the return of white sharks has to do with the return of their favorite prey – seals – which were once determined to be such a menace to the fishing industry that New England states offered a financial bounty for each seal killed.  Today, both seals and sharks are protected, and both have returned to our waters. 

    Not much is known about white sharks – commonly known as great whites. They are now believed to live up to 70 years, and they may either migrate from north to south or they may stay in one location, particularly if the food source is sufficient. Scientists are attaching sensors to whites in order to learn more about their habits and movements.  One factoid:  Sharks have three sets of teeth during their lifetime. The first set grows in utero and helps them hunt while still babies; a second set grows when they are juveniles and are good for eating fish; and a third set appears when they are about 10 years old and fish can no longer sustain them. This is the set that they use to attack seals and other large mammals. 

    Ret spent some time talking about the “Jaws Effect,” the fact that sharks have such a place in the human psyche that we consider them to be even greater killers than they actually are.  He said that in part, humans are accustomed to being the apex predator, and we have a hard time with the idea that there’s something out there in the water that might be hunting us.  This feeling was heightened by the Stephen Spielberg movie, which came out in 1975, but Ret thinks the feeling really goes back to World War II, when after the sinking of the Indianapolis and other Navy ships, the survivors in the water were sometimes victims of horrific shark attacks. 

    Ret kindly autographed copies of his books, and answered questions from a rapt audience. 

    We had a number of guests – and kinda sorta guests – at the meeting.  Among them: It was great to see Duane Lewis back among us.  He and his brother Dwight will be speaking at next week’s meeting about bridge-tending here in the Region, which is great, and he says he is back to Rotary and will be with us full-time, which is even greater. Also on hand was Doug Fowle (aka Mr. Irene), and we also enjoyed the company of Bruce Harris, who says that his wife told him to come to the meeting. Whatever; we’ll take him anyway we can get him. 

    President Tory announced that recent financial gifts from the club have helped build an equipment shed at Clifford Park in Boothbay, purchased propane tanks for the VETS trailer program, and have gone toward our third (or so) annual Teacher Appreciation Day. 

    Many happy dollars were given for the successful Barn cleanup, which took place the previous extremely chilly Saturday. Pickups are restarting; an ad asking for gently used “stuff” was in last week’s paper, and the Barn will open the first Saturday in April. Soon!  

    Interested in Rotary and all the good things we do in the community?  Connect with a Rotarian or come to one of our meetings, Thursday evenings at 6 p.m. at the Rotary Clubhouse (across from the Big Grey Barn), 66 Montgomery Road, Boothbay Harbor. Or check us out on the web: