Alas, another year of Shark Week action is coming to an end on Discovery after celebrating its 35th anniversary in 2023 with Aquaman’s Jason Momoa as host. As usual, I tuned in to as much of the shark programming as possible over the seven days, and was even able to speak with experts including Dr. Austin Gallagher, Forrest Gallante, and Tom “Blowfish” Hird during a Discovery press event. As a lifelong Shark Week fan, it was all I could have asked for… especially since I was finally able to pose a question that I’ve had for quite some time, and I got the answer I was hoping for.
Dr. Austin Gallagher led the team on two standout specials of Shark Week 2023, including the “Belly of the Beast” production that started out the seven days of documentaries (and delivered a downright cinematic finale) as well as “Monster Mako: Fresh Blood” that made the argument for which species of shark is most powerful. The special that focused on mako sharks involved Gallagher going on a daring dive down into an underwater kelp forest, with visibility low and odds of encountering a shark high. The sequence reminded me of something I’ve wondered for many years of watching Shark Week: how exactly are the divers having perfectly clear conversations with each other while underwater in dive gear?
Now, could I have Googled to find the answer to this question during a previous Shark Week? Sure, but there’s nothing like getting an answer straight from the source, and Dr. Austin Gallagher was happy to explain the kelp forest sequence and how he remained in communication with his fellow diver. He explained:
The focus during Shark Week is of course on the sharks, so the specials generally don’t spend a ton of time focusing on the gear of the divers when there are decoys and domes and cages to show off. Of course, these kinds of masks weren’t exactly available in the early days of the Discovery event, which I wasn’t even alive to watch 35 years ago! Dr. Gallagher continued to explain the masks for communication:
Dr. Gallagher noted that he worked with fellow diver Liv Dixon for the kelp forest sequence in “Monster Mako,” who he also works with for the Beneath the Waves non-profit that promotes ocean health, protecting threatened species, and working towards climate change solutions. Protecting sharks and spreading awareness about the ocean is always a running theme throughout Shark Week’s seven days of aquatic action, even if the specials themselves can be very different.
Even though Forrest Galante and the “Alien Sharks” crew encountering the world’s most famous shark-hunting orcas could hardly be more different from Tom Hird’s “Cocaine Sharks” show that created special shark cocaine, they had the message of the importance of conservation in common. On the whole, Shark Week 2023 was a pretty fun week of productions that leaves me ready to pencil the 2024 event into my calendar as soon as Discovery announces the dates.
If you missed any of Shark Week and/or just want to check out some of the specials that I’ve mentioned, you can find them streaming now with a Max subscription.