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January 2017    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 43, No. 1   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Book Review: Shark Doc, Shark Lab

from the January, 2017 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Shark Doc, Shark Lab by Dr. Samuel Gruber

Dr. Samuel Gruber, otherwise known as Doc or sometimes 'Sonny,' carries a somewhat ironic epithet due to his often-irascible nature. Against all odds, this former enfant terrible of the academic world managed to get his Shark Lab established on Bimini in the Bahamas, and after decades of research, has become the person who is probably among the most well-known of all the grand old men of the shark research world.

Shark Doc, Shark Lab, a very interesting tale, is an authorized biography, inasmuch as the Doc insisted Jeremy Stafford-Deitsch told it (with apologies to Oliver Cromwell) "Warts and all." Stafford-Deitsch, himself with a reputation as a noted shark author, wrote so boldly, it became unauthorized by the time it was completed!

For decades, the international media have revelled in sensationalizing 'shark attacks,' but what makes this book more than simply a book on shark biology is what the author calls "a story of a rambunctious, humane, driven, self-deprecating, irascible and warm-hearted paradox that is Dr. Gruber and who [undiminished by two separate battles with cancer] inspired so many."

It's a weighty 400-page tome, heavily laced with anecdotes and personal pictures (the captions of which are rather small and hard to read), including some taken during early special visual effects work on movies such as Thunderball. The Bimini Biological Field Station, as it is properly known, has helped with endless numbers of movies and documentaries since then. The book is sponsored by the Save Our Seas Foundation, with a foreword by Pierre-Yves Cousteau.

It covers a period from when the Doc was less well known as a ballet dancer and high-board diver, through many decades of shark research, up to recent times. Thirty-two pages are devoted to reminiscences of other scientists who have passed through the portals of the Shark Lab and are equally devoted to the Doc. They are tellingly honest with some hilarious stories of encounters with sharks, sand flies, science and the illustrious man himself. It appears he is a very scary character who becomes a lot less scary once you get to know him. A person was said to have been 'Gruberized' after surviving a close encounter with his fragile temper.

Anyone interested in how scientists go about unraveling the secrets of shark's life, combined with how one particularly fearless biologist spent his career debunking the myths surrounding these sophisticated and equally vulnerable ocean predators, will learn a lot from these uplifting pages.

Shark Doc, Shark Lab by Jeremy Stafford-Deitsch is published by the Save Our Seas Foundation (SOSF) and costs $29.95 plus shipping, with profits going towards support of a new energy-efficient Bimini Shark Lab.

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